Time To End Government Subsidies For Public Broadcasting?

The firing of Juan Williams from NPR has led many conservatives to call for an end to government subsidies. As is often the case, they're right but for the wrong reasons.

Within hours after the news of Juan Williams’ dismissal from National Public Radio had started making it’s way around the internet, the calls began coming from the conservative right for an end to government funding for NPR:

NPR’s decision to fire Williams over comments he made about Muslims on Fox has prompted calls on the right for Congress to remove its funding. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) plans to introduce a bill to strip any federal money – which NPR says amounts to about 2 percent of its annual budget.

“I think it’s reasonable to ask why Congress is spending taxpayers’ money to support a left-wing radio network – and in the wake of Juan Williams’ firing, it’s clearer than ever that’s what NPR is,” said House Republican leader John Boehner (R-Ohio.)

And Williams’ firing raised the uncomfortable prospect for Democrats that the issue could remind voters of the backlash over the lower Manhattan mosque in the final two weeks before the midterm elections.

The biggest names in conservative politics — including Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin, both paid Fox News contributors like Williams —rushed to his defense after he said he gets “nervous” when he sees people in Muslim dress boarding an airplane.

Williams discussed the circumstances of his firing for the first time Thursday, saying he was fired over the phone without being given a chance to come in and make his case, despite having worked at NPR for 10 years.

In regard to his comments about Muslims on Bill O’Reilly’s show this week on Fox, he was told “that crosses the line” and that there wasn’t anything he could say to change NPR executives’ minds that his statements were bigoted. (See: NPR fires Juan Williams)

He argued that he was just making an honest statement about his emotional response, adding, “You cannot ignore what happened on 9/11.”

In addition, Senator Jim DeMint announced late yesterday that he would introduce legislation to end government subsidies to NPR, and this morning Williams himself said that his former employer should be cut off from taxpayer dollars:

Juan Williams, the former National Public Radio news analyst who was abruptly fired this week for expressing a personal view on Fox News, called for the federal government to stop funding the radio organization.

“If they want to compete in the marketplace, they should compete in the marketplace,” Williams said Friday in an interview on “Fox and Friends”. “They don’t need public funds. I think that they should go out there. They think their product is so great, go out and sell the product.”

(…)

“And too often, they make it out like, ‘you know what, we are a public jewel and we need the protection of the federal government, we need federal funds that come through the member stations and they pay for this product.’ Nonsense,” he said.

As with most public issues, the facts are a little bit muddled here. National Public Radio receives no direct government subsidies, however it does derive a small portion of it’s revenue from sources that are themselves taxpayer funded:

NPR competes for grants from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the National Endowment for the Arts, and receives funding from local member stations that are largely taxpayer-funded. Williams joins a growing chorus of policymakers and commentators who have also called for the federal government to cut the organization off and force it to compete on its own like other news media outlets. A majority of the organization’s funding already comes from private donors and sponsors.

So, defunding NPR would not kill it under any conceivable set of circumstances, and the same, quite honestly, can be said about the Corporation for Public Broadcasting itself. In a world of corporate and foundation grants, fundraising, and royalties, the idea that “public broadcasting” in the United States would die if the few hundred million in government subsidies came to an end is simply absurd.

As with Federal funding of the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities, it’s unfortunate that these debates over public funding for ventures like this only seems to take place when some political controversy-of-the-day arises. As a matter of principle, there seems to be little justification for continuing government subsidies for media outlets in an era when consumer choices have broadened far beyond the three networks (plus, in some networks one or two local channels) that existed when the CPB was created in 1967. Between cable, satellite, the Internet, and broadcast television itself, the number of consumer choices, and outlets for different voices, is far broader than it was then and, quite honestly, if there’s a type of programming that the market, or private grants, won’t support, then there seems to be little argument for saying that the government needs to step in and subsidize something that people don’t want to listen to.

There’s also the Constitutional issue. Looking at Article I, Section 8, it’s hard to find any grant of power that authorizes Congress to subsidize television and radio networks. While some will no doubt all such an insistence on Constitutional purity silly, it strikes me as an important point. If Congress can’t do it, it can’t do it.

This is, of course, a minor issue in the grand scheme of things. Federal funding for the CPB amounts to a few hundred million dollars out of a budget of trillions of dollars. For fiscal conservatives like me, that amounts to virtually nothing. However., when you’re looking for something to cut, it makes as much sense to look for the small targets as it is the big ones.

So, yes, defund NPR and the CPB. Not because of what happened to Juan Williams, but because the government shouldn’t be funding them in the first place.

FILED UNDER: Media, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. James Joyner says:

    I tend to agree. I’m sympathetic to the educational mission of NPR/PBS circa 1967. There was a time when people living in rural areas didn’t have access to quality news and cultural programming, especially if they were poor. But not only has the proliferation of technology changed that it’s pretty well established that the primary audience for these networks is affluent whites. So, why should we subsidize that?

    And I say that, incidentally, an an NPR fan. I just think it can stand on its own.

  2. John Personna says:

    Wow, a day after I observe that this controversy arises from a misunderstanding of NPR’s desire for neutrality, and old-time NPR hatred, it comes around to the twisted conclusion.

    FWIW there is an argument for public funding: that neutral and complete reporting produces net benefits to society.

    Fox and friends just want to position NPR as an opposing ideological network and be done with it. Why? Because they are campaigning against the very goal of neutrality.

  3. John,

    I’m sorry but the idea that NPR or The News Hour on PBS are “neutral” is just silly. Journalists are human beings and they have opinions and anyone who thinks, as the NPR CEO apparently does, that there is such a thing as a “news analyst” without personal opinions is quite honestly either lying or delusional.

