Free Markets, Free People


Ending NPR’s subsidy – a thousand mile trip begins with a first step

Joyce Slocum, writing in the Hill, is upset about the vote to defund NPR.

These days, I’m frequently asked, “Can public broadcasting survive without federal funding?” I understand the reason for the question — we all understand the terrible burden of our national debt — but the real question is, “What’s the cost to the nation of defunding public broadcasting?”

Eliminating federal funding would seriously damage public broadcasting and harm millions of Americans who rely on us. Period.

I’m calling BS.  By the way, Slocum is the interim CEO of NPR.

What it would mean is instead of banking on a hand out, NPR would actually have to get off it’s collective duff and find a way to raise more money.  And that’s the real problem, it doesn’t want to have to do that.  It prefers the handout.

And Slocum is also  implying that the programing NPR does isn’t sufficient enough to earn its own way. 

It will mean fewer stations, fewer programs, and less news produced — especially locally. If stations go dark, that hurts us at NPR, but it hurts local listeners more. At NPR, our mission is to reach and inform as many people as well as possible about what’s going on in the world and in their communities. A weakened, smaller public broadcasting economy will deeply damage our ability to deliver on that mission.

But if that mission is as essential as Slocum believes and it is a good as she implies, then NPR should have little difficulty raising the money to offset the subsidy it now gets from taxpayers, shouldn’t it?

First we need to get something straight – NPR receives no direct subsidy from the government.  It receives its subsidy through the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.  This is how NPR’s funding breaks down according to Wikipedia:

In 2009, NPR revenues totaled $164 million, with the bulk of revenues coming from programming fees, grants, contributions and sponsorships.[14] According to the 2009 financial statement, about 40% of NPR revenues come from the fees it charges member stations to receive programming. Typically, NPR member stations raise funds through on-air pledge drives, corporate underwriting, and grants from state governments, universities, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. In 2009, member stations derived 6% of their revenue from direct government funding, 10% of their revenue from federal funding in the form of CPB grants, and 14% of their revenue from universities.[14][15] NPR receives no direct funding from the federal government.[16] About 1.5% of NPR’s revenues come from Corporation for Public Broadcasting grants.

So what Slocum is talking about is the funding that is paid directly to member stations who receive 6% of their funding from government.  Secondly, NPR receives about 1.5% from CPB grants (about $246,000).

The entire point, of course, is defunding NPR’s client stations (where it NPR corporate gets its hands on government subsidy money) and the CPB isn’t going to kill NPR. Or shouldn’t.  It is going to mean more work for NPR.  Perhaps a few more beg-a-thons, corporate outreach and even, horror of horrors, considering taking on commercial advertising.

There are solutions for heave sake – but this constant whining “we can’t make it” or “programming will suffer” or “jobs will be lost” seems completely contrary to reality.  They can make it, programming doesn’t have to suffer, and, if they’d put together a decent marketing plan and hit the streets, there’s no reason jobs must be lost.  And that goes for local NPR stations as well.

Time to earn your keep.  The taxpayers are simply tired of subsidizing you (and many, many, many other entities out there).  And while CPB and NPR aren’t “big fish” programs, you have to remember, it’s a cumulative thing.  A billion here, 400 million there and pretty soon you’re talking big money.


The NPR kerfuffle and subsidies

Call it the obligatory NPR story, but I found the video of the NPR exec talking to a couple of fake Muslim Brotherhood types to be pretty revealing about the attitude of that particular organization.

And, like you, I’m sure, wondered “why, again are we subsidizing this particular entity?” 

Of course I’d like to see government get out of the subsidy business altogether and yes that includes corporate welfare as well.

But this thing with NPR hit a particular nerve that goes beyond that.  It clearly exposes a bias that certainly didn’t require much prodding from the fake Muslims to expose.

Ron Schiller, the NPR executive, is a real “treasure”.  He tells the “Muslims” that NPR fired Juan Williams because it provides "non-racist, non-bigoted, straightforward telling of the news"  and apparently William’s association with Fox News ran counter to that.  At the same time he goes on a racist, bigoted and frankly uninformed rant about the Tea-Party, was open (or at least didn’t condemn) to slamming Jews and chuckled at the suggestion that radical Muslims called NPR “National Palestine Radio”.

