Tag: NPR

Privatizing Public Broadcasting

I appeared on WFPL, the NPR affiliate in Louisville, Kentucky, today to argue for ending the federal funding for NPR and PBS. Sort of like Daniel in the lion’s den. But since I survived, and since NPR stations are using all their government dollars to mount a vigorous radio and internet campaign to get more government dollars, I thought I would pull together some of my writings on the topic.

You should shortly be able to listen to the show here. I made the point that we have a $1.5 trillion deficit, and every spending program has to be on the table. But more importantly, as I said in my article on the top ten reasons to privatize public broadcasting,

And the number one reason to privatize public broadcasting is:

1. The separation of news and state. We wouldn’t want the federal government to publish a national newspaper. Why should we have a government television network and a government radio network? If anything should be kept separate from government and politics, it’s the news and public affairs programming that Americans watch. When government brings us the news—with all the inevitable bias and spin—the government is putting its thumb on the scales of democracy. It’s time for that to stop.

Here’s my testimony to the Senate Appropriations Committee – four public broadcasting CEOs and me – which is actually more balanced than most congressional hearings. This includes data on public broadcasting demographics that I cited on the air.

Here’s the Cato Handbook for Policymakers chapter on “Cultural Agencies.”

Here’s my speech, “The Separation of Art and State,” delivered at the Delaware Center for Contemporary Arts.

Read my reflections on the scandals in public broadcasting here.

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.

My Favorite Constitutional Right

Both the Washington Post and NPR refer to the Tenth Amendment as a “tea party favorite.” I would have thought that tea partiers – and most of the rest of us – liked all 10 of the Bill of Rights, and indeed the rest of the Constitution as well. Now, sure, I guess if the ACLU could publish (in the 1970s or 1980s) the poster below, an “illustrated guide to the Bill of Rights” featuring only the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth amendments (and only parts of those), along with the Fourteenth, Fifteenth, and Nineteenth amendments, which are not part of the Bill of Rights – well, then, I guess the Tea Party is entitled to have its own favorite parts of the Bill of Rights. But then, it was NPR and the Washington Post, not tea partiers, who suggested that the Tenth Amendment was perhaps uniquely a “tea party favorite.” I would urge the ACLU, the Tea Party, and all other Americans who care about freedom to consider the entire Constitution a “favorite.” Of course, the Tenth Amendment is pretty crucial, reminding policymakers that the federal government does not have any powers not delegated to it in the Constitution.

Misunderstanding Inflation through the Years

NPR reports on rising food prices across the world. They may have played some role in the revolts in Tunisia and Egypt, and if so, those wouldn’t be the first revolutions sparked by inflation. NPR reporter Marilyn Geewax mentioned several reasons that food prices are rising – droughts, floods, oil prices, financial speculation – but not the obvious one: the continuing creation of unbacked money by central banks around the world. As Milton Friedman said, “Inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon.” And as Jerry O’Driscoll wrote just two weeks ago, about rising food prices, “Inflation is here.” But that point isn’t yet universally understood, at least not at our government radio network.

Anyway, I turned off the radio and turned on the television, where TCM was just broadcasting the 1942 MGM propaganda film “Inflation” (made at the request of the Office of War Information but then never released because it was too anti-capitalist even for wartime propaganda). Edward Arnold plays the Devil, in league with Hitler and posing as a businessman who who encourages people to buy more, evade price controls, stockpile goods, and use the black market. (The film was made by Cy Endfield, who had been a member of the Young Communist League at Yale and went on to make such films as Zulu and Universal Soldier.) The film features what appears to be President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s April 28, 1942, radio speech, “Total War and Total Effort.” As the young couple in the film go to buy a new radio, the shopkeeper turns on the radio and they hear FDR say:

You do not have to be a professor of mathematics or economics to see that if people with plenty of cash start bidding against each other for scarce goods, the price of those goods (them) goes up.