    Besides that, even if one accepts the argument you make it does not follow that using taxpayer dollars to accomplish that end is justifiable in any sense of the word

  4. Peter says:

    All 75 of NPR’s listeners are worried about the prospect of funding cuts.

  5. John Personna says:

    Circa 1967?

    I’m afraid they have the same mission, but the world has changed.

    Someone took the observation that neutrality is always imperfect and twisted it to mean the goal should never be pursued.

  6. sam says:

    Sure, end the funding. NPR doesn’t need it. In fact, I’d bet that if you did pull the funding, NPR and CPB would take in much more money in donations.

  7. John Personna says:

    News Hour certainly strives for balance, and if it misses it the follow-on Marketplace will correct for it.

  8. mantis says:

    And I say that, incidentally, an an NPR fan. I just think it can stand on its own.

    I agree. And if they are successful at cutting off funding (they won’t be, at least not anytime very soon), I’ll just donate a bit more to NPR.

    All 75 of NPR’s listeners are worried about the prospect of funding cuts.

    Peter, I’ll tell you the same thing I did when you posted that yesterday. You’re an idiot.

    In spring of 2009, 26.4 million listeners heard its news in an average week, either on a member station or through a feed provided to another station.

    State of the News Media

  9. John,

    Let’s just take one example

    I respect Nina Totenberg’s intelligence and I often find her commentary about Supreme Court issues insightful, but to suggest that she’s “neutral” when it comes to the hot-button issues the Court rules on is just silly. She has a bias.

    See, I don’t mind a media where there’s some bias. At least it’s more honest than one where the journalists pretend that there’s such a thing as complete objectivity

  10. John Personna says:

    On what would happen after, think about why Fox is playing this to the hilt.

    They really want NPR to be positioned as “the liberal network” and because (in their vision) there is no neutrality, just as valid as they are.

    This isn’t about NPR, they are the football. The real game is about whether there is an objective reality, and if it can be reported.

  11. John Personna says:

    If NPR claims neutrality and you think Nina or whoever fails, what do you do: abandon the goal or get them to improve their effort?

  12. John,

    When it comes to “news analysis” the idea of neutrality is an absurdity.

  13. John,

    If you want to talk political footballs, ask yourself why Media Matters — the left wing equivalent of Brent Bozell’s Media Research Center — spent the last year targeting Williams, or why one left-wing blog that shall go un-named decided it was a good idea to call Williams a “lawn jockey.”

    They were targeting Williams not for what he said, but because he appeared on Fox News Channel. Now, they’ve set Mara Liasson in their crosshairs for committing the same sin.

    Can you honestly tell me that this would’ve happened if Williams had been spending the last ten years appearing as an analyst on CNN or MSNBC ?

    These are ginned up controversies created by groups funded by people with their own agendas. It happens on both sides of the aisle and it’s really quite sad that we let ourselves be fooled by them all the time.

  14. John Personna says:

    The thing that went wrong since ’67 was that too many gave up on objective reporting as a goal.

    If you are trying you may fall short, but you’re going to do a heck of a lot better than if you weren’t trying at all.

    Fox versus NPR in a nutshell.

  15. John Personna says:

    Doug, one of the first things I wrote above was:

    “Someone took the observation that neutrality is always imperfect and twisted it to mean the goal should never be pursued.”

    So why are you still hung up on neutrality being hard?

  16. John,

    Why are you hung up on the idea that “neutrality” can only happen by taking my tax dollars and giving them to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting?

  17. Tano says:

    I wonder about the wisdom of the FoxNews/Mataconis attack on NPR right now. The polls show that the country in general is evenly divided politically, or actually leans a bit toward the Democrats – but with the “enthusiasm gap”, we have the expectation of a big GOP win in a couple of weeks.

    All of that is in great danger if the Dems could simply turn out their people to an extent that just begins to approximate the expected GOP turnout. And what better way to get the liberals out into the trenches than to threaten their beloved NPR,,,,and PBS while we are at it!

    So yeah, run with this guys! I wonder if NPR would have the guts to transform their latest pledge drive into a get-out-the-vote drive, in a purely non-partisan way, of course.

  18. mantis says:

    They were targeting Williams not for what he said, but because he appeared on Fox News Channel.

    No, it was what he said on Fox News. You know that.

  19. John Personna says:

    I never said that, Doug.

    I do think public funding gives us one more lever, a reason to ask for objective reporting.

    I mean I can ask MSNBC and Fox to change their stripes, but I don’t have much leverage there. To them I am just market share, not a citizen.

  20. mantis,

    Same difference. Media Matters targeted Williams because he strayed from the orthodoxy

  21. John Burgess says:

    The UK is stopping government funding of the BBC–currently through the Foreign Office–though it will apparently still let the BBC take a share of license fees assessed on TVs.

    I think PBS and NPR have achieved the mission set them at their creation. The media landscape has changed and there is no shortage of information to anyone who wishes to get it. Nor do we need to continue to subsidize efforts to ‘improve the tone’ of American appreciation of the arts. I can find all the classical music and 18th C. British dramas I want, often for free, at will. I do like those things, but I cannot see any reason that they need to be subsidized, even minimally, by those who don’t appreciate them.

    As far as objectivity of NPR goes, you’ve got to be kidding! It’s ‘objective’ only if your axis is far, far to the left of the general American public. In fact, I tune in to NPR only while I’m on long drives. I’m assured of hearing something that gets my heart pounding and my attention keyed up.