He also said "it is clear that we would be better off in the long run without federal funding."

That’s been clear to me for decades.   But for some reason, or perhaps multiple reasons, each time ending the subsidy to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (the organization that passes those funds on to NPR) is brought up, we’re told that NPR can’t survive without it.

Uh, fine, so let it “wither on the vine”.  NPR will either do that or find a way to survive and, per Schilling, it really would be better off without it.

I say grant his wish. 

As David Harsanyi asks:

The function and purpose of government has been rather expansive over the past few decades. Do we really believe that providing tax subsidies for entertainment and journalism is one of the charges of government?

No.  Neither is it a charge of government to provide corporations with subsidies, or ethanol producers, mohair producers, “green energy” companies, farmers, or any of a almost endless list of those given subsidy via government.

NPR’s particular case will probably see it’s subsidy ended – not because it is the right thing to do and as a precedent for ending subsidies everywhere, but because Ron Shilling made it indefensible by the left.

Looking at the list of subsidies this government pays out gives one the understanding as to how deep government’s tendrils are and how many there are.  If subsidies were a cancer, I’m sure the doctor would pronounce the disease to be in stage 4.

It is a habit – an addiction – we have to break if we’re ever to see “smaller, less intrusive and less expensive government.”  Let’s start with NPR, but for the right reasons.



So much for frank discussions (update)

While it is certainly not a First Amendment violation (as it is being alleged by some), the firing of NPR contributor Juan Williams by the tax supported radio network is disturbing. It puts in focus how horribly served we are by political correctness.

I’ve always said that PC was a way for the left to stifle debate. Try to criticize anything about a minority community and you’re a "racist". That label used to have some sting to it but it has become so over used it no longer does. But what it would do in its day is pretty much stop the conversation as the accused tried to deal with the distraction of being labeled wrongly.

Juan Williams runs into exactly the same type of thing with his firing from NPR for supposedly making remarks that “were inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices, and undermined his credibility as a news analyst with NPR.”

What did he say that was so awful on Bill O’Reilly’s Fox show?

On the show, the host, Bill O’Reilly, asked him to respond to the notion that the United States was facing a “Muslim dilemma.” Mr. O’Reilly said, “The cold truth is that in the world today jihad, aided and abetted by some Muslim nations, is the biggest threat on the planet.”

Mr. Williams said he concurred with Mr. O’Reilly.

He continued: “I mean, look, Bill, I’m not a bigot. You know the kind of books I’ve written about the civil rights movement in this country. But when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.”

I’ve got to tell you, that’s not an argument that causes me to jump out of my chair and yell, "fire the bigot!" It’s an intelligent guy expressing his honest opinion which may or may not please me. But I respect it. And it in no way undermines his credibility as an analyst to say something like that.

Unless that "credibility" is predicated on no real analysis but instead regurgitating the approved editorial perspective of NPR.

Apparently honestly expressing your thoughts and feelings are not condoned if they conflict with the “editorial standards and practices” of NPR.  Frank discussions have no place in their world.

Tow the line, or get fired.  And that’s fine – it’s their network (although I think we shouldn’t be paying for it).  But hopefully they’ll never again attempt to convince us they’re interested in all sides and perspectives of a story.  Obviously they’re not.

UPDATE: Watch this entire video clip and see if perhaps NPR didn’t bother to do its due diligence and pulled a “Shirley Sherrod” on Juan Williams.



“Bi-Partisan Health Care Summit” Or Political Theater? (Update)

The GOP has every reason to be wary of and, in fact, refuse to participate in the televised “bi-partisan” health care reform summit the President is calling for on NPR unless a number of preconditions are met. The reasons are many, but perhaps the primary one has to do with the fact that this isn’t a summit proposed to begin bi-partisan talks on reforming health care, but instead, an attempt to shame Republicans into supporting the present Senate bill passed. The president refuses to abandon it and reset the health care reform debate at the beginning.

After months of behind closed door negotiations, it’s suddenly “sunshine” time. Why in the world wouldn’t Republicans be suspicious?  It’s hard not to conclude (especially after the results of the televised meeting at the GOP retreat) that this is nothing but political theater designed to show the Republicans as “obstructionists” and the “party of no”.

