During the last presidential debate, Mitt Romney brought up the idea of cutting funding for public broadcasting as a way of balancing the budget and eliminating the deficit. Currently, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting receives about $450 mil-lion, or 15 percent of its overall budget annually from the federal government in the form of subsidies that are distributed amongst its stations. While, to me, it seems a little ridiculous to cut public television, something that wasn’t just an integral part of my childhood, but my parents’ childhood as well, the subtext of Romney’s comment actually brings up a valid point. Is there a place in the Federal budget for such idyllic programs such as public broadcasting? What purpose does public television and other similar government programs really serve? Public broadcasting serves as a good focal point to discuss the importance of budgetary pragmatism versus idealism, and I lean more toward the side of idealism.
To me, Public Television and National Public Radio serve as a representation of a core American value: a bastion of the free-dom of speech. Public broadcasting is a place where children’s programming, documentaries and various local programs col-lide. It’s where artistic expression and the pursuit of truth are cultivated in an open environment. It’s a representation of the government striving for a particular type of ideal, moving be-yond the mere practicality of the whole enterprise. It’s some-thing that can’t be replicated in private broadcasting. It’s hard to argue that public broadcasting doesn’t have a distinct feel that separates it from all other programs circulating through the airwaves. But public broadcasting is only one piece of this grander concept of idealism.
What public broadcasting shows is that it’s worthwhile for the government to invest in programs that don’t neces-sarily have to produce something tangible but can contrib-ute to the cultivation of an ideal American society. It’s easy to point to Obamacare or the welfare system and use them as examples of the government failing to create what have been traditionally thought of as the cornerstones of liberal idealism. While I agree with what these programs are trying to accomplish and believe they should exist, I’ll admit that the various entitlement programs do have their problems. However, what I’m talking about is something much grander and abstract.
There is a set of American principles that we as citizens exemplify and spread in our day-to-day lives. They are values that have been instilled in us from a young age and we do our best to live by them when we can. In my mind, the government should do the same thing. By creating programs like public broadcasting, investing in research or aid-ing foreign countries, the government is promoting and enhancing the set of ideals that its citizens embody every day. Not only do these programs help reinforce the continu-ation of these ideals, but they help solidify them in our own minds. Like I mentioned previously, many of us learned from public television at a very young age, and it is at that age when we begin to experience these American values. That in itself should be something worth saving.
In a world that was changed by the financial crisis, I understand the need to be more fiscally aware of what the government does with taxpayer money. If Romney is elected and he decides to cut funding for programs such as public broadcasting, more power to him for his willingness to make tough choices in the name of what he believes to be the best economic solution for the country. But if he does so, he will be taking away from something much more important than our financial security as a nation. He will be eliminating some things that make us distinctly American.
Contact Will Hazzard at [email protected]