  22. mantis says:

    Media Matters targeted Williams because he strayed from the orthodoxy

    Well, I can’t say why Media Matters does things, but I objected to Williams because he is obviously no longer interested in serious journalism, if he ever was, and I expect a bit more from people who work for NPR, which I donate to. The only “orthodoxy” he strayed from in my mind is the NPR code of ethics.

    And by the way, it isn’t “appearing” on Fox News that’s the problem. It’s working for them. They pay big bucks for people to abandon their principles. It became quite obvious years ago that Williams is more interested in a big paycheck than in respectable work. And to that end, he got what he wanted, and everyone is better off (the conservatives flipping out about this aren’t NPR listeners to begin with).

  23. anjin-san says:

    > I’m assured of hearing something that gets my heart pounding and my attention keyed up.

    ahhh – information not filtered through murdoch/fox?

  24. john personna says:

    As far as objectivity of NPR goes, you’ve got to be kidding! It’s ‘objective’ only if your axis is far, far to the left of the general American public. In fact, I tune in to NPR only while I’m on long drives. I’m assured of hearing something that gets my heart pounding and my attention keyed up.

    Just curious, but where do you measure out on political compass tests?

    I measure at the center and can hear clunkers from NPR that lean right and lean left. If you want an example of them being right, bring up the old Planet Money piece where they jumped on Elizabeth Warren.

    I also note that in Fox’s hit piece on NPR they quote Andrei Codrescu. Seriously? Andrei Codrescu is a crazy artist type. He’s there for a weird perspective. You are missing a lot if you think he’s like telling you the NRP line. LOL.

  25. Franklin says:

    So far as I know, the BBC is government funded and it’s much better than any of the private news organizations we have in the States. I’m just sayin’.

  26. floyd says:

    “The primary audience for these networks is affluent whites. So, why should we subsidize that?”
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    Says enough without comment.

  27. Andre Kenji says:

    The British government is not defunding BBC. The *World Service* will now be funded by the BBC Corporation, not by the Foreign Ministry. Probably, that´s better for at least for the BBC World Service in English fans.

    NPR is biased to the left, but because it´s donors and viewers are biased to left. Anything like NPR is to elitist to most conservatives. 😉 But you can see conservative guests on Talk of the Nation, for instance.

    And yes, both MRC and Media Matters does a very bad service to the media when they wan´t to destroy good journalists of the opposite side of the ideological aisle.

  28. anjin-san says:

    Worth noting that WIlliams was whining today about being sent to the “Gulag”.

    Is that the gulag where people make 2 million a year? Can I go too?

  29. mantis says:

    Is that the gulag where people make 2 million a year? Can I go too?

    Sure! Can you pretend to be Fox’s token liberal, but really just sit there and reinforce their political messaging (as Jon Stewart noted on Larry King, Fox is a political organization, not a news organization), repeating bullshit talking points from Limbaugh, et al.; and occasionally spewing out some racist claptrap? You’re hired!

  30. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    George Soros donates 1.8 million dollars to NPR, shortly thereafter, Juan Williams, the only African American working at NPR is fired for what he says on a news program concerning how he feels whien he flys. Soros is a known enemy of the news organization hated by the left because it will not toe the leftist line like most all the other sources. However, it is alright for a proper white woman who works for NPR to wish a U.S. Senator to contract aids. We will hear from Al Sharpton in 5, 4, 3, 2, —- ooops.

  31. JKB says:

    Federal funding for the CPB amounts to a few hundred million dollars out of a budget of trillions of dollars. For fiscal conservatives like me, that amounts to virtually nothing.

    Spoken like an eternal debtor, which I hope you are not. True, a few hundred million might not seem like a lot. I remember recently of a commenter saying the billion pledged to the Pakistan flood was nothing in US budget terms. But if we are to wrangle this monster deficit back in the corral, it’ll be by watching the nickels and dimes up through the hundreds of millions and beyond. Ask anyone who’s actually gotten themselves out of a crushing debt and they’ll confirm it was the pennies that mattered since the hundreds of dollars couldn’t be saved all at once without, you know, death being involved. This is the same situation the US is in only cutting a few hundred million here or there is like normal debtors cutting a nickel or dime out of their routine expenses.

    As for removing subsidies from NPR, they may fear it will go the way of the other liberal radio, Air America. Or in an evil capitalist plot, removing subsidies from the government controlled liberal radio might permit competitors in the liberal media market?

  32. mantis says:

    Or in an evil capitalist plot, removing subsidies from the government controlled liberal radio might permit competitors in the liberal media market?

    What “government controlled liberal radio” are you talking about?

  33. ponce says:

    The average American overestimates the amount of foreign aid America spends each year by a factor of 10.

    I bet their estimate of how much NPR gets is similarly bad.

  34. john personna says:

    How do Americans feel about the cost of PBS?

    The cost of public broadcasting (TV and radio) for the entire year is $1.70 per person. By comparison, the average cable bill is over $481 per year, with premium channels and digital packages costing even more. According to a recent Roper poll, the majority of the public (51%) believe the amount of federal funding PBS receives is “too little.” Most Americans (82%) believe that public and private funding given to PBS from government, corporations and individuals is “money well spent.” The American public considers PBS the second-best use of tax dollars, ranking below only military defense.

    I guess our foes here are in the 18% that oppose PBS funding?

    Heh, similar to the old joke. Only 18% of Americans oppose PBS funding, but 100% of them listen to Fox.

  35. reid says:

    I don’t listen to NPR or have much of an opinion about it, but I instinctively want to deny the wingnuts with their fantasy conspiracy theories any kind of victory. Especially DeMint.

    Williams sounds just a little bitter.

