Op-Ed: CPB needs a breath of fresh air from federal funding
(This column originally appeared in the Washington Examiner)
Last updated 3/22/2017 at 12:22am
March 8, 2017
Today, this American life includes a daunting national debt. At the moment I type this sentence, the U.S. national debt has reached a whopping $19,971,916,626,805. That total, divided by the number of taxpayers, means that each individual person filing his or her taxes this April owes a prorated share of $166,775. And with Washington's addiction to spending, the national debt will be even higher by the time you finish this article.
In the here and now, American taxpayers deserve a fiscally responsible government, a system that allows states to do more, and that only allocates money to the most essential programs. There are some things that only the federal government can do - defend our nation from attacks, regulate immigration, and supervise commerce between states. Some money must fund necessary functions such as these.
But government waste doesn't serve anybody. The only path to getting our fiscal habits on point involves cutting non-essential government programs - especially those that can afford to stand on their own two feet.
To that end, I have introduced two bills, H.R. 726 and H.R. 727. These bills withdraw all federal funds for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, as well as National Public Radio. H.R. 726 and 727 aren't only a game - they are a good first step towards fiscal responsibility. Together, they cut half a billion dollars in federal spending right off the bat.
At first listen, $455 million might not sound like enough money to make a difference in our $19 trillion debt. But I want to remind people that only in Washington, D.C. (or perhaps on Planet Money), is half a billion dollars considered an insignificant amount. The federal government cannot sustainably fund every pop culture happy hour just for fun. We need to return to responsible federal spending to fulfill our constitutional duties to the American people.
This is not about content, because the Corporation for Public Broadcasting supports many quality programs, some of which I watch and enjoy. The point is that the main recipients of CPB funds are fully capable of standing on their own without an added boost from tax revenue. Both NPR and PBS maintain substantial private revenue sources, and the absence of federal funds will not by any means make them disappear. The private sector has the resources to keep the important programs going without imposing a burden on the taxpayer.
In addition, the purpose for federal funding of CPB is no longer relevant, given the advances in technology. The intent of public broadcasting in the first place was to make telecommunications "available to all citizens of the United States" (47 U.S.C. 396).
Today, over 99 percent of Americans own a TV and over 95 percent have access to the Internet. Government-funded distribution of CPB and NPR does not increase their "availability," since nearly all American homes are embedded with the technology to watch these programs at home or stream them online. To continue to subsidize something that is widely available in the private market is unnecessary and unwise.
Because the House passed a version of my legislation to defund NPR in a previous congress, I believe this will be a good starting point on the path to a more balanced budget and reduced national debt. We must tackle other spending even if it means making hard choices. Once we have secured passage of these two bills, ask me another.
What's more, these bills send a strong message to taxpayers that Congress takes their hard-earned dollars seriously. And considering the $70 million added to the national debt since I started typing this article, it's not one moment too soon to cut the invisible from our national budget and get government spending under control.