Today, two deficit-cutting bills will be voted on in the House of Representatives. One bill, introduced by Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) and fellow Republicans, would end all federal funding to National Public Radio (NPR). The other bill, sponsored by Reps. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) and Walter Jones (R-NC) and being pushed largely by progressive Democrats, calls for setting a strict timetable for withdrawal from Afghanistan that would mandate the end of combat operations in that country by the end of 2011.
Conservatives claim that defunding NPR would save taxpayers a great deal of money; former NPR employee Juan Williams even argued that NPR funding was taking away from “school breakfast programs [and] college scholarships.” Yet NPR receives only around 2 percent of its annual $161 million budget from federal grants, totaling approximately $3.2 million. Meanwhile, the FY2011 cost of the Afghan war has hit $113 billion.
Assuming that the costs of both the NPR funding and Afghan war would be the same for next year, that means that ending the Afghan war would save approximately 40,000 times more taxpayer dollars than defunding NPR’s grants from agencies such as the National Endowment for the Arts and Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
Additionally, as the National Priorities Project shows, ending the war could help free up money for countless domestic priorities, like hiring millions of teachers or funding health care for tens of millions of poor children. Here are just some of the alternatives that could be funded for the cost of one year of the Afghan war:
- Health Care For 55 Million Low Income Children
- 1.6 million Elementary School Teachers for One Year
- 1.9 million Firefighters for One Year
- 14.1 million Head Start Slots for Children for One Year
- 13.8 million Military Veterans Receiving VA Medical Care for One Year
- 1.6 million Police or Sheriff’s Patrol Officers for One Year
- 19.3 million Students receiving Pell Grants of $5550
- 13.6 million Scholarships for University Students for One Year
Americans recognize these truths about the relative costs of the Afghan war versus NPR. That’s why polling shows that only a quarter of Americans want to see cuts to funding for public broadcasting, while the vast majority of Americans no longer support the Afghan war and want a clear exit from that country. If Republicans really want to “listen to the American people,” as they pledged to do last fall during their campaign, they would support ending the war in Afghanistan and really saving taxpayers money, not endorsing gimmicks to please the more extreme members of their base.