P>Forget the recent scandals involving National Public Radio. Go back to the days before NPR chief exec Vivian Schiller resigned, before a conservative prankster videotaped NPR fundraisers disparaging tea party participants as "seriously racist, racist people" -- to even before NPR fired senior news analyst Juan Williams after he said on Fox News that he got "nervous" flying with passengers in Muslim garb.
Banish from your mind the recent controversies involving NPR's perceived or (I believe) real liberal bias. Even then, fiscal conservatives in Congress had called for cuts in federal funding for the Corporation of Public Broadcasting.
Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., introduced a bill to end taxpayer subsidies to the CPB -- $420 million last year -- back in June 2010 to reduce the federal debt.
"If we can't eliminate or at least seriously reduce the funding for a nonessential government program that has outlived its original purpose," Lamborn told me Thursday, "then I fear that we're not serious about our future.
It's true that he is a conservative and that NPR has done things that didn't sit right with him, Lamborn continued. But, he said, his prime motivator was "the spending."
The chairs of the bipartisan fiscal commission named by President Obama -- Republican Alan Simpson and Democrat Erskine Bowles -- targeted CPB, which provides 10 percent to 15 percent of funding that goes to local public broadcasting TV and radio stations, for elimination. They made no charge of bias, just the fact that CPB's funding level is "the highest it has ever been" and that its elimination should save taxpayers just under $500 million in 2015.
NPR boosters scoff at this measly sum. This year's budget will spend $3.8 trillion, they argue; CPB is a drop in the bucket. But Washington has to eliminate programs in order to reach the Simpson-Bowles goal of reducing domestic spending by $100 billion over 10 years.
Obama hardly helps his claim of wanting to cut the deficit when he himself wants to raise CPB's take to $451 million next year. White House spokesman Jay Carney says that the president understands the need to make "tough choices." But the administration won't even yank this, the Grey Poupon of federal subsidies.
I understand that if Washington pulls the plug, rural public broadcasting affiliates will be hit hardest. ?If Washington eliminates the CPB subsidy, then viewers and listeners will be asked to pony up. There may be added pressure on liberal benefactors, such as liberal billionaire George Soros, to provide seed money to send to the locals. And if that fails, some affiliates may have to consolidate with others -- which would be painful, as "tough choices" usually are.