The list of politicians urging President Donald Trump to spare the arts from federal funding cuts added an unexpected name on Wednesday: Mike Huckabee.
In a column in The Washington Post, the former Arkansas governor and Republican presidential candidate called on Trump to reconsider slashing the budget for the National Endowment for the Arts. The Trump administration’s first budget included proposals to cut off funding of the agency, as well as 16 others.
But to Huckabee, who plays the bass guitar, that funding goes a long way.
“To someone such as me – for whom an early interest in music and the arts became a lifeline to an education and academic success – this money is not expendable, extracurricular or extraneous. It is essential,” he wrote.
Participation in the arts fosters students’ creativity and problem-solving skills, Huckabee wrote, abilities that can translate to other areas of academics and beyond.
“Creativity finds cures for diseases, creates companies such as Apple and Microsoft and, above all, makes our culture more livable,” he said.
To some, Huckabee may be an unlikely champion of the arts agency. The hardline conservative made budget-balancing a priority during his 2016 presidential campaign. In 2010, he once called on Congress to cut funding for National Public Radio.
But Huckabee framed the arts as an investment that more than pays itself off.
“The arts are a $730 billion industry, representing 4.2 percent of our gross domestic product – more than transportation, tourism and agriculture,” he wrote.
“I’m for cutting waste and killing worthless programs. I’m not for cutting and killing the hope and help that come from creativity.”
Huckabee joins a growing list of Republican lawmakers who are publicly defending the NEA and the National Endowment for the Humanities, another agency on the chopping block.
The two agencies were established in 1965 by President Lyndon Johnson through the Arts and Humanities Act.