What the televised “summit” will likely consist of is Obama and the Democrats pushing for acceptance of the same bill now pending and the Republicans saying “no”. The desired outcome is to have them say it right there in the open on TV.  Of course they’d love to have enough Republicans submit to the pressure and commit to passage as an outcome. That’s most likely not going to happen. The most likely scenario has the Republicans say “no” and Democrats claim “see we tried to include them, but they refuse” and use that as a justification for reconciliation. As Democrats see it, it would be a win-win for them with a chance to make the GOP look bad.

The House Republican leadership has sent a letter to the President in which they question all of this. You can read it here. My favorite part of the letter comes after a series of very pointed questions are put to him:

Your answers to these critical questions will help determine whether this will be a truly open, bipartisan discussion or merely an intramural exercise before Democrats attempt to jam through a job-killing health care bill that the American people can’t afford and don’t support. ‘Bipartisanship’ is not writing proposals of your own behind closed doors, then unveiling them and demanding Republican support. Bipartisan ends require bipartisan means.These questions are also designed to try and make sense of the widening gap between the President’s rhetoric on bipartisanship and the reality. We cannot help but notice that each of the President’s recent bipartisan overtures has been coupled with harsh, misleading partisan attacks. For instance, the President decries Republican ‘obstruction’ when it was Republicans who first proposed bipartisan health care talks last May.

The questions mentioned address reconciliation, starting over and other important ones. It’s a letter that makes it clear that the House GOP leadership is very suspicious of the intent of the so-called summit – and rightfully so.

Of course that doesn’t mean they won’t end up playing along. The possibility that the summit would turn into a “bash the GOP” event is something they just won’t be able to stand and will show up in an attempt to avoid that.  Instead, they’ll just play into Democratic hands.  If I were them, I’d instead issue a statement saying that the GOP has concluded there is no good faith attempt on the behalf of the administration or the Democrats toward bi-partisanship in the summit citing their refusal to reset the debate and include the GOP from the beginning. As a consequence the Republicans see no utility in trying to make a silk purse out of the sow’s ear of legislation they already universally oppose.

I don’t know about you but I’d respect them much more if they did that than if they show up and play along in a bit of political theater that is designed primarily to cast them in a bad light for the benefit of the opposition.

UPDATE: White House (non)response to the GOP’s letter.



The “Obama Economy”

If this NPR poll has any validity, it removes, once and for all,  the “I inherited this mess” meme from Obama’s rhetorical quiver. Americans see this as his mess now and they’re not particularly happy with how he’s handling it:

In another part of the poll, respondents were asked which of two statements on the economy came closer to expressing their view. The first statement: “President Obama’s economic policies helped avert an even worse crisis and are laying the foundation for our eventual economic recovery.” The second statement: “President Obama’s economic policies have run up a record federal deficit while failing to end the recession or slow the record pace of job losses.” A plurality preferred the second statement, 48 percent to 45 percent.

Another indicator of the point:

Greenberg and Bolger found that 38 percent considered the country to be going in the “right direction,” while 54 percent saw it on the “wrong track.” But that 15-point negative reading was the least negative of any NPR poll in more than year. The portion saying “wrong track” had been nearly 90 percent in the NPR poll done in the fall of 2008.

The principal reason for negativity appeared to be the economy. Asked to assess the current state of the economy, 49 percent called it poor while 42 percent opted for “not so good.” Only 8 percent said it was good and only 1 percent said excellent.

While NPR tries to soften the news, the fact remains that a solid majority think the country is on the wrong track. As mentioned above, there’s a 15 point difference between right and wrong track polling.


The so-called generic ballot question was also very close. Asked whether they would support a Democrat or a Republican for Congress in 2010 if the election were held today, 42 percent said they would choose a Democrat and 43 percent a Republican, a difference well within the poll’s margin of error (plus or minus 3.4 percentage points for each number in each question).

All three areas show a trend that has to be troubling to Democrats and the administration. In political terms, 2010 is right around the corner. And yes, it’s still early in the administration, but after the honeymoon, it appears those polled are not happy, for the most part, with what they’re seeing from either Congress or Obama.