Cowboy poets, public radio, and unfunded pensions

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) is upset about the Republican House budget plan, which would eliminate federal funding to the National Endowment for the Humanities, which funds the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering every January in Elko, Nevada.

"The mean-spirited bill, H.R. 1 ... eliminates the National Endowment of the Humanities, National Endowment of the Arts," said Reid. "These programs create jobs. The National Endowment of the Humanities is the reason we have in northern Nevada every January a cowboy poetry festival. Had that program not been around, the tens of thousands of people who come there every year would not exist."

Now, I can believe that some people may have been conceived at a National Cowboy Poetry Gathering (between sessions, presumably) who might not otherwise exist, there being little to do in Elko in the winter besides gambling and visiting the local cathouses (which Reid wants to shut down, despite the jobs they sustain). But I imagine the vast majority of attendees would nevertheless exist even if they didn't happen to visit Elko in January.

I like cowboy poetry and cowboy music (the kind that Riders in the Sky makes), and if federal money is going to be spent on culture, preserving the culture of the Old West is certainly more worthwhile than paying for crucifixes dunked in urine.

But given our country's dire fiscal situation, this is the time to strip the Federal government down to the bare necessities, the responsibilities spelled out in the Constitution, and leave the rest to local government and private initiative. I'm disappointed that House Republicans couldn't find more than $61 billion to cut from a budget that will overshoot revenues by about $1 trillion.

I doubt that losing NEH funding will cause the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering or the Western Folkways Museum to shut down. More likely it will mean that tasks currently handled by a paid staffer will fall to a volunteer instead.

(By the way, it's really hard to find out how much money each NEH grant recipient gets. Whatever happened to the Coburn/Obama plan to let us "Google the federal government"?)

Meanwhile, recently departed NPR Foundation head Ron Schiller has added to the reasons to eliminate federal funding for public radio and TV. Schiller told investigative reporters, posing as potential donors from a Muslim organization promoting the spread of sharia in America, that NPR would be better off in the long run without federal money and that it would survive, along with most of its stations, if it were defunded.

Finally, Bill Gates recently spoke on the fiscal crisis faced by state governments. Despite being required by their constitutions to balance the budget every year, they have dug a deep hole for themselves by underfunding pensions and medical insurance for state government retirees incurring future liabilities without setting aside sufficient funds to meet those commitments. States use gimmicks to hide the extent of their liabilities and to produce a balanced budget that isn't balanced at all. Gates is concerned because he believes funding for K-12 and higher education will suffer as a result. Click that link to watch his 10-minute-long presentation on the TED website.

Anything government touches gets more expensive, because the recipients of government funding have less incentive to control costs. In fact, higher costs result in calls to increase funding. When funding is handled privately or entirely by local government, when the beneficiaries are paying for the benefit directly, there's more incentive to economize, to find creative ways to accomplish more for less, to recycle and adapt materials and facilities rather than buying or building new.

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1 Comments

Bob said:

Federal funding of the NEA, the NEH, NPR and PBS needs to cease.

None are core missions of the U.S. Government.

The federal government is running a $14 Trillion accumulated deficit, and an annual deficit of $1.4 Trillion based on a budget of $3.5 billion for FY 2010. The Federal Government has run an annual deficit of $1.4 Tillion back to back in FY 2009 and 2010.

The Federal Reserve is facilitating this crushing level of Federal debt by flooding the economy with dollars, driving down interest rates to record low levels temporarily. This action will will shortly result in high annual inflation rates due to high commodity prices, a deflated dollar, high interest rates, even larger Federal Deficits, and potentially very high unemployment.

And, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is prioritizing Cowboy Poetry funding in Elko NV?

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on March 9, 2011 1:11 AM.

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