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Brother, Can You Spare $44,200?

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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In 1932, lyricist E.Y. “Yip” Harburg—best remembered for writing Somewhere Over The Rainbow for MGM’s classic film “The Wizard of Oz”—penned a song that became the unofficial anthem of the 20th Century’s Great Depression Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?


Its lyrics included this poignant plea from an unemployed worker:

Once I built a railroad, I made it run
Made it race against time
Once I built a railroad, now it's done
Brother, can you spare a dime?

She’s obviously no wordsmith, but White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki has just updated Yip Harburg’s lyrics to Brother, can you spare $44,200? That’s the bottom line of the newly-unveiled Biden administration's demand that reporters entering the White House briefing room must—effective this Wed., Mar. 3 — pay $170 per day for Wuhan coronavirus tests, costs formerly borne by the White House during the Trump administration. The pathetic “explanation” for this change is that budgetary constraints limit the government’s ability to provide the daily COVID-19 testing that the White House has required for journalists on campus. 

Full disclosure: I’m no math whiz and I didn’t attend the Wharton School of Business. But even I know that if you multiply $170/day x 260 business days it tops out at $44,200. For tests administered by the White House. And any journalist declining the testing will be barred from access to the taxpayer-funded briefing room.

(And in a classic Catch-22 that could only be created in Washington, the White House offered to let reporters perform their own at-home testing costing $25 to $50…but offered no guidelines as to which test kits would produce acceptable results).

Not many Americans are likely to shed tears if Biden sycophants like CNN’s Jim Acosta or MSNBC’s Kaitlan Collins have to pony-up $170 a day just to swoon in the thrall of Jen Psaki. But it is appalling that the once-vocal White House Correspondents Association offered a shameful, tepid response to this absurd PR stunt by the Biden administration. The WHCA offered a statement telling members “We share your frustration that these procedures are changing yet again.” Ooh, that’s about as strong as a strand of spaghetti at the Olive Garden.


You can probably imagine the yowling and protests which would have ensued if President Trump’s administration had announced it would shake-down reporters entering the White House to the tune of $44,200 per year. Each. If a news organization sends a correspondent and a cameraman, that bumps up to $88,400. Multiple crews across several days? Get out the checkbook for $150,000 or more. Sky’s the limit. All to project the PR image of being “on top of” the pandemic.

Oddly, Chris Wallace on FOX News Sunday —who had a one-on-one interview with Jen Psaki—never even raised the question. Weird, since he is obsessed with reminding us that he’s a journalist (did you ever hear Chris moderated the first Trump/Biden debate? etc. etc.)  But to be fair, he was possibly thrown off by Psaki… the Norm Crosby of press secretaries as she mangled the English language with responses to questions about Biden’s border policies. “We’ve been unambiguous and clear,” Psaki blurted out, describing unaccompanied minors along the Texas border as kids “who are fleeing prosecution.” Or persecution. Whatever.

Personally, I’d be willing to pay $170/day to NOT hear her blathering. But that’s just me.

Of course, it has been a decades-long policy that established news organizations like our Salem Radio Network’s 24/7 news services SRN News and Townhall are expected to pay for reporters’ use of resources like seats on government airplanes. SRN’s White House Correspondent Greg Clugston has traveled on Air Force One more times than I can count on my fingers and toes, and we paid invoices for each opportunity.


However, this $170/day “testing fee” ratchets up the possibility that the Biden administration—or even Democrats who control both chambers of Congress—may be testing the waters for new revenue sources. What’s next? Should we be assessed for a portion of new security fencing at the White House? Is House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s bizarre embracing of National Guard troops continuing to patrol the halls of Congress going to eventually be billed to journalists covering the House and Senate?

That may seem a fantastic and baseless concern at this point. But unless and until the White House backs off on Wednesday’s imposition of the new $170/day charge for reporters to even walk in the door to perform their jobs, anything is possible.

If they get away with this, the next tune Washington may crank out is Brother, can you spare $1.9-trillion?

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