posted at 7:01 pm on February 18, 2017 by John Sexton
The New York Times reported yesterday that the White House budget office has prepared a list of programs that could be eliminated in Trump’s first budget proposal. Among those programs are the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Arts and Humanities and AmeriCorps. From the NY Times:
Work on the first Trump administration budget has been delayed as the budget office awaited Senate confirmation of former Representative Mick Mulvaney, a spending hard-liner, as budget director. Now that he is in place, his office is ready to move ahead with a list of nine programs to eliminate, an opening salvo in the Trump administration’s effort to reorder the government and increase spending on defense and infrastructure…
Many of those programs have been attacked by conservatives since the Republican “revolution” of 1994. Led by then-Speaker Newt Gingrich, the House of Representatives at the time repeatedly went after funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, whose supporters dragged Big Bird and Kermit the Frog to Capitol Hill to make their case…
Other agencies on the budget office’s list of cuts include the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and the Corporation for National and Community Service, which finances programs run by AmeriCorps and SeniorCorps. The memo also proposed reducing funding for the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation, a nonprofit organization focused on urban development.
You probably don’t have to guess where this is going. Every time someone threatens to cut PBS funding, progressives roll out Big Bird. In fact, Obama for America did this in 2012 after Mitt Romney said he would cut PBS funding. Here’s an ad they created which has been viewed more than 3 1/2 million times:
The real problem with zeroing out these programs isn’t that it will kill Big Bird. Sesame Street could make it in the free market without the $500 million a year CPB gets in taxpayer funds. The real problem is that these cuts, which together amount to $2.5 billion a year, won’t put a real dent in our growing debt.
As the debt clock approaches $20 trillion dollars, it’s important to remember that government spending is overwhelmingly dedicated to two big entitlement programs: Medicare and Social Security. We spend nearly $900 billion dollars a year on Social Security and over $900 billion a year on Medicare and associated programs (Medicaid, CHIP, etc). Since that is where the real money is, addressing our debt without touching these big programs is impossible.
But back when he was a candidate, Trump said a number of times that he would not be cutting Social Security or Medicare. This clip shows about four instances where he publicly promised no cuts to these programs.
Cutting funds to CPB and the NEA could be a symbolic victory for conservatives who have long argued these programs are wasteful. I get that. But unless this is just a first step, one which leads us to eventually addressing the real drivers of our debt, these cuts aren’t going to make much of a difference.