This election will give Republicans an opportunity -- more likely, a mandate -- to begin tackling big government. Painful as it may be, some government programs just have to go. The programs that are entirely funded by the government are the hardest ones to cut. The best we can hope for, at least in the short term, is some sort of reform of those programs (e.g., the welfare reform of the mid 90s). But there are a lot of partly federal, partly private programs that can more easily be set free. Enter NPR.
NPR's firing of Juan Williams was hypocritical
, badly done (over the phone, by some VP
), and badly timed (right before this particular election and in the middle of NPR's fundraising week). While it is astounding how arrogant liberals have become after Obama's election, Republicans should thank NPR for what they have done, as they have put the spotlight on themselves as an opportunity for government reform. But Republicans need to be careful not to use the firing of Juan Williams
as the reason to pull NPR off the federal teat. There is a much better reason.
If Republicans want to scale back the size of government, one principle they can declare from the outset is that the government should not be funding programs that compete with the private market. If private companies are already doing something effectively, there is no reason for the government to get involved and compete with these private companies. In terms of news, we have more private companies involved than any of us could possibly follow. Just take a look down the left column of the Drudge Report
to see the dozens of major news outlets already available to us.
NPR is claiming that less than 2% of their support comes from federal government sources
. It looks like
NPR's budget is around $152 million, which means they get a little over $3 million from the federal government. Okay, by government standards, that's not that much. But while NPR would like us to stop there, the story is not that simple. The federal government also gives $420 million to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting gives over $65 million
to local public radio stations. What do those local radio stations do with that money? According to NPR
, 40% of their revenue (over $60 million) comes from these local radio stations as "Station Programming Fees." So yes, NPR receives only $3 million or so in direct federal money, but they receive another $60 million or so indirectly through the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. It would take a forensic accountant to really figure out what is going on here, but it is clear we are talking about a lot of money.
NPR should be given the opportunity, just like any other news outlet, of proving its relevance in the market. Many NPR listeners give money to NPR. A few years ago, Joan Kroc, wife of McDonald's founder Ray Kroc, left $200 million in her estate to NPR
. Clearly, they are capable of raising money on their own, and now is a great opportunity to set NPR free of its government subsidy. But Republicans should avoid doing this because of the unjustness of what NPR did to Juan Williams. They should do this with NPR -- and many other federally funded programs -- because the government should not be subsidizing organizations to compete where a strong private market already exists. If NPR survives, good for them. If not, I'm entirely confident that the only redeeming program on NPR -- Car Talk
-- would have many offers from other networks and could easily survive very well on its own in the free market.