QUERY : If you say out loud “Congress, Quit Wasting My Tax Dollars”, does your Member of Congress hear you ?
When Mitt Romney was challenged by Scott Pelley of CBS News for areas of government spending that he would cut, wannbe-CFO-in-Chief pulled that old reliable bromide … “Public Broadcasting” … a storyline that has been going on since House Speaker Newt Gingrich announced his intention to “zero out” public broadcasting funds in 1995.
Despite that constant drumbeat, polling indicates (March 2011) that the public is mixed … it supports both elimination of funding (16%) as well as increased funding (14%) … with most people (39%) indicating that it should remain where it is … roughly $444 million … a very small fraction of the $3.5 Trillion government budget which equates to roughly one one-hundredth of one percent of our nation’s budget … and federal funding already has been slashed by 13% over the past two fiscal years. The justification for funding can be proven by the numbers — every month, over half of all Americans utilize public broadcasting–170 million people–through 368 public television stations, 943 radio stations, and hundreds of online services. Federal funding for CPB costs $1.35 per American ever year, while the rest of the funding comes from private donations.
Clearly, Americans are using Public broadcasting … gaining some vaule as a vital educational resource for teachers, parents, and children.
Actually, Mr. Romney really isn’t being that bold in his suggesting it, since the House Appropriations Committee already has zeroed funding out for PBS starting in FY 2015 after cutting it one-quarter in FY2013 and half in FY2014.
Here’s the good news … when we spend the dollars for PBS, 170 million people can tune in and see their dollars at work … but the government has also spent $696 million on another broadcast entity – the OCB – and Mr. Romney and a majority of Republicans never mention it … nor whether it is effective use of our tax dollars.
Worse yet, the House has rejected President Obama budget request to reduce the OCB appropriation … and even ignoring a request from a Member of the Appropriations Committee to eliminate the funding.
Congresswoman Betty McCollum (D-MN-04) introduced the Stop Wasting Taxpayer Money On Cuba Broadcasting Act (H.R. 1317) to end U.S. taxpayer funding for Radio and Television Martí. Originally established in the 1980s, Radio and Television Martí broadcast news in Spanish from Florida to Cuba.
“I am working to identify smart cuts that reduce the federal deficit by eliminating ineffective, outdated, and unnecessary programs,” said Congresswoman McCollum. “This legislation would save U.S. taxpayers $300 million over the coming decade by ending wasteful broadcasting programs to Cuba known as Radio and TV Martí.”
Regarding the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB), the House Committee recommendation for FY 2013 includes $28,062,000 for OCB, Radio and TV Marti, pursuant to the Radio Broadcasting to Cuba Act of 1983 and the Television Broadcasting to Cuba Act of 1990, which is $4,468,000 above the President’s request.
Good to know, that the House does not feel we have a fiscal problem.
Congresswoman McCollum is right …
Radio Martí broadcasts on short and medium wave (AM) channels for 24 hours six days per week, and for 18 hours one day per week. It also transmits to Cuba 24 hours daily through Hispasat satellite television and the Internet.
In January 2009, GAO issued a report asserting that the best available research suggests that Radio and TV Martí’s audience is small, and cited telephone surveys since 2003 showing that less than 2% of respondents reported tuning in to Radio or TV Martí during the past week. With regard to TV Martí viewership, according to the report, all of the IBB’s telephone surveys since 2003 show that less than 1% of respondents said that they had watched TV Martí during the past week.
There have been various attempts over the years to cut funding for the programs, especially for TV Martí, which has not had much of an audience because of Cuban jamming efforts.
H.R. 1, the FY2011 Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, two Cuba-related amendments were submitted—Amendment No. 51 (offered by Congresswoman McCollum) and Amendment No. 369 (offered by Jeff Flake R-AZ-06), — that would have eliminated funding for Radio and TV Marti, but the amendments were never considered.
Such it is when the Republicans control the House … Jeff Flake is the consummate fiscal hawk … in fact, in stating his desire to make deep cuts, he said :
“we are running the largest deficit we have ever run. We have had the largest debt we have ever had, and what the situation calls for are deeper cuts than are in the underlying bill.
If we are really going to get on the right track here, we have got to understand that we have to make unprecedented cuts and realize that what we are doing here is a rounding error compared to what we are going to have to do with entitlement spending, which is going to come. But to ensure that we can make those choices when we deal with entitlements, we’ve got to go deeper than we are going in this base bill.
Again, we are running a deficit of $1.5 trillion this year on a debt of $14 trillion. The $100 billion in the base bill is 1/15th of the entire deficit that we are running–just 1/15th. That’s not enough. We have to go further.”
Yet, no vote was taken to cut funding.
From FY1984 through FY2011, about $668 million was spent for broadcasting to Cuba, and allowing for FY2012 funding of $28.062 million … meaning that the taxpayers have funded over 696 million dollars and virtually nobody is listening.
Every Member of Congress who tuned a deaf ear to Congresswoman McCollum’s bill, answered the QUERY above with the response “We’re just like the 98% of the Cubans, we don’t hear you.”
Although wannabe President Romney failed to mention Afghanistan or Iraq in his RNC speech, he did complain that President Obama “has relaxed sanctions on Castro’s Cuba.”
Hmmm …. has Romney talked with Paul Ryan about his votes regarding Cuba ?
On July 25, 2001, Paul Ryan vote in favor of an amendment to end restrictions on travel to Cuba. According to the Washington Post, “The House voted to lift restrictions on travel to Cuba by U.S. citizens, which sponsors said would be a first step toward ending the communist nation’s economic isolation and hastening democratic reforms.”
Then on September 25, 2004 Paul Ryan voted to repeal limits on family travel to Cuba and later that day in another vote, to end US Sanctions against Cuba backing an amendment that would allow free, two-way trading between the two countries.
The “sanctions” that were relaxed had been pushed by Republicans such as Jeff Flake in the House and Mike Enzi in the Senate … in fact, Congressman Flake issued a couple of press releases commending President Obama for helping.
President Obama, as well as many Congressional leaders, including Collin Peterson (D-MN-07), was praised for his Executive Order noting that “Freedom to travel anywhere is a basic element in our rights as United States citizens.”
Prior to President Obama’s Order, Congressman Jeff Flake (Yep, that Republican from Arizona) said “If my travel which I think is my human right is going to be restricted, then it seems to me that a Communist government ought to be the one doing the restricting — not my own government of the United States of America.”
This is not only about opportunities for travel, but also commercial trade … Cuban agricultural imports that America missed is $663 million in 2006Dollars based on US International Trade Commission analysis. It is not unreasonable to project that Minnesota’s ag-business could benefit $100 million directly and additional downstream dollars for other related businesses.
Wannabe President Romney’s policies are clearly of a different era … as Fareed Zakaria wrote in a Newsweek column, “America’s approach toward Cuba is brain dead. No one even remembers why we’ve imposed a total embargo on the country. A policy that was put into place at the height of the cold war, when fears of Soviet missiles and communist penetration were at their peak, has been maintained even though the threat that prompted it has collapsed. What exactly are we afraid this moth-eaten island will do to America today? ”