When we oppose subsidies, we are charged with opposing the very thing that it was proposed to subsidize and of being the enemies of all kinds of activity, because we want these activities to be voluntary and to seek their proper reward in themselves. Thus, if we ask that the state not intervene, by taxation, in religious matters, we are atheists. If we ask that the state not intervene, by taxation, in education, then we hate enlightenment. If we say that the state should not give, by taxation, an artificial value to land or to some branch of industry, then we are the enemies of property and of labor. If we think that the state should not subsidize artists, we are barbarians who judge the arts useless.
I protest with all my power against these inferences. Far from entertaining the absurd thought of abolishing religion, education, property, labor, and the arts when we ask the state to protect the free development of all these types of human activity without keeping them on the payroll at one another's expense, we believe, on the contrary, that all these vital forces of society should develop harmoniously under the influence of liberty and that none of them should become, as we see has happened today, a source of trouble, abuses, tyranny, and disorder.--- Frederic Bastiat
To be clear, none of these cuts will win me over to Trump's side. All of these programs together make up less than 15 percent of the national budget. Trump's plans to spend more on infrastructure, wall-building and deporting billions of people will ultimately hurt the economy more than they help it. But my God, as conservatives, we don't have to pretend we suddenly enjoy federally-funded charity programs and art programs just because Trump is the one proposing to cut them.
Meals on Wheels only receives 35 percent of its funding from federal funds, according to the New York Times article linked above. The rest comes from states and from private donations, from which charity funding is supposed to come. Here's the thing about welfare programs-- they actually may reduce the amount of voluntary giving. Nobody thinks cutting charitable programs altogether is a good thing, necessarily, but just because something is worthwhile doesn't mean it needs to be federally funded. And just because something isn't federally funded doesn't mean it will die.
Now unlike Meals on Wheels, which feeds the elderly and therefore serves a purpose, the arts have a purpose which is less clear. That's not to say they aren't fun or I don't appreciate them. But they aren't an essential service, nor are they a service from which most of middle America benefits. A blue-collar worker shouldn't lose a portion of his income to fund a museum or a theater he will never visit. This tax will not create economic growth-- it's just a reallocation of resources. You might artificially create a job, but then people have less money to invest in things they will actually use. And, again, artists receive funds from other sources. They won't shrivel up and die just because we take less money from taxpayers.
Here's the other thing about art funding. If the government funds the arts, theoretically, nothing can stop them from placing limits on artists' free speech. Think back to eighth grade when you wanted to throw hundreds of dollars away on skimpy, lacy Abercrombie and Fitch T-shirts. You thought it was part of your bodily autonomy and freedom of expression (even if you used less pretentious terms) but your mom said no, because her money, not yours would be purchasing those T-shirts. Ultimately, giving someone else financial control could lead to giving up parts of your freedom of expression.
PBS funding has come on the table before. In this day and age, technology has made news and entertainment cheaper and more accessible, and public television is no longer an essential service. I'm not sure why any conservative thinks government propoganda is a reliable source of information anyway.
Criticize Trump on his immigration policies, sure. But if your knee-jerk reaction to hearing about federal budget cuts is "WE NEED FUNDING FOR PUBLIC TELEVISION" you might not actually be as conservative as you think.