  36. ponce says:

    “When it comes to “news analysis” the idea of neutrality is an absurdity.”

    This seems unduly negative.

    Don’t you mean: Neutral news analysis is a wasted propaganda opportunity?

  37. John Burgess says:

    ahhh – information not filtered through murdoch/fox?

    Huh? I don’t listen to/watch FOX and don’t subscribe to any Murdoch publications. So, other than snark, do have a substantive issue to raise here?

    Perhaps my disdain for NPR developed through my personal knowledge of stories they’ve hyperbolically reported. That and my allergy to saccharine reportage of the ‘They’re third world, so they must be adored and coddled while the US really sucks’ sort.

  38. PD Shaw says:

    It’s my understanding that NPR has been under serious financial constraints since the economic downturn, losing a lot of corporate sponsorships. Every several months NPR announces more programming and employee cuts.

    I’m pretty sure NPR could survive without the government subsidy, but it would need to get rid of the name talent and reduce salaries at the top.

  39. John Burgess says:

    Oh, and that bastion of right-wingnittitude, the Washington Post, thinks NPR told step too far in promoting PC. Maybe you can cancel your Post subscriptions in protest and sent the saved money to NPR.

  40. john personna says:

    Perhaps my disdain for NPR developed through my personal knowledge of stories they’ve hyperbolically reported. That and my allergy to saccharine reportage of the ‘They’re third world, so they must be adored and coddled while the US really sucks’ sort.

    Wow. Maybe you should imagine yourself to be a moderate, a centrist, for a moment and read that back.

  41. john personna says:

    BTW, you may have noticed that I haven’t defended NPR’s Williams decision. I think they did pretty badly. It is more than a screw up.

    But, if for NPR this was really about Fox, then also for Fox this was really about NPR.

    It really is about how much we are going to respect, and demand, object journalism in the future.

    If NPR isn’t doing it, call them on it. They are taking our tax money, and for that we deserve objectivity. But don’t buy the Fox line that no one should be trying. Fox would dearly love a world where everyone is partisan, but most of us would not.

  42. Dustin says:

    I think the shame in all of this is the misinformation everyone is getting about NPR. NPR certainly caters more to the left, but they strive for honest debate and balance more than any other news outfit out there right now. They constantly give time to multiple sides of an issue in a respectful manner. All this screed about it being a leftist organization is oldhat.

  43. G.A.Phillips says:

    NPR SUCKS!!!!

  44. michael reynolds says:

    NPR is our BBC.

    But our conservatives are not their Tories. The Tory party does not glorify ignorance.

  45. sam says:

    I’d just like to point out to the righties that are slamming public radio and television, that the very finest conservative program, I’ll say the greatest ever, William F. Buckley’s Firing Line, was on public television from 1971 until its demise in 1999. The current incarnation of conservative television, Fox and all its shows , is to Firing Line as The Three Stooges is to the Royal Shakespeare Company.

  46. sam,

    I am not slamming the programming, I am against the concept of government subsidies to private industry on principle, and I don’t believe that funding a broadcast network is a proper function of government

  47. john personna says:

    I am not slamming the programming, I am against the concept of government subsidies to private industry on principle, …

    LOL. Would you like to restate that?

    If you decide something is “private industry” then you don’t fund it, no. But what part of “public broadcasting” did you miss?

  48. john personna says:

    And in case we’ve already forgotten, “Most Americans (82%) believe that public and private funding given to PBS from government, corporations and individuals is ‘money well spent.’”

  49. sam says:

    I wasn’t thinking about you, Doug. GA has the virtue of not gussying up what are the real feelings of his and his fellow travelers re public television and radio with a lot of lowflown rhetoric about the evils of government anything. I’ll give him that.

  50. Then I reject the idea of “public broadcasting.”

    Let NPR and PBS survive as not-for-profit broadcasting entities if they wish, or let them compete in the marketplace.

    What they aren’t entitled to is a taxpayer subsidy and more than any other industry is (and yes, I oppose those to)

  51. John,

    Your quote from that poll reminds me of this one:

    Democracy is the worship of jackals by jackasses

    — H.L. Mencken

  52. ponce says:

    “NPR is our BBC.”

    I listen to the BBC on NPR every day.

    So, NPR is BBC for me.

  53. john personna says:

    Democracy is a good test of humility. We may think that the majority have erred, but that should always give us pause, and lead to some soul searching. If we come out of that thinking we have the high ground, then so be it.

    I think I’ve got some pretty good high ground here, claiming that there is an objective reality, and that our society benefits greatly from an understanding of it.

    We may each be wrong about some detail of that reality in turns, but I think I’m on the high ground to say we’ve got to keep trying.

    Looping back to democracy, truth, and humility … the real tragedy is that if we isolate ourselves in those little worlds of subjective reality we can start to lose the idea that anyone else even can be right. In that model, we all just hunker down, with our minority world views, and wait for “them” to admit we are right.

    Not healthy, not for the individual and not for the society.

  54. john personna says:

    IOW, if you think 82% of the people are wrong, you’ve got some high opinion of yourself.

  55. John,

    As Henry Louis would say, democracy is the pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance.

    That’s why I would prefer not to live in a society that places extraordinary amounts of power in the hands of representatives of “the people”

  56. Vast Variety says:

    The educational and cultural benefits of PBS far out way the tax burden they impose on our federal budget. Without PBS I would have never been introduced to my now insatiable craving for British Television, or spent countless Friday nights as a kid watching Austin City Limits. I’ve watched Broadway plays and ballets that I would never have been able to afford to go see and been exposed to science programs such Universe, or Jack Horkheimer Star Gazer, and that’s not to mention the local programing such as broadcasting from the Iowa state fair or shows about Iowa and US history. My love for the history of World War II came from PBS.

