By Earle I. Mack,

Two weeks ago, two great national traditions, sports and the arts, came together in the Super Bowl. Whether it was Lady Gaga’s stunning half-time plunge or Tom Brady’s nail-biting fourth-quarter comeback; our nation was riveted.

The Super Bowl is a one-of-a-kind event, and it’s no surprise that over 30 percent of Americans attended a professional or amateur sports event last year. Yet, for all the notoriety, that still pales in comparison to the whopping 50 percent of Americans who attend arts events.

It’s plain to see, from Scranton to Sarasota, from Green Bay to Grand Rapids, from urban to rural areas,Americans love the arts. That’s why most Americans have strongly supported federal funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), and that support pays dividends.

Twenty years ago, a study by McKinsey & Company, “You Gotta Have ART!” found that, “For every $1 in public grants received, arts organizations raise $9 from other sources.”

As a world class developer, President Trump knows that arts and culture aren’t just about the soul of America; the arts mean business — big business!

Whether it’s the hotel owner who watches tourists pour in after enjoying a concert, the restaurant owner who happily adds up receipts after a local film festival, or the small-town mayor who revitalizes a dilapidated downtown with artists’ lofts and galleries, they know the arts can transform decaying inner cities, bring back abandoned downtowns and give at-risk kids hope. For those businesses and communities that support the arts, the “Art of the Deal” has a whole new meaning.

When it comes to two of President Trump’s cornerstone campaign issues, jobs and trade, the numbers tell the story. There are over 700,000 arts businesses in America today. The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis tells us that the arts are a $730 billion industry, which represents 4.2 percent of the nation’s GDP.

This is a larger share of the economy than transportation, agriculture, and tourism — and directly employs 4.7 million people. Two-and-a-half million people identify their primary occupation as “artist.” These are home-grown jobs that can’t be outsourced to Mexico or China.

When it comes to trade, the arts are one of America’s leading exports. Foreign audiences love our films, our plays, our music, our paintings, sculpture, and literature. With $60 billion in overseas sales, the U.S. enjoys an arts trade surplus of $30 billion per year, according to a report by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Growing numbers of foreign travelers eagerly seek out American culture. Millions travel here to experience the arts in our museums and theaters, contributing significantly to tourism in communities across America.

The nonprofit arts industry alone generates $135 billion in economic activity, supports 4.1 million jobs, and returns $6.1 billion in local government revenue annually for communities large and small, urban and rural.

President Trump was elected with a mandate to change Washington, and like other times of national reassessment, the federal commitment to funding priorities is being questioned. The NEA currently receives a mere $148 million in funding.  The nonprofit arts alone return $9.6 billion in federal taxes to the American people. Simply put, this is a wise investment and a great deal.

But support of the arts is about more than dollars and cents, trade and jobs; it’s about the celebration of freedom and the soul of America. At the height of WWII, Winston Churchill was challenged to defend a budget that called for an increase in arts funding.

“How can you propose this at a time of extreme national crisis?” asked one member of Parliament.

Churchill replied, “I do it, sir, to remind us what we are fighting for.”

For these reasons we ask the President, Congress and the American people to invest in the NEA.

Earle I. Mack is chairman emeritus of the New York State Council on the Arts. Randall Bourscheidt is president emeritus of the Alliance for the Arts. Robert L. Lynch is president and CEO of Americans for the Arts. 

Read the full post from Earle I Mack on The Hill: http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/uncategorized/320235-funding-the-arts-is-more-than-preserving-culture-its-big