published Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

'S' is for subsidy

Ever notice how impressions linger long after they have been overtaken -- nay, gobbled up -- by new realities?

Take television. (Please.)

Back when most Americans had few TV choices beyond the three major networks, it might have been reasonable to contend that public broadcasting was a lifeline to educational and informational programming. Without it, one could have argued, with some justification, certain nature programs, literacy-oriented children's shows and worthwhile material in a similar vein might not have been produced at all.

Now fast forward to 2012 and look at how television has changed. Oh sure, there are no cable or satellite programs today that are geared toward, say, history or arts and entertainment or classic films or science or practical home improvement projects or debate of important issues or ... .

Hey, wait a second! You can get all that and a lot more on cable, via satellite and sometimes even on ABC, CBS and NBC. Roughly 103 million of America's 114 million households have some form of pay television, Forbes reported recently. And The Heritage Foundation has noted that even a big majority of Americans below the poverty line have cable or satellite TV. So today, no one can rationally claim that vast swaths of the population are being denied the opportunity to view a range of educational and informational programming. It simply isn't plausible to suggest that educational television would melt away like ice cream on a hot "Sesame Street" sidewalk were it not for those who labor away in public broadcasting.

So why do taxpayers keep having to fund public broadcasting? The question has particular pertinence at the moment. Chattanooga's PBS affiliate, WTCI-TV, and five other public TV stations in Tennessee are on course to develop some ambitious new educational material. The digital learning units on the Web will cover a range of topics.

And production will be funded by taxpayers to the tune of nearly $5 million as part of Tennessee's federally subsidized Race to the Trough -- er, Race to the Top -- educational initiative. So if you pay federal taxes, you will pay for a share of the project whether or not your family makes use of it, whether or not you think it is of high quality (for the record, it may well be) and whether or not it's constitutional. (For the record, it isn't.)

All while less subsidy-dependent TV stations and Web-based organizations produce excellent educational material that you may buy or ignore at your discretion.

That is not, of course, a defense of everything that appears in more free market-oriented outlets. Heavens no. The volume of unmitigated trash on television as a whole cannot be overestimated. Who on earth is watching all those domestic violence melodramas on Lifetime? Can mankind endure five more minutes of Meredith Vieira? And shouldn't every right-thinking person find the prospect of a Marie Osmond talk show discouraging?

But you don't have to underwrite all that bilge if you don't want to. Not so with the fresh millions being pumped from your wallet to PBS via the deep thinkers in Washington. You're on the hook but good.

Have a nice day.

(This message has been brought to you by the letters "n" and "b" for "national bankruptcy" and by the number 1.16 trillion, the dollars that the United States spent beyond the revenue it took in for just the first 11 months of the current budget year.)

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hambone said...

I'd rather see taxpayer subsidies go to public broadcasting than taxpayers subsidies go to big oil companies who are making record profits!

September 19, 2012 at 8:06 a.m.
aae1049 said...

The Federal Budget has to be balanced, and decisions made on what is non essential, optional spending, and cut everything that is optional service. We must attempt to minimize the impact of the financial house of cards collapsing. Our country has reached 100 percent of the GDP at $16 million, it is not sustainable with a over a trillion over budget each year.

When the decision comes to Granny or disabled people, getting their SS check and Medicare each month, vs. optional pursuits, it is a no brainier. Cut the waste.

I could care less about the D and R political party. Party followers have the least credibility. On this, Bob Corker is speaking the truth.

September 19, 2012 at 8:47 a.m.
aae1049 said...

typo, $16 trillion, awe who cares it is more than we got, hehe

September 19, 2012 at 9:28 a.m.
Leaf said...

Public television is a drop in the bucket, and provides a very valuable service. My kids don't watch too much TV, but when they do I prefer they watch something that isn't geared wholly to advertising.

How about a little game. For the price, what enriches our lives more?
A. Sesame Street B. 1/30th of a stealth fighter jet

September 19, 2012 at 2:50 p.m.

Actually, no, those other entities do not produce excellent educational material.

Unless by education you mean brainwashing.

And aae1049, your typo is far less important than the nonsensical word salad of your sentence.

I really don't think you understand what GDP is. Or how the actual budget relates to it. We could easily reverse the deficit AND pay off our debts, the US federal budget is not close to the GDP, let alone the deficit.

September 20, 2012 at 3:02 a.m.
charivara said...

So you think we should only pay for what we use or what we like? Are you suggesting I shouldn't pay the school tax if I don’t have children or send them to private school? Are you recommending that I not pay that part of my federal taxes that support “faith based initiatives” if I’m an atheist? Do you think that if I can no longer drive I can subtract from my taxes that portion that pays for the highway system? Is that it? I, me, mine? Never mind the common good, I did it all myself, so I don't have any obligations to anyone else? Is that what you, a “conservative” are suggesting? What a good citizen you are. And a Constitution expert, too.

And let’s not loose sight of the fact that my taxes subsidize oil companies that are already filthy rich. They get almost 10 times more than PBS does, yet conservatives think this subsidy is not a problem, moral or financial. It apparently has no effect on the national debt they claim to be so concerned about. Yes, indeed, subsidies to make our rich friends richer are fine, subsidies to educate all Americans are bad. That’s today’s “conservatism”, let’s keep the “useful idiots”, Karl Rove’s term for those in the 99% who vote Republican, ignorant and distracted from the fact they are being screwed.

September 20, 2012 at 11:11 a.m.
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