Guess how much a CEO at PBS makes

One of the reasons progressives are in panic mode is because many of their favorite programs are in jeopardy.  These programs consume hundreds of billions of dollars.  Their numbers increase with time, and efforts to eliminate them have been unsuccessful.  With Republican control of both houses of Congress and a businessman as chief executive, this seemingly impossible task is within reach.

National Public Radio (NPR) and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) are not-for-profit organizations.  What could be better than that?  They belong to the public, and they are nonprofit.  They are high-priority government programs.  During the 2013 government "shutdown," NPR was provided with $445 million while funds for clinical cancer trials under the National Institutes of Health were cut.  This was the shutdown where reporter Dana Bash asked Senator Harry Reid, "If you can help one child, why won't you do it?"  Reid responded, "Why, why, why would we want to do that?"  Reid criticized Bash: "To have someone of your intelligence suggest such a thing maybe means you're as irresponsible and reckless."

Reid is a powerful patron of the arts.  He called H.R. 1, a bill to eliminate the National Endowment of the Humanities, National Endowment of the Arts, a "mean-spirited bill."  He gave these organizations credit for the cowboy poetry festival held every January in northern Nevada.  He claimed, "Had that program not been around, the tens of thousands of people who come there every year would not exist."

A premier PBS station is WGBH, which produces more than two thirds of the nationally distributed programs broadcast by PBS.  Several years ago, the Boston Herald published an article about executives' pay at the station.  The Herald claimed that the "executives were raking in upwards of $200,000 a year while toiling in the lap of a luxurious $85 million multimedia palace dubbed the 'Taj Mahal.'"  Their headquarters contained a 200-seat amphitheater, a state-of-the-art recording studio, a Hamburg-Steinway grand piano, environmentally friendly dual-flush toilets, and waterless urinals.  The Herald reported that WGBH's CEO, Jonathan Abbott, received $425,000 a year.

Abbott defended the salaries, saying WGBH has to compete for talent with the country's leading media companies.  He is perfectly correct.  There is a market for talent.  WGBH has to pay a competitive rate in order to attract the talent it needs.  Without talent, it will lose viewers.  If a private company loses business, it improves its product or goes under.  Government-subsidized companies still must perform; however, the incentive is not as urgent as it would be in a private company.  And why should people who cling to their Bibles and guns subsidize a corporation that does not have a very high opinion of them?

NPR is sensitive about criticism of people's religious beliefs.  Juan Williams was fired by NPR for admitting he gets nervous on a plane when he sees a person dressed in Muslim garb.  Somehow they overlooked Andrei Codrescu's statement on his program All Things Considered: "The evaporation of four million [people] who believe in this [Christian] crap would leave this world a better place."  This was also the view of NPR's former senior vice president for fundraising, Ron Schiller.  He told a couple of undercover journalists that "NPR would be better off in the long run without federal funding."  Shortly after that interview, he left NPR under a cloud for claiming that "Tea Party people" aren't "just Islamaphobic, but really xenophobic – I mean basically they are, they believe in sort of white, middle-America gun-toting.  I mean, it's scary.  They're seriously racist, racist people."

The article claimed that the station's "freewheeling spending" put it in the crosshairs of congressional Republicans.  Government funding relies to a large extent on Democratic support.  Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) told the Herald, "We know that they can survive on their own.  It's time to push Big Bird out of the nest and let him fly on his own."

NPR reportedly gets only about 10% of its budget from the federal government.  However, if the network's people are informed that the government is going to defund them, you will hear a sound similar to what you will hear if you throw a box of day-old donuts into a pen of piglets.

It is a glorious sound.  Better than the smell of napalm in the morning.

John Dietrich is a freelance writer and the author of The Morgenthau Plan: Soviet Influence on American Postwar Policy, Algora Publishing, 2013. 

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