    Sure times have changed, and maybe it’s not as relavant and important now that we have like 500 channels of cable television, but even today not everyone can afford to have a cable bill or satellite dish, should they just be SOL?

  57. Vast,

    Which provision of the Constitution authorizes Congress to allocate funds to a television and radio network?

  58. john personna says:

    So ah, what is your purpose in a political site like OTB, Doug? Angling for a coronation?

  59. john personna says:

    (This is really funny, that we went from an opposition of NPR to an opposition of democracy itself!)

  60. John,

    Limited government.

    Just because a majority wants something, doesn’t mean they’re entitled to it.

  61. PD Shaw says:

    82% of the people liked NPR back when Juan Williams worked there. I wonder if we polled the issue today, given current economics and NPR stupidity, if the poll would be so favorable.

    I’m sure there will be a poll in the coming weeks, if so, john personna are you committed to following the opinions in it?

    (I contribute semi-regularly to the local NPR, and really don’t care about forcing Doug to support it as well, but I can see how he might feel differently)

  62. Drew says:

    There are 58 comments. I stopped after reading #1 – James. That’s where I am. I used to love listening many years ago. But after Reagan was elected they just went psycho. They became unlistenable.

    If there is a market for thier views, then let them have at it in the marketplace of ideas. But I feel no obligation to fund them, whatever that fraction really is. Set them off on the free market boat, for better or worse.

  63. John,

    I’m not against democracy. I just reject an argument that says “X percent of the public wants it, therefore……:

  64. john personna says:

    Doug, you gave us these:

    “Democracy is the worship of jackals by jackasses – H.L. Mencken”

    and

    “As Henry Louis would say, democracy is the pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance.”

    … to late now to walk those back.

  65. If you don’t understand the dry wit and sarcasm of H.L. Mencken, that’s just too bad.

  66. Dave Schuler says:

    The article at Daily Caller linked above is in error. The link is fine, it’s the reporting that is in error. Whether a member station is primarily taxpayer-funded, subscriber-funded, or dependent on private grants varies from member station to member station. Here in Chicago, for example, our public radio station WBEZ is funded almost entirely privately, overwhelmingly from membership fees. Check its financial statement.

    That’s true for many large market public radio stations. It’s the rural and small market radio stations that receive public funding. Anyone who’s driven through a rural area can testify that the alternatives for listening are pretty narrow. Removing funding for rural public radio stations would silence a voice where there are already too few voices.

    Some of public radio’s news and information coverage is excellent, some so-so, some awful—much like commercial radio.

    I’ll put in another plug here for the very best news analysis anywhere of the financial crisis: the multi-part series that appeared on This American Life that evolved into the regular program Planet Money.

    All of that said I think that public radio is on twilight cruise or at least public funding for it. Greater variety at lower cost can be reached via Internet connectivity and IMO we should be phasing out public support of rural radio in favor of public support of highspeed Internet connectivity. At the present state of the art if many rural areas are to have access to highspeed Internet they will need to be subsidized. Most of those subsidies should come from state governments but with Washington taking such a large bite of total tax dollars it may be politically necessary for these subsidies to come from the federal government.

  67. john personna says:

    82% of the people liked NPR back when Juan Williams worked there. I wonder if we polled the issue today, given current economics and NPR stupidity, if the poll would be so favorable.

    That’s true.

    I’m sure there will be a poll in the coming weeks, if so, john personna are you committed to following the opinions in it?

    Sure. It would be interesting to poll in a month, and again in six months, to see where things settle.

  68. John425 says:

    I think firing Willimas was incidental to the real plan, namely the opening NPR salvo to crush FOX News. Almost immediately after the firing, it was announced that George Soros was giving them (NPR) a cool million dollars to hire more political “reporters” It is being said that Soros dictated the details, scope and direction of his new push and it was several months in the making.

  69. I’m a fan of NPR (more on the weekend for their cultural/entertainment programming then their news during the week), but I also think their funding should be cut as it’s not a legitimate government function. Although oddly, if it were cut, I’d finally start pleding. Right now I refuse to donate to an organization the reserves the right to take my money by force.

  70. john personna says:

    I missed this:

    Limited government.

    Just because a majority wants something, doesn’t mean they’re entitled to it.

    That really is at odds with democracy itself. If a majority, especially a solid majority over time, wants to spend their collective tax money on something then yes, that is a fundamental of democracy.

    I don’t particularly like the Smithsonian, but most do, and so I accept it. I do like the national parks, though I know not everyone does.

    What you really want Doug is spoiler ability. That isn’t democracy at all. That goes beyond majority to demanding consensus for everything.

    I mean heck, I’m sure there are things you want to spend tax money on that I don’t agree with. Are you willing to give me equal spoiler rights? What if I said no manned space flight at this time?

  71. Vast Variety says:

    “Which provision of the Constitution authorizes Congress to allocate funds to a television and radio network?”

    None since the constitution was written before either of those existed, but where is it prohibited?

  72. John,

    No, what I want is a Constitutionally limited Republic.

    Unless it’s a power specifically authorized by Article I, Section 8 or an Amendment, then the rule is supposed to be that Congress can’t do it, no matter now badly a majority wants it.

    And, if the majority wants it that badly then they can amend the Constitution to give Congress the power to give them what they want

  73. Vast,

    We live in a nation governed by a Constitution that created a government of limited powers. If a power isn’t specifically authorized, then it isn’t granted unless you amend the Constitution.

