I might be wrong here but there seems to be a slight misunderstanding of how the NEA operates. The "Government" does not choose the individuals or groups that receive this money. It is a group of peers within the various art fields that select the grantees. Yes there are the usual political, inner circle art, etc. problems with the process. I know that most of us are concerned with the visual arts when discussing this issue but the largest sums of government dollars goes to the performing arts (dance, theater) and education programs that bring these arts to communities that could not afford to do it on their own. Creating a larger audience for the arts in the process.
Cutting and slicing government funding to the arts (as has been the case in recent years) only serves to dumbs down our society to its understanding of the value of the arts in everyday life and eventually creates an elitist and smaller audience.
I canget my dander up when discussing Arts Funding. Its another area of our society that has been stolen by certain politicians through misinformation and fear. Pointing to the worst mistakes this inperfect process creates rather than to its incredible successes. I was director of an arts school a while back and spent a great deal of time at the state capitol lobbying for more money for our and others orginizations. The one factor that most politicos had a hard time grasping was how much return they were receiving on their invested dollars in the arts. Most just saw this as giving money away or at best throwing good money after bad. But the facts and figures show that for each dollar granted to the arts by the state, the community would realize, on average, four in return. Bottom line is that funding for the arts is good business.