The House of Representatives is playing political football with National Public Radio today with a bill that would defund the federally supported broadcaster. It’s not a new idea but it’s gotten new life this year because NPR fired Juan Williams for saying inappropriate things a while ago and then James “I Plot To Sexually Abuse Legit Reporters On Camera” O’Keefe staged a sting where he recorded a long conversation and edited it to make an NPR fundraiser look bad. So no Republicans are harping on NPR’s purported liberal bias* and cloaking it all in the language of “austerity measures” and threatening to take all the money away from it.
Never mind that if they do yank money, affiliate stations stand to go dark for lack of resources and people will lose their jobs. Not sure how that counts as “creating jobs” but I’m sure there’s someone who can spin that message for us.
Anyway, what’s really got me steamed right at this moment is a paragraph I read in Congressional Quarterly (it’s a subscription site so I can’t link to the article, sorry) about this issue. Here is is:
Tennessee Republican Marsha Blackburn — a supporter of the NPR bill — told the Rules panel it would “get the federal government and federal taxpayers out of the business of buying radio programming that they may not agree with.”
By this logic, we need to get the Federal government out of the business of fighting wars some taxpayers may not agree with. They need to stop providing tax cuts to corporations that some taxpayers may not agree with. They needs to stop funding No Child Left Behind’s testing requirements because some taxpayers don’t agree with them. They should close down the White House Office of Faith Based Initiatives because some taxpayers don’t agree with it. We should withold salaries from elected officials who espouse positions that some taxpayers don’t agree with.
Ladies and gentlemen, since when is the goal of government to do only things that people agree with?
The government’s role is laid out in the Preamble to the Constitution.
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
Nowhere in there is any guarantee that the methods used by the government to achieve those stated goals will be exactly to your liking. If you want a government that does everything to your specifications, you’re shit out of luck. Sorry.
Now, if you want to make the argument that there is no constitutional provision for the government to be in the broadcasting business, fine. That’s a legit argument. But all the whining about the government doing things that some people don’t like is just bullshit. I’m grossed out that a Member of Congress said that out loud. It sounds childish.
Unless we all want to enter a state of brainwashing similar to the Borg, everyone needs to put on their grown-up pants and learn to live with a Union that is only “more perfect” not “personally ideal”. America is not Burger King. You don’t always get to have it your way. Sometimes you have to learn to do it a different way. And that learning, that inventiveness in the face of adversity of all kinds, that spirit of compromise, is what’s great about America.
UPDATE: So, I thought more about this post and realize I often complain about things government does that I disagree with and I am big into advocating for change. The only defense I can offer is that I usually try to ground my disagreement on actual policy arguments, not cosmetic arguments. For example, I support same-sex marriage because to not do so is to support a form of discrimination based on gender and gender preference and discrimination at the government level is wrong. I don’t support it just because I think gay guys would have awesome weddings and I want to attend some. I oppose the Office of Faith Based Initiatives because I think it violates the separation of church and state elements of the First Amendment and simply cannot manage to be truly representative of the religious diversity in our country. I don’t oppose it on the grounds that I don’t like what some ministers in some churches say.
Representative Blackburn is willing to defund a broadcasting operation because she doesn’t like the contents of the broadcast. That’s cosmetic, to my thinking. If she wanted to defund it because she sees it as a non-essential program, a luxury America can no longer afford, or something that does not provide enough societal benefit to justify the cost, that is reasonable. But wanting to pull the plug because she thinks they like Democrats better than Republicans? That’s not a good argument.
*There are zillions of studies about bias in media. You can Google them if you want to read more. I tend to think reports of bias are generally exaggerated. I take this view because I took a political communications class in grad school and learned that people are more likely to perceive oppositional bias in reporting when the subject deal with something on which they have strong personal positions. For example, if I LOVE chocolate pudding, I might think a report about the calorie content of chocolate pudding unfairly demonizes it as being fattening but fails to talk about the calcium in provides because it has milk. On the flip side, if I think pudding is the devil’s own tool for creating an obesity epidemic, I might think the same report is totally balanced. You hear criticism on things if you’re already defensive about them, in other words.