    Radical concept, I know but maybe we should try living by it for once

  74. Vast Variety says:

    The constitution also doesn’t authorize the creation of an Air Force but I’m pretty happy that congress created it any how.

  75. mantis says:

    Doug, rre you one of those libertarians who think promoting the general welfare is not a power of Congress, or just that nothing should be done under that clause?

  76. john personna says:

    Yikes Doug! Now you are telling us NPR is unconstitutional?

    If that’s true that would have been a strong opening argument 😉

  77. mantis,

    I’m one of those people who doesn’t believe that the phrase “general welfare” can be interpreted to mean “whatever Congress wants to do” in an intellectually honest fashion.

  78. John,

    You mean like when I wrote this:

    There’s also the Constitutional issue. Looking at Article I, Section 8, it’s hard to find any grant of power that authorizes Congress to subsidize television and radio networks. While some will no doubt all such an insistence on Constitutional purity silly, it strikes me as an important point. If Congress can’t do it, it can’t do it.

    in the original post ?

  79. john personna says:

    I think the main thing Doug is dodging here is that there are other programs he supports, which are majority supported, but not universally. He just wants to pick and choose.

  80. Vast,

    All due respect, but that’s just silly. The Constitution authorizes creation of a military. It doesn’t say “only muskets and sailing ships”

  81. John,

    No I want Congress to be limited to only those powers set forth in Article I, Section 8

  82. mantis says:

    I’m one of those people who doesn’t believe that the phrase “general welfare” can be interpreted to mean “whatever Congress wants to do” in an intellectually honest fashion.

    You didn’t answer the question. Here’s another, what can Congress do under the general welfare clause, by your reckoning?

  83. It is fairly obvious, Mantis, that the General Welfare clause only extends to authorizing taxation for those purposes already listed in Article I, Section 8. There is no evidence that it was intended to be a grant of power without any limits

  84. Vast Variety says:

    Doug, the Constitution specifically calls out only an Army and a Navy. Article 1 Section 8 Powers of Congress

    “To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;

    To provide and maintain a Navy;

    To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;

    To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;”

  85. mantis says:

    Ah, so you’re one of the libertarians that thinks it nothing should be done under that clause, unless it’s already listed under another clause. So, essentially, you think the general welfare clause is redundant and superflous. Why’d they put that in there, you think?

  86. john personna says:

    I missed that paragraph in the original. It’s true. This page says it all dates back to 1862, and the creation of public education:

    http://www.current.org/history/timeline/timeline-through1940s.shtml

    The forerunner of PBS and NPR formed: Association of College and University Broadcasting Stations (ACUBS) was founded in 1925.

    The horse left that barn long ago.

  87. john personna says:

    (I suppose public funding for education would have to go with it. We can’t pick and choose after all.)

  88. Federal funding ? Yes John, education is a state responsibility

  89. Mantis,

    I will refer you to Federalist No. 41 and quote this from James Madison:

    It has been urged and echoed, that the power “to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises, to pay the debts, and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States,” amounts to an unlimited commission to exercise every power which may be alleged to be necessary for the common defense or general welfare. No stronger proof could be given of the distress under which these writers labor for objections, than their stooping to such a misconstruction. Had no other enumeration or definition of the powers of the Congress been found in the Constitution, than the general expressions just cited, the authors of the objection might have had some color for it; though it would have been difficult to find a reason for so awkward a form of describing an authority to legislate in all possible cases. A power to destroy the freedom of the press, the trial by jury, or even to regulate the course of descents, or the forms of conveyances, must be very singularly expressed by the terms “to raise money for the general welfare.” But what color can the objection have, when a specification of the objects alluded to by these general terms immediately follows, and is not even separated by a longer pause than a semicolon? If the different parts of the same instrument ought to be so expounded, as to give meaning to every part which will bear it, shall one part of the same sentence be excluded altogether from a share in the meaning; and shall the more doubtful and indefinite terms be retained in their full extent, and the clear and precise expressions be denied any signification whatsoever? For what purpose could the enumeration of particular powers be inserted, if these and all others were meant to be included in the preceding general power? Nothing is more natural nor common than first to use a general phrase, and then to explain and qualify it by a recital of particulars. But the idea of an enumeration of particulars which neither explain nor qualify the general meaning, and can have no other effect than to confound and mislead, is an absurdity, which, as we are reduced to the dilemma of charging either on the authors of the objection or on the authors of the Constitution, we must take the liberty of supposing, had not its origin with the latter.

    Unfortunately what our 4th President didn’t realize is that judges would sit back and do nothing while politicians grew the power of the state far beyond what it was intended to be.

  90. john personna says:

    “I suppose public funding for education would have to go with it.”

    “Yes John, education is a state responsibility”

    OK, now I just know that Doug is arguing from some alternate history. In Doug’s America no one made that wrong turn in 1862, and everything is really, really, different.

    Of course that means his political observations have little meaning to me in this America, which took that other path all those years ago.

  91. John,

    I will freely admit that things have changed drastically. And for the worse.

    That doesn’t make them right, however.

  92. john personna says:

    Well, when you post on NPR, ostensibly about their Williams error, it takes us a while to work our way back to the real error, in 1862. 😉

    When we get to the big picture I understand more why you mistrust the majority. They would probably not be ready to undo those 150 years of federally funded education.

  93. Dave Schuler says:

    Hmm. A standing army was rather expressly prohibited by Article I, Section 8 but that’s been finessed by the bizarre military appropriations system we’ve arrived at. But that’s just a figleaf. We shouldn’t be able to have a standing army.

