Look: A lot of things don’t matter in politics, and often, who is president doesn’t make one whit of difference in terms of our personal lives. Democrats managed to survive eight years of George W. Bush, and somehow, Republicans have managed to survive nearly four with President Obama. Both sides love to claim that the other is taking away our privacy rights and invading our homes with their laws, but so far as I can tell, neither party has done nearly as much as Mark Zuckerberg to screw with our privacy rights. How much does a President really matter in terms of moving the economy one way or another? Science says very little.
Still, who is in office can have an unsettling personal effect on some of us. I know that my wife, for instance, who is a legal services attorney — she provides legal counsel to people who can’t afford it, a service that is paid (very little) for by grants; local, state, and federal funding; and private donations — is under the threat of a layoff every time a new federal budget is submitted.
On a wider scale, however, those of us that take advantage of NPR more hours in the day than we’d like to admit, or occasionally preoccupy our children’s time with educational television on PBS, like Sesame Street, should be concerned that electing Mitt Romney might affect our media consumption (which is what really matters, right?). In a recent interview, Romney came out and admitted he’d seek cuts to NPR, PBS, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
There are three major areas I have focused on for reduction in spending. These are in many cases reductions which become larger and larger over time. So first there are programs I would eliminate. Obamacare being one of them but also various subsidy programs — the Amtrak subsidy, the PBS subsidy, the subsidy for the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities. Some of these things, like those endowment efforts and PBS I very much appreciate and like what they do in many cases, but I just think they have to stand on their own rather than receiving money borrowed from other countries, as our government does on their behalf.
It’s very popular for Republicans to seek elimination of funds for PBS and NPR, but really, how much will it matter to the federal government? It’s insignificant; in fact, it reminds me of maybe my favorite ever segment on The Daily Show, in which Stewart pointed out that the Republicans would have to cut 700,000 NPR’s to meet their budget goals.
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By the same token, will cutting spending really affect NPR and PBS at this point? It’s mostly privately funded (federal funding only accounts for 15 percent), although both organizations may be forced to include more shout-outs to “underwriters,” which is a fancy way of saying: Advertisers (McDonald’s ads already precede every episode of Sesame Street). In fact, taking away federal funding may even free up NPR to be more free with their political opinions, which is probably a bad thing for the GOP.
The bigger point, really, is this: Cutting those programs won’t mean diddly-poop to the overall budget. No politician is going to make any real headway by proposing $1 million cuts when the budget issues are in the trillions. It’s a silly political ploy that unnecessarily makes conservatives giddy as much as it makes unnecessarily scares those of us who consume a lot of publicly funded programming.
In other words: Don’t worry about it. NPR and Sesame Street aren’t going anywhere, regardless of who is elected.