Posts Tagged ‘NPR’

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Why Cutting Public Funding for PBS Harms Poor Americans More than Rich

02.12.11

In an effort to cut our national deficit, House Republicans are introducing legislation to cut even more spending, this time focusing on totally ending funding for NPR and PBS.

Just for those keeping track at home, our national deficit this year is roughly $1.17 trillion. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s budget is $420 million, making it roughly .036 percent of this year’s shortfall.

Here’s the thing: we need to fix our budget. But it’s beyond insulting to give the top two percent of earners a massive tax cut that costs taxpayers $68 billion for the estate tax cut alone. Throw in another $81.5 billion for the tax cuts to families making over $250,000 and we’re looking at $149.5 billion in spending (which is one percent of the debt — or 356 times as much as what we spend on the CPB) that only benefits a tiny fraction of the population while wanting to slash funding for the programs that go to the middle- and lower-classes who make up an overwhelming majority of the population.

There are a number of reasons why the GOP is embarking on a witch hunt for NPR and PBS, one of which is that they’re making it all about ideology to rile their base, not because they’re being fiscally austere. Only someone who had no clue about budgets and numbers in general – or blinded by rhetoric – would miss the absurdity of adding $149.5 billion to the deficit at the same time as fighting to cut $420 million all while claiming to be budget hawks. It’s like taking out a massive loan on a brand-new home in Malibu and then putting your foot down on selling your 10-year-old Dodge Caravan to cut down on spending.

Speaker John Boehner and Sen. Jim DeMint both argued for cutting CPB because since our government is broke, we cannot afford to be spending money on left-wing programs that Americans don’t agree with. Surely some feel that way. But what’s so left-wing about Sesame Street? Or NOVA? Remember Wild America and Reading Rainbow? Unless learning about science, nature, and reading is left-wing all of a sudden, it’s just more of the same ideological fantasy world where Glenn Beck is a moderate and anyone else to the left of Beck is considered a radical leftist — a stance that has even extended to other popular conservative pundits. It feels like just political battle against Democrats but the only losers will be us Americans who actually value public broadcasting – regardless of our politics.

For those who defend the Republican Party vehemently against those who think that the GOP is the party for the rich, it’s hard to feel otherwise when conservative congresspeople stand firm on tax cuts for the rich while also arguing that we can do without funding for PBS. Perhaps they’ve forgotten since they’re making well over $100,000 a year as civil servants that for poorer families who have to cut costs to stay solvent in this economy don’t always have access to the plethora of channels available via cable television.

Not to say that people with cable don’t watch PBS or listen to NPR even if they have Sirius, but I remember growing up as a kid, we didn’t have enough money to splurge on cable when we already had standard TV via an antenna on the top of our house. And since my parents didn’t want us only watching crap, we watched a lot of PBS: Reading Rainbow and Square One TV were after-school mainstays for years.

We can’t just keep cutting everything that keeps a support net for underprivileged Americans while avoiding the big issues that were the true culprits in this financial fiasco. You might disagree with me on the worth of taxpayer money funding NPR and PBS, but no one can argue that their budget is a key component to our ballooning deficit. It’s barely a drop in the bucket. A fraction of a percentage of our overall debt.

Cutting this spending will not right our ship, will not come close to balancing our budget. If the rich can get massive tax breaks, the rest of us should at the very least get to keep our free TV that offers more substance than Charlie Sheen making light of alcoholism, promiscuity, and a total lack of commitment nightly in half-hour chunks.

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Ground Zero Mosque Opposition Confuses Sensitivity with Intolerance

08.04.10

Much has already been said surrounding the heated controversy over the planned Islamic community center and mosque being built near Ground Zero in New York City.

Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, and others have conflated all of Islam with the small sub-sect of terrorists, suggesting asserting that they are one and the same, that all Muslims share the same beliefs as those apocalyptic, murderous fundamentalists that attacked our country nearly 9 years ago.

