NPR: A good place to start cutting federal spending (Rep. Doug Lamborn)

I have nothing against NPR, despite what appeared to be liberal bias in their mishandling of Juan Williams. What I oppose is subsidizing an organization that no longer provides, if it ever did, an essential government service. When the federal government is now borrowing more than 40 cents of every dollar it spends, no one can  justify paying for services that are widely available in the private market.

This year, American taxpayers will subsidize the CPB to the tune of over $430 million.  Getting the exact amount of money that NPR alone gets has proved very difficult. The Congressional Research Service, the fact-finding arm of Congress, has been looking into that. They have concluded that NPR’s various revenue streams are so convoluted, they look like “a spaghetti plate of funding.” In order to gain greater access to their budgets, I have called for a formal investigation of NPR by the Government Accountability Office.

We do know that Congress continues to appropriate funding to CPB well beyond the rate of inflation. Over the past decade, funding for public broadcasting has risen over 26 percent. Wages and salaries over that same period have not risen by that level.

The intent of federally-funded public broadcasting in the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 was to make “telecommunications services 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 broadcasting is now unnecessary in a world of 500-channel cable TV, satellite radio, and cell phone Internet access.  

Recently the NPR executive responsible for unfairly terminating Juan Williams resigned. Some suggested this would deter me and others in Congress from seeking to defund NPR. Her resignation does nothing to change the fact that our government is broke and must cut all unnecessary spending or face the prospect of becoming the next Greece.

Within NPR, some bizarrely claim that my efforts are aimed at controlling and influencing the editorial content of NPR. Nothing could be further from the truth. I believe removing federal funding from NPR would give the news organization greater, not less, editorial freedom than they currently enjoy.

As I have stated many times, I am a fan of some NPR programs. I believe they are fully capable of standing on their own two feet and getting commercial sponsors in the free market. NPR claims that less than two percent of its total annual budget comes from the federal government. If that is true, NPR has no reason to worry that pulling federal funding will cripple them. In the worst economy since the Great Depression, many businesses and families have had to cut their spending by far more than two percent. Members of Congress recently cut their congressional and committee budgets by five percent. I don’t think it is asking too much for NPR to reduce their budgets by two percent, if that number is accurate.

Ending taxpayer funding to a media outlet that is fully capable of supporting itself is a reasonable place to start cutting out-of-control spending. With the national debt over $14 trillion, the government cannot continue to fund non-essential services. H.R. 69 would direct that any funds saved by this prohibition would be used exclusively to pay down the national debt.

If Congress cannot vote to cut a program that is fully capable of operating without federal subsidies, I worry about the commitment of Republicans to cutting any federal spending.

Rep. Lamborn represents Colorado’s Fifth Congressional District. This is his third term in Congress.