    The Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 goes well beyond the enumerated powers of the Congress and was enacted because the modern era had clearly made it necessary and the market was equally clearly not going to address the problems.

    Air traffic control isn’t mentioned in the Constitution and it’s not something the market has produced, either. Should we do without?

    I also note that the Constitution prohibits eternal copyrights but the Supreme Court in its wisdom has ruled that they’re okay after all.

  94. mantis says:

    Unfortunately what our 4th President didn’t realize is that judges would sit back and do nothing while politicians grew the power of the state far beyond what it was intended to be.

    From this I can only assume that apparently you believe Madison had never met Alexander Hamilton, George Washington, or John Adams.

    The terms “general Welfare” were doubtless intended to signify more than was expressed or imported in those which Preceded; otherwise numerous exigencies incident to the affairs of a Nation would have been left without a provision. The phrase is as comprehensive as any that could have been used; because it was not fit that the constitutional authority of the Union, to appropriate its revenues shou’d have been restricted within narrower limits than the “General Welfare” and because this necessarily embraces a vast variety of particulars, which are susceptible neither of specification nor of definition.

    It is therefore of necessity left to the discretion of the National Legislature, to pronounce, upon the objects, which concern the general Welfare, and for which under that description, an appropriation of money is requisite and proper. And there seems to be no room for a doubt that whatever concerns the general Interests of learning of Agriculture of Manufactures and of Commerce are within the sphere of the national Councils as far as regards an application of Money.

    The only qualification of the generallity of the Phrase in question, which seems to be admissible, is this–That the object to which an appropriation of money is to be made be General and not local; its operation extending in fact, or by possibility, throughout the Union, and not being confined to a particular spot.

    No objection ought to arise to this construction from a supposition that it would imply a power to do whatever else should appear to Congress conducive to the General Welfare. A power to appropriate money with this latitude which is granted too in express terms would not carry a power to do any other thing, not authorised in the constitution, either expressly or by fair implication.

  95. Joe says:

    Why is the government even bothering to give funds to an organization where government subsidies are only 2% of their budget? They can clearly handle things on their own.

  96. michael reynolds says:

    Not being a constitutional scholar I have a question: is there a section that empowers us to invade a sovereign state, then “make them an offer that they can’t refuse” that allows us to take half their country and incorporate it into ours?

  97. Michael,

    I would say no but you know I’m just a wacko who thinks words mean things

  98. PD Shaw says:

    john personna, I probably don’t see eye-to-eye on this issue with Doug, but he is pretty much stating the mainstream/majority position on the spending clause until the New Deal.

    The minority view of Hamilton, Clay, and Lincoln believed that internal improvements, at least to the extent they were general in character, were matters of commerce on which Congress could spend. Lincoln was not opposed to the concept that the federal government was one of limited, enumerated powers. He vetoed Congressional action to emancipate slaves since that power was not enumerated. Most of his broadest nationalistic policies like the Emancipation Proclamation were performed as war powers.

    I don’t know that Lincoln would support a subsidy for NPR, his focus was on developing the necessities of a market economy through roads, banks and courts; I don’t recall any concern for supporting the news media. I could see him supporting expanding internet access to the extent that this is where the national marketplace exists.

  99. michael reynolds says:

    Doug:

    I also think words mean things, but the Constitution, like the Bible, seems to be cited very selectively. I wonder if before we worry about the constitutionality of NPR we should set about the job of returning California and the rest of the southwest to Mexico.

    I think it’s academic really to debate whether the constitution is a living document: it couldn’t be anything else. Only a somewhat flexible structure allows us to adapt as conditions change. The very nature of the body politic has changed radically from the 18th century, and while the essentials of the constitution are vital, we have found — and needed at times to find — some wiggle room through creative interpretation.

  100. Pete says:

    Michael, is there a section that grants the government power to force us to buy health insurance, or be fined if we choose not to?

  101. ponce says:

    “IOW, if you think 82% of the people are wrong, you’ve got some high opinion of yourself.”

    Fortunately for America, most kids outgrow libertarianism shorty after college.

  102. john personna says:

    The most curious thing about Libertarians is that, like Socialists, they can believe a minority philosophy is universally correct. That is different than thinking this or that fact is correct. People may agree on fact and then draw different philosophies from them. The individual philosophy is a reflection of that person’s own nature.

    At some point, or for certain issues, democracy becomes population dynamics. If there are more people who have a group nature, then the society will have a group nature. If there are more individualists, the society will have a more individual nature.

    Or, as in our case, when both Libertarians and Socialists are outliers, we’ll have a more moderate, and balanced society (with frustrated fringes).

    If you are an outlier, and suspect that 82% of you neighbors are wrong, I think you should pause and consider the population dynamics. Maybe they aren’t wrong.

    Maybe you are just different.

  103. PD Shaw says:

    michael to paraphrase Madeline Albright, what’s the use of having a standing army if you don’t use them?

  104. @john personna:

    Haven’t you ever heard of the naturalistic fallacy?

  105. mannning says:

    The issue then is “whose creative interpretation?” Is it the Left’s or the Right’s? Is it partisan or simply good for the nation and generally accepted? Seems to me that far too many issues today are partisan, and are accompanied by partisan creative interpretation to accomplish a partisan objective. Or is it that some partisans know better what is best for us than we do?

  106. John Personna says:

    I had not heard of the naturalistic fallacy nor of is-ought problems, both interesting.

  107. michael reynolds says:

    PD:

    michael to paraphrase Madeline Albright, what’s the use of having a standing army if you don’t use them?

    Not to go all Zen on you, but the palm tree bends in the wind yet remains a tree. The oak snaps and becomes firewood.

