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Like so many items in the Reagan budget, the funds for the arts and humanities seem to be turning out somewhat different from the figures originally mentioned -- in this case, cutbacks of less than the original 50 percent. As Congress plunges into the final weeks of arriving at the specific bottom line, it will have to consider just how much new private support can be counted on to fulfill the President's hopes of offsetting federal reductions. Nor can it overlook the case made by previous administrations of both parties for each government arts dollar as a generator of several dollars of private support and increased business by restaurants, taxis, and other economic beneficiaries of arts activity.

It would be too ironic for the country's first professional actor in the White House to preside over a net decline in national cultural commitment that has been steadily boosted by amateur musician Nixon, ballroom dancer Ford, and the Carter who proved he could almost sing the two words "salt peanuts" at the first White House jazz festival.

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