In response, tea party activist Sarah Palin was not on a hidden camera but on Fox when she said NPR needs to be “on the chopping block.” She told her public audience, “NPR, National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, all those kind of frivolous things that government shouldn't be in the business of funding with tax dollars — those should all be on the chopping block as we talk about the $14-trillion debt that we're going to hand to our kids and our grandkids ... Yes, those are the type of things that for more than one reason need to be cut.”
The proposal to ban any federal money from going to NPR, including funding through competitive grants from federal agencies and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, passed the House 228 to192. Only seven Republicans voted no and all Democrats present voted against it. The public radio organization gets about $5.4 million a year from the federal government. According to the New York Times, “Most of its $65 million budget comes from fees that local stations pay for its programming.”
The GOP gleefully points to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office report that says the federal budget deficit would be $2.3 trillion higher than the Obama administration had predicted as if that is good news for them. The national debt at the moment is $14.2 trillion. That is 14.2 million millions. The Republican argument that saving $5.4 million by cutting NPR funds is necessary to reduce the deficit is pretty weak. Their arithmetic does not support their action.
The bill is not likely to pass the senate. So the new House majority has succeeded in passing another victorious failure. If, as I suggested, they voted their conscience, they have shown their constituents a troublesome trend of being more interested in appearance than in substance. Successfully losing is not why they were elected. But that is the message they are sending.