    Feel free to apply that to a bumper sticker.

    If imperfect execution or broad interpretation were the death of the Constitution we’d have no Con now and therefore nothing to protect. Evolution rewards adaptation.

  108. anjin-san says:

    > force us to buy health insurance, or be fined if we choose not to?

    After so many years of endless whining from the right about “people reaching into my wallet to pay their medical bills”, we now get this counterwhine.

    The constant is the whining.

  109. Healthy Youth says:

    > force us to buy health insurance, or be fined if we choose not to?

    After so many years of endless whining from the right about “people reaching into my wallet to pay their medical bills”, we now get this counterwhine.

    The constant is the whining.

    When I’m forced to buy insurance that I won’t use for a decade it will still be “people reaching into my wallet to pay their medical bills”.

  110. michael reynolds says:

    Healthy Youth:

    When I’m forced to buy insurance that I won’t use for a decade it will still be “people reaching into my wallet to pay their medical bills”.

    Yeah, it’s reaching into our wallets to pay for your education. It’s reaching into your great-grandparent’s wallet to pay for World War 2 so you don’t have to learn how to march in hobnail boots. It’s reaching into your grandparent’s wallets to buy the roads you drive on, and the airports you fly through, and the entire safe world you traipse around in bitching like a spoiled brat.

    You’re a midget standing on a giant’s shoulders and imagining yourself in the NBA. Buy your health insurance and shut up.

  111. Davebo says:

    “I am not slamming the programming, I am against the concept of government subsidies to private industry on principle, and I don’t believe that funding a broadcast network is a proper function of government”

    Well, to be fair Doug, you are against the concept of government subsidies to private industry you don’t particularly agree with.

    I haven’t seen your diatribes here on government subsidies for the energy industry (and I make my living off the energy industry but haven’t deluded myself about it’s subsidies). How about government subsidies for the communications industry? Or the agriculture industry?

    Fairly slim distinctions you make here wouldn’t you say? Then again, you do have some skin in that game through employment right?

  112. Janis Gore says:

    Tempest in a teapot. Go on, defund NPR.

    Next time you cross country you’ll be listening to bad country, hip-hop, oldies you’ve heard 13,000 times and Rush Limbaugh.

    Maybe you’ll find Dave Ramsey. He’s listenable. He has a good voice.

  113. Davebo says:

    The irony here is that James is employed by an organization that for the most part, depends on federal funding.

    The US Air Force, the US Army, the DOD, DOE, Etc.

    But hey, OTB is like the Washington Times only Doug’s beloved tax payer dollars fund it.
    At least with the Times we know which idiot funds it.

  114. Janis Gore says:

    Not to mention Christian radio. Best go find the Lord, lost soul.

  115. Davebo says:

    And don’t forget about the Chinese funding. I hear they are communist but hey.

    http://www.unikorea.go.kr/eng/default.jsp?pgname=ENGhome

    http://www.roc-taiwan.org/US/mp.asp?mp=12

    They pay the freight, James and Doug sling the hash.

    Hilarious really!

  116. Davebo says:

    Juan is hosting the O’Reilly Factor tonight, calling for the removal of federal funding for NPR.

    Who could have dreamed of that?

  117. anjin-san says:

    > When I’m forced to buy insurance that I won’t use for a decade

    RIght. Because you can never possibly get in a car accident, or fall off a ladder & break your arm or get cancer.

    Another right wing rocket scientist.

  118. Craig says:

    Oddly enough…

    I read this article on my rss reader WHILE LISTENING TO AN NPR STREAM OVER A GLOBAL RADIO APP ON AN ANDROID PHONE.

    more proof, at lest for me, that the reporters for this site are not only bias, theyre uninformed and moronic.

    Inb4 deletion for falsifying op’s misinformed views about technology and media consummation

  119. Lunacy says:

    Just be he CAN fall off a ladder doesn’t mean he will. And here’s a novel idea. It’s what I did for health care for myself and my son between the ages of 18 and 45. I paid for my services with cash as I got them. Fortunately, my son’s birth and a few minor issues were all I ever needed in those years. I’ll wager that the statistical likelihood of needed serious money for serious health care is slim to nil between the ages of 15 to 40. In fact I did wager that. And won.

    Had I paid what my employer wanted for a family health insurance plan during that time (two separate ones but similar fees) was 200 to 250 per month. Let’s average that to 225. Over 27 years = 72,900. Compare that with the 3000 to birth my child and 2 or 3 office visits at 75 bucks a piece. Vaccines at the health department were free or a very small fee.

    My son and I are now under a family plan with my husband and have been for the past several years. He was required to get one for his girls on condition of his divorce. We pay about 275/month. My son has yet to use more than 1 visit to the student health clinic in those 3 years.

  120. mannning says:

    @ MR

    By living document you should mean changeable only through the Constitutionally directed amendment process, and not by way of a biased SCOTUS and a possibly equally biased (partisan) Congress, leaving out State legislatures, and, as near as possible, the will of the people.

  121. Longjohn says:

    ALL AM, FM, and TV stations are Federally Subsidized by being given 100’s of billions of dollars worth of RF spectrum for free

    The remaining TV spectrum alone is worth over $100 billion and Big Broadcasting gets it for free while everyone else (cellular WI-Fi, Bluetooth, etc.) had to pay billions for a much smaller chunk of spectrum

    If you are going to end Federal Subsidies for broadcasting you MUST include these Free Spectrum Subsidies also.

    What’s good for the goose …..

  122. Brummagem Joe says:

    i’m terrified of muslims. When do Fox send my check?