Their arguments are so egregious and blasphemous as to speak for themselves, but I have to address them briefly.  Extreme religious generalization and demonization is not cured by more extreme religious generalization and demonization.  The same groups that use the argument that, under Sharia Law, all Muslims consider all Americans”infidels,” that all Muslims follow the same exact doctrine and make the same leaps to violence and intolerance are themselves labeling an entire group of people as “the other” and are themselves makes leaps toward bigotry and intolerance.  Their arguments are as flimsy as basing all of Christianity on the Westboro Baptist Church.

The Anti-Defamation League has come out initially opposing the building of the mosque near Ground Zero — a move that seems to go against the very name of the nations’ self-described “premier civil rights/human relations agency.” Although, the stance makes more sense knowing that the ADL is also predominantly a Jewish organization, a group of people with a serious history of conflict with the Islamic world.

It gets more complicated than that, as one would expect.

NPR’s Steve Inskeep spoke with ADL Director Abraham Foxman, who helped explain their stance.  Foxman has a relationship with proposed NYC mosque’s imam Faisel Abdul Rauf, and has stood up for Rauf against character attacks that he has endured from those opposed to the Islamic center.  At the same time, however, Foxman then says:

“If he [Rauf] would say: ‘I do want to show the American public that there is an American Muslim Tradition.’  That would be a wonderful, dramatic beginning.  Rather than insisting: ‘This is where we want to heal. This is where we want to reconcile.  In your cemetery.'”

Foxman promotes the counter-productive and inflammatory “us vs. them” rhetoric by saying “your” cemetery.  As if no American Muslims died in the 9/11 tragedy.  (They did.)  As if only Americans died in the WTC attacks.  (Wrong again.)

The fact is that Ground Zero is the tragic site where thousands of people from many different nations, races, and with many different beliefs perished.  It doesn’t belong to any one person or any one group.  The healing is shared by any and all involved or affected, and yes, that includes people in the Islamic community.

Image courtesy of roberthuffstutter’s Flickr photostream

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Another Misleading Poll: 12% Don’t Believe Obama Cut Taxes

02.17.10

I heard about this statistic on my drive into work this morning listening to NPR’s Morning Edition, according to a CBS News poll:

12% of Americans don’t believe that the Obama Administration cut taxes last year.

Once I got to work, I did some more research on this because I found it to be extremely troubling.  The data was in fact from a CBS News/New York Times poll, the news article of which is entitled: “Poll Reveals Most Americans Don’t Know They Got a Tax Cut.” Although, if you notice, in the first paragraph of the article, there is a link to the actual poll article (I thought I was already on the page of the poll?), so I click through and I’m greeted with this headline: “Poll: Who Are the Tea Partiers?”

Well, now this changes everything.  A poll of those in the Tea Party will provide much different results than that of all Americans.  And that’s exactly what it is: “44 percent of Tea Party supporters believe Mr. Obama has already raised taxes this past year, while most Americans think the president has kept them the same.” This poll was designed to figure out which people comprise the Tea Party and what they believe, which means that the figure of only 12 percent represents of the Tea Partiers who were polled, not the general population.  This makes much more sense and is also rather relieving.  To think that nearly 90% of all Americans were so completely factually incorrect and in the dark was too much for me to accept.

Although it shows, once again, just how polls can be extremely misleading.  It’s even worse in this case because CBS News made a huge error in stating that this poll of Tea Partiers is indicative of the feelings of all Americans. Perhaps if the Tea Party were a huge section of the population this could be a more reasonable supposition, but according to their own poll, only 18 percent of Americans self-identify with the Tea Party.

As our culture keeps shifting toward placing importance and validity on opinions over facts – going so far as to even discredit facts simply because one doesn’t want to believe the truth (see: climate change, evolution, the definition of torture) – and news organizations more interested in juicy headlines than reporting the new properly, more and more polls will be given way too much weight to their findings.  Remember to always take poll and survey results with very fine grains of salt or investigate them enough to really put the numbers and data in the proper perspective.  At the end of the day, they only gauge public opinion, which doesn’t always reflect reality.

We are all entitled to our own opinions, but like Sen. Al Franken said, “we’re not entitled to our own facts.”