10.20.2010 0

Deficit Reduction for Dummies: The Bare Minimum

$500 million in the vast sea of red ink facing U.S. taxpayers seems like a drop in the bucket. Far less than even one half of one percent of the $1.3 trillion deficit our nation accrued in fiscal year 2010. If our Congress can’t cut a program that costs $500 million per year, how can they be expected to do the truly heavy lifting to bring our budget into balance?

Congress can take this first baby step toward solvency by doing one thing — defunding the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and saving $500 million a year. Congress should do it immediately upon convening in January to demonstrate to the American public that they are serious about meeting the budget deficit challenge.

Public radio and television is the ultimate idea whose time has passed it by. Prior to the explosion of cable and satellite television and virtually universal access to the Internet, public television and radio may have served some purpose, but in today’s niche media environment it merely serves as a dinosaur-like reminder of a bygone era.

Public television is lost in the muddle of the hundreds of broadcast channels supplied by the likes of DirecTV, DISH TV and cable providers like Cox Communications and Comcast. It simply makes no sense for taxpayers to fund a product that duplicates those already in the market.

This past spring, Congressman Doug Lamborn from Colorado sponsored legislation defunding the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Lamborn, in an exclusive interview with Rebekah Rast of Americans for Limited Government that ran earlier this year, argued for eliminating taxpayer funding saying, “The Corporation for Public Broadcasting puts out some programs that I enjoy and a lot of people enjoy, but they can stand on their own two feet.

In fact, 87 percent of their money comes from sources other than the U.S. taxpayer. So why should we, in days of $1 trillion annual deficits, give money to a corporation or any company that can fund itself.”

Lamborn is right.

Perhaps the seminal question facing Republicans if they take control of Congress, is whether they have the political will to defund unnecessary spending through the wholesale elimination of programs like the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

The challenge is simple. PBS has some powerful friends, including many donors to Members on both sides of the aisle. When Members go home, the people they have dinner with are likely supporters of PBS, and their latest violin concerto broadcast. It will be tough to tell the wealthy viewership of PBS that they may have to pay DirecTV to show the latest ballet by some dance troupe from Moscow.

Of course, PBS could make up some of the money lost through elimination of federal funding by selling their programming to cable and satellite providers, much like ESPN, FOX Sports and others do. They could also use corporate sponsorships (advertising) to fund more of their programming. Big Bird will survive the change. The difference is that taxpayers won’t be paying for his feed.

Eliminating funding for public radio is an even more obvious decision. The liberal and privately funded Air America went bankrupt largely due to their competing with NPR for listeners. The irony of defunding NPR is that their radio stations would be much more likely to be honest in their approach and promote left wing talkers to their listeners and sell advertising accordingly. This would be in contrast to the current passive aggressive approach of snootily looking down their noses at conservative points of view while pretending to not take positions.

Without government funding, left wing radio would likely find its voice, and become a profitable venture. How ironic is it that honest socialist radio could thrive in the free market, if only they weren’t forced to compete with government funded radio.

It is time to free Big Bird, and let him out of his cage of federal tax support. Ultimately, he will either fly or go the way of the Dodo bird. Personally, I’m betting that he will thrive.

Rick Manning is the Communications Director of Americans for Limited Government.

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