07.23.2019 0

What is the East-West Center and why are taxpayers giving it $16.7 million a year?

By Richard McCarty

What is the East-West Center and why are taxpayers giving it $16.7 million a year?

With the national debt now over $22 billion, Congress simply must find places in the budget to cut. Some necessary cuts are tough; others are easy. Defunding the East-West Center (EWC), a think tank in Honolulu, Hawaii focused on relations between the US, Asia, and the Pacific, is an easy cut. Currently, the EWC receives $16.7 million a year from federal taxpayers.

The EWC is just another of Lyndon Johnson’s wasteful Big Government programs. During his tenure as Senate Majority Leader, Johnson sponsored legislation to establish the EWC; Congress passed the bill without even holding any hearings. Interestingly, the State Department opposed the EWC’s creation. For decades afterward, Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI) managed to keep federal support for the think tank in place. With Inouye gone, Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) now fights to keep the federal tax dollars flowing to the EWC.

Three decades after the founding of the EWC, another powerful legislator, Rep. Dante Fascell (D-FL), procured funding for the North-South Center, which was a think tank in Miami, Florida focused on relations between North and South America and the Caribbean. After Fascell left Congress, financial support for the North-South Center dwindled until all federal support was removed. The think tank closed shortly thereafter. Of course, there has been no discernable difference in North-South relations as a result of the think tank’s closure.

“A legacy of former President Lyndon B. Johnson, the EWC think tank has been receiving federal taxpayer dollars for almost six decades – more than $160 million over the past two decades alone,” Americans for Limited Government President Rick Manning said.

Manning added, “It is time for this Vietnam War era project to be set free from the shackles of federal support ($16.7 million projected this year) and fully enter the competitive world of private donor fundraising.  This would not be a death knell for this group as the East-West Center currently raises millions of dollars from private sources each year to achieve its Cold War mission.”

Not only is the EWC a needless expense for taxpayers, but it also pushes the liberal agenda. Like so many left-wing organizations, the EWC is obsessed with global warming. There is no reason that taxpayers should be subsidizing climate alarmism, which often leads to proposals for higher taxes and costly regulations as well as expensive energy projects that drive up costs for consumers. If the EWC wants to continue to scaremonger over global warming, then climate alarmists, such as billionaires George Soros and Tom Steyer, should make the EWC a pet project.

Looking for fat in the budget to trim, the Trump Administration has proposed zeroing out funding for the think tank. Nor is this administration the first to suggest the EWC should receive fewer federal tax dollars. Even the Obama Administration proposed cutting the think tank’s budget by $9 million — even though Obama’s mother had once studied at the EWC. (Subsequently, the EWC hired President Obama’s half-sister.) While saving $16.7 million might not sound like much, the appropriations for the think tank do add up.  Since FY 1997, over $160 million has been appropriated for the EWC.

Taxpayers have funded the EWC for well over 50 years, and it is long past time to cut off the welfare checks. The EWC already generates significant non-federal revenues; in fact, the EWC brought in over $9 million in donations and non-federal grants and contracts last year according to its financial summary. There are dozens of foreign policy think tanks in this country, and it is doubtful that many people would notice if the EWC were unable to replace the federal funds and were forced to scale back its budget. Finally, the US had diplomatic and trade relations with Asia long before the EWC, and those relationships would continue even if the think tank were to close.

Manning suggested that the center would operate just fine on its own, concluding, “Taxpayers launched the East-West Center, but it is time for them to launch into adulthood before they become eligible for Medicare.”

Richard McCarty is the Director of Research at Americans for Limited Government Foundation.

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