By Bob Cesca: It wouldn't be a presidential election year if the Republican nominee didn't threaten to cut funding to several "liberal" institutions that rely upon federal money: Amtrak, PBS, the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Yesterday, Mitt Romney did exactly that.
Like Medicare and Social Security, Republicans have been trying to kill PBS since the Nixon administration. You might have seen the inspiring Senate address by Fred Rogers in defense of PBS programming. Take some time to watch it and come back.
Okay, so we can only wish that Mr. Rogers was alive today to speak the same words to Mitt Romney. Of course the speech would probably fall upon deaf ears and Romney would likely begin to eat Mr. Rogers' medicine for fuel -- because robots are strong.
Nevertheless, the annual subsidy for PBS is only $444 million. The total federal budget for 2011 was $3.5 trillion. So cutting PBS entirely would create a whopping .01% savings. Good job, President Romney. You're a budget wizard! Let's say there's some public outcry (and there will be) and Romney decides to only cut the PBS budget in half. Wow! A huge .006% savings!
If we cut all of the programs Romney named, the government would save around $2 billion. That's a savings of .05%. Again, it's an almost nonexistent reduction in the budget, but Romney and the Republicans make it seem as if these are massive, blood-sucking drains on the budget. They're clearly not.
Obviously the point isn't to save money. The point is to kill PBS, which the Republicans have always hated because it actually educates the public without the taint of paid advertising. Without advertising, the content is devoid of corporate influence, whether it's news, entertainment or children's programming. Republicans would prefer that the public remains uneducated -- unless the educators are corporate charter schools and the Glenn Beck University. If voters are less educated, they're less likely to catch all of the lies and bumper-sticker superficiality that's become the centerpiece of the Republican Party.
Meanwhile, what sorts of subsidies do Republicans support? Corporate welfare, for one. The very liberal Wall Street Journal reported that corporate subsidies cost the taxpayer $92 billion in 2006 and might have climbed to $200 billion including the bailouts and so forth. But let's take the $92 billion number. $70 billion of that sum is tied up in tax breaks and direct government handouts to oil and gas companies. That's 35 times the federal budget for all of the programs Romney named yesterday. Whereas PBS struggles to remain on the air, supplementing its budgets with public donations during lean economic times, Big Oil is turning in record profits.
In 2010, BP, Royal Dutch Shell, ConocoPhillips, Chevron and ExxonMobil received $2 billion in subsidies -- the same amount that's paid to PBS, Amtrack and the others. But those corporations earned $137 billion in total combined profits that year. Pure profit. 75% higher profits than the previous year and a total of $1 trillion in profits in the previous ten years.
Yeah, that seems fair.
In 2011, the House Republicans, including Mitt Romney's running mate, voted in lockstep against eliminating the subsidies for Big Oil. Every Republican voted no. The Senate Republicans voted the same way this year. For some reasons, these corporations with their record profits are in desperate need of federal cash. You know, because government shouldn't interfere in the free market.
During the same remarks, Mitt Romney repeated that he would repeal Obamacare and, thus, increasing federal spending on Medicare by over $700 billion. Along with this repeal, Romney would roll back an array of new benefits for seniors. Romney would force many seniors to pay for more than $2000 per year in prescription drugs -- out-of-pocket -- when the donut hole is re-opened. He would make seniors pay deductibles, coinsurance or cash out-of-pocket for preventative medicine (or go without it entirely). He would restore the waste, fraud and abuse that's causing Medicare to creep closer to insolvency, as well as the inefficient and over-priced care offered by private insurance policies that are financed via Medicare Advantage.
What the hell is wrong with Mitt Romney and the Republicans? Seriously, these policies and agendas are so twisted and upside-down and backwards, it's impossible to know where they stand on anything. This is what happens when a campaign and a party stands for the exact opposite of the president's record. They're in favor of subsidizing corporations, but against regulating them. They vote for policies that created the current deficit and debt, like the Bush tax cuts and the Bush wars, but then demonize the other party for the deficit and debt. They support privatizing Medicare while lumping on an additional $700 billion in unnecessary spending to the program, but then complain that the system is going bankrupt.
It's an utterly incomprehensible and incoherent party. Yet around half the country supports them. Perhaps half the country should've spent more time watching PBS. They might've learned something.