Friday, February 25, 2011

NPR & Political Theater

One issue that has been misrepresented by much of the left and right are federal subsidies towards PBS. After considering the numerous pros and cons, I am not supportive of funding cuts to NPR. Although I strongly affirm the need for government spending cuts, the $50 million in spending is such an infinitesimally small portion of the over $1 Trillion dollar federal deficit, that I consider it meaningless political theater. It is a distraction from the four segments of the budget that account for 75% of all spending: Medicare & Medicaid (21%), Social Security (20%), Defense (20%) and Safety Net Programs (14%). Without fundamentally reforming the first three, there is absolutely no way that the rapid inflation of federal debt will be brought under control. Of all of the costly federal subsidies, those going towards increasing educational and cultural opportunities for the public are the least destructive. Until we seriously explore the $20 billion in deeply flawed agricultural subsidies, including over $1 billion that goes towards tobacco, NPR should not even be up for discussion. The right is not the only source of misrepresentation. Many progressives have engaged in histrionic, political theater, stating that federal cuts spelled the end of NPR. The numbers simply do not support this; only 15.7% of funds come from federal, state and local governments. The majority comes from individual, corporate and university contributions. And keep in mind that the cuts in question are federal, not the portion that come from states and local governments. Individuals, communities, corporations and states that value public radio are welcome to maintain or even increase their contributions to make up for the federal cuts. If anything, the reason why PBS and NPR has offered (mostly) quality programs is because they are not fully dependent on the federal government. They are subject to market discipline, or more specifically if they allowed their service to be as awful as those offered by most government agencies, their private funding would quickly evaporate. To be fair, NPR must take some responsibility for this situation. Being a public interest organization that receives tax payer dollars implies that it must strive for neutrality and refrain from partisanship. But, several recent scandals, such as Ronald Schiller's rants against "racist tea parties" and the public defamation of Juan Williams, call that neutrality into question. And if you behave as political partisan, you cannot complain when opposing partisans hit back. More subtle liberal bias is demonstrated by the stories, figures and organizations that NPR chooses to present or not present. To NPR - please reaffirm your mission as a non-partisan organization that strives to offer quality news and educational programs to the publicly. To Republicans and Democrats, if you want to partake in drama, sign up with a community theater group, but while you are at work, we your employers, the American People ask that you focus on the real fiscal and economic problems that beleaguer the United States.

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