Yesterday I submitted to the Congress of the United states a seven-point program, a program of general principles which taken together could be called the national economic policy for attaining the great objective of keeping the cost of living down. I repeat them now to you in substance:

First. we must, through heavier taxes, keep personal and corporate profits at a low reasonable rate.
Second. We must fix ceilings on prices and rents.
Third. We must stabilize wages.
Fourth. We must stabilize farm prices.
Fifth. We must put more billions into War Bonds.
Sixth. We must ration all essential commodities which are scarce.
Seventh. We must discourage installment buying, and encourage paying off debts and mortgages.

As it happens, I have a 1942 OWI poster with that same message hanging in my kitchen:

In fact, of course, price inflation was the natural result of a substantial increase in the money supply before and during the war. All of FDR’s policies – cartels, destruction of crops, wage and price controls, rationing – were misguided attempts to deal with the consequences of monetary manipulation and other bad policies.

By the way, FDR famously said, “The country needs and, unless I mistake its temper, the country demands bold, persistent experimentation. It is common sense to take a method and try it: If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.” Which might explain another propaganda film produced by MGM, this one in 1933, that extolled the virtues of FDR’s policy of inflation, utilizing the argument that is variously called “stimulus” or “the broken window fallacy.” The film cited the successful results of Civil War inflation. “What inflation has done before it will do again! … What a man! And what a leader! Yowzer! Happy days are here again!” Yeah, that went well. And by 1942 MGM was back on board, making a government propaganda film opposing inflation.

For background on inflation, read Cato adjunct scholar Lawrence H. White at the Concise Encylopedia of Economics.

Liberate NPR

TownHall.com has launched a petition to eliminate taxpayer subsidies to NPR.  They call it the “Defund NPR” petition, but that title suggests that everyone, not just Congress, should stop funding NPR.  That may appeal to many of the petition’s signers, but the petition’s text only calls for an end to government funding.  ”Liberate NPR” would be a better title.

Wishful Thinking about ObamaCare Investigations

NPR found two Republicans who caution House Republicans that their efforts to investigate ObamaCare could “backfire.”

But all those hearings could also have the opposite effect — giving the administration a chance to make its case in favor of the law, a case that often got drowned out during the election campaign.

“The next round of this, while there will continue to be the broad sloganeering on both sides, will presumably get a little bit more into the detail,” says Martin Corry, a health care lobbyist and former official at the Department of Health and Human Services during the Bush administration. “So if you’re a family with a 22-year-old still in college, you may not want to see that provision [that lets grown children stay on their parents’ health plans] repealed.”

… Former Republican Sen. Dave Durenberger of Minnesota says he thinks the Democratic-led Senate could try to dampen the House repeal efforts by holding a series of hearings of its own.

Let me see if I understand.  If House Republicans hold hearings, it will be a boon to ObamaCare.   Even though House and Senate Democrats stoutly refused to hold such hearings.  If House Republicans hold hearings, sloganeering will give way to detail.  And if House Republicans hold hearings, ObamaCare supporters will finally be able to get their message out — something they were unable to do while they controlled both chambers of Congress and the executive branch.

Why Some People Think NPR Exhibits Bias

Listening to NPR on the way into work, I twice heard a reporter refer to Meredith McGehee, a champion of (ahem) campaign finance reform, as a “good-government lobbyist.”

Got that?  If you disagree with McGehee’s lobbying agenda — if, say, you think campaign finance reform is an unconstitutional attempt by the Left to restrict political speech that they don’t like — then you are against making government better.

But did you catch the more subtle form of bias?  I maintain there is no such thing as good government. (Call it Cannon’s First Law of Politics.)  And I’m not alone.  ”Government, even in its best state,” wrote Thomas Paine in Common Sense, “is but a necessary evil.”  Not good.  Less evil than the alternative, to be sure.  But still, evil.  Others disagree.  The reporter, like many others and probably without even realizing it, took sides in that long-standing debate too.