Tag: corporation for public broadcasting

Budget Cuts Look Familiar

What do these federal agencies and programs have in common?

Agricultural Research Service, Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service, Rural Development programs, Women, Infants & Children, Foreign Agricultural Service, National Institute of Standards & Technology, National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, Economic Development Administration, National Telecommunications & Information Administration, Small Business Administration, State Department foreign aid, Fund for African Development, International Development assistance, Economic Support Fund, Peacekeeping Operations, Trade Development Agency, Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Reclamation, National Forest System, Appalachian Regional Commission, Department of Energy administration, Fossil Energy Research & Development, energy conservation programs, National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, Community Service Employment for Older Americans, National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control, Low Income Home Energy Assistance, Administration on Aging, Youthbuild, Adult Education, programs for K-12 and higher education, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Federal Aviation Administration, Federal Highway Administration, rail subsidies, Federal Transit Administration, Financial Management Service, Veterans Affairs construction projects, Housing Counseling Assistance, public housing programs, Community Development Financial Institutions Funds, Corporation for National & Community Service, Legal Services Corporation, Environmental Protection Agency, National Aeronautics & Space Administration, and the National Science Foundation.

They were all cut in 1995 under a rescissions package engineered by then-Speaker Newt Gingrich and cut last week in the budget agreement reached by Republican and Democratic leaders.

The lesson here is that there’s a big difference between spending cuts and terminating entire agencies and their programs. Like the mythological Hydra, the stump has to be burned after the head is cut off or else it’ll grow back.

Just as they did back in 1995, Republicans are doing a lot of talking about cutting the size of the federal government. However, they aren’t doing much talking about reducing the scope of the federal government’s activities. The Gingrich Republicans failed to reduce the scope of federal activities, and the result was a bipartisan spending orgy that has left the country’s finances in shambles. We literally can’t afford for history to repeat itself.

One Step Forward, One Step Back

This weekend I opened The Washington Post to find the editors arguing that Congress should cut federal subsidies to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Institute of Peace, and the National Endowment of the Arts, and George F. Will arguing that Congress should preserve federal subsidies to Teach for America.

Weird.

Budget Follies

Today POLITICO Arena asks:

Is the Obama budget a serious stab at deficit reduction? And do congressional Republicans have any credibility in knocking the budget plan since, other than Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.), they have not detailed many cuts that would seriously slice the deficit?

My response:

It’s Valentine’s Day and love is in the air, especially on Capitol Hill where Congress anxiously awaits the 10:00 a.m. arrival of the president’s FY 2012 budget. It should be well shredded by noon.

And as it is, across the land we’ll be hearing the cries of “Not me, please, not my sinecure” – no more plaintively than from the minions of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. How will the average Chicago Bears fan endure without the latest BBC soap – excuse me, Masterpiece Theatre production?

But if that should come to pass, woe be unto those CPB congressional supporters who survived the November shellacking, the very ones who brought us to this sorry state by failing, for the first time in our history, to pass a single spending bill. Hell hath no fury like that of an NPR patron scorned.

Rep. Brady’s CUTS Act

Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) has introduced the Cut Unsustainable and Top-heavy Spending Act, which would cut spending by $44 billion annually.  Brady’s effort moves in the right direction but it is a very modest fiscal reform effort.

The legislation, which Brady calls a “down payment on getting America’s financial books in order,” chooses targets that have already been proposed by the Obama administration or the president’s Fiscal Commission. Therefore, the proposal should have bipartisan appeal. For example, Brady’s bill would cut Pentagon spending and eliminate subsidies to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Many of the targets represent “house cleaning cuts” that would reduce spending on bureaucratic activities such as printing and federal travel. The legislation would also reduce the federal workforce by 10 percent per the Fiscal Commission’s recommendation. While there’s nothing wrong with a little house cleaning, these types of cuts would occur on their own if entire government agencies and programs were eliminated.

Eliminating federal agencies and programs should be the ultimate goal. Annual savings of $44 billion only amounts to about 3 percent of the project budget deficit this year, and less than 10 percent of the annual amount needed to be cut to stabilize the debt by 2020. (See this Cato spending cut plan for more details on what is needed to get our budgetary situation under control.)

On the Separation of Press and State

As it often does, The Wall Street Journal this morning offers us an op-ed with which it surely must disagree, entitled “Journalism Needs Government Help” – bringing to mind the fabled knock on the door: “Hi. I’m from the IRS and I’m here to help.” The author is no less than Lee Bollinger, former dean of the law school at the University of Michigan and now president of Columbia University, my undergraduate alma mater. As with many an academic, Bollinger has long been a friend of public-private partnerships: indeed, one could say he has lived by them. But the partnership at issue here is so fraught with peril that one wonders how it can be advanced as uncritically as it is in this little piece.

The argument, in essence, is this. The communications revolution has decimated media budgets. Indeed, “the proliferation of communications outlets has fractured the base of advertising and readers,” leading to shrunken newsrooms, especially in foreign bureaus. Thus the FCC and FTC are now studying the idea of enhanced public funding for journalism. Not to worry, Bollinger assures us, since “we already have a hybrid system of private enterprise and public support” – to wit, public regulation of the broadcast news industry and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. And the most compelling example of state support not translating into official control, he continues, can be found in our public and private research universities, which receive billions of government dollars annually with no apparent problem.

Really? Try getting your hands on some of those funds, or an appointment in one of those departments, if you have reservations about global warming. Or do we need any better example than the case of Elena Kagan, now before us. When the good dean took her principled stand against admitting military recruiters to the Harvard Law School, the larger university community reminded her of the government funds that were thus put in jeopardy, and she adjusted her position accordingly.

But here comes the kicker: Like those who imagine that there’d be no art without the National Endowment for the Arts, Bollinger tells us that “trusting the market alone to provide all the news coverage we need would mean venturing into the unknown—a risky proposition with a vital public institution hanging in the balance.” Was there no news before the invention of NPR, all things considered? And back on the academic analogy, he adds, “Indeed, the most problematic funding issues in academic research come from alliances with the corporate sector. This reinforces the point that all media systems, whether advertiser-based or governmental, come with potential editorial risks.” True, but government is categorically different than private businesses, of which there is no shortage. Yet those who fail to notice that difference, or discount it, are forever drawn to government because it is, as we say, so easy to get in bed with.