Thursday, March 17, 2011

Virtue in Funding NPR

DAY 9 OF 46

Sometimes, it's not just about the money.

At least, not when you're controlling the purse strings.

This past Tuesday, Colorado Republican Representative Doug Lamborn introduced a bill in Congress that would strip all federal funding from National Public Radio (NPR), and it could come up for a vote today or tomorrow. Conservatives have had NPR in their gun sights for years, suspicious that the content on this non-commercial radio network tilts leftward in its perspective.

Not that NPR has much proof to the contrary. Indeed, conservative activist James O'Keefe has produced a video in which an NPR executive belittled Tea Partiers and called the Republican's bluff of stripping the network's federal funding. Although some Democrats have accused O'Keefe of doctoring the video to make it appear more malicious than it really is, Republicans think momentum is finally on their side.

Just because taxpayers could save tens of millions of dollars out of a multi-billion-dollar deficit by cutting funding for NPR, however, does that mean we should? Hey, I'm all for cutting costs, lowering deficits, and saving money. But let's think this through a minute.

Let's assume that conservatives are correct in their assertions that NPR is a liberal, left-leaning propaganda tool. Does cutting off taxpayer support help or hurt the conservative cause? Right now, Republican lawmakers can put their opinions on the record and introduce punitive legislation when NPR is seen to overstep its boundaries. If we remove the public funding incentive from NPR, how much of a voice will conservatives have over its content in the future?

It's the same with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Public Broadcasting Service. Republicans squawk about the millions spent on propping up the budgets of these entities, but the amount taxpayers spend is a drop in the bucket when compared with the nation's overall deficit. True, as I've said before, ten million here, and ten million there, and pretty soon, we're talking about real money. But what do we get for this money?

Taxpayers get to have a say in the content, direction, and scope of the programming by virtue of the fact that we're financial stakeholders. Don't like calling a crucifix submerged in urine art? Then we taxpayers can protest and threaten the funding spicket. Don't like Bert and Ernie being typecast as gay cohabitors, or think Nina Totenberg peddles too much socialistic drivel? Write your congressman!

Take away all of the funding, and what recourse do conservatives - or liberals, for that matter - have? The same old stock-in-trade of professional complainers everywhere. Sure, sometimes boycotts work, but nothing speaks as loud as reaching for the budget axe.

Just don't swing it too decisively, right-wingers.

You might find yourself cutting off our nose to spite our face.

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