Public Broadcasting, Arts Endowment, Others Make Case Against Proposed Defunding

Image courtesy of afagen

President Trump’s new “skinny” budget puts more than a dozen well-known publicly funded agencies and corporations — ranging from public broadcasting to legal services to chemical safety — on the chopping block. With nothing to lose, the heads of these organizations are now firing back, hoping to convince Congress to keep their funding intact.

Perhaps the most high-profile name on the list belongs to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), the non-profit government that is the single-largest source of funding for the nation’s public TV and radio services. In terms of the federal budget, CPB costs $1.35/year per citizen, but the organization’s CEO Patricia Harrison says the loss of this money would have far-reaching, negative effects.

“There is no viable substitute for federal funding that ensures Americans have universal access to public media’s educational and informational programming and services,” says Harrison. “The elimination of federal funding to CPB would initially devastate and ultimately destroy public media’s role in early childhood education, public safety, connecting citizens to our history, and promoting civil discussions – all for Americans in both rural and urban communities.”

Michael Copps, who was an FCC Commissioner under both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, also spoke out today in defense of CPB.

“The President rails against ‘fake news,’ but in eliminating the Corporation for Public Broadcasting his budget plan would sever the financial lifeline of scores of public TV and radio stations that are among the most reliable, trusted sources of real news for millions of Americans,” notes Copps, who admits that while certain markets are sizable enough to support public broadcasting without federal funding, “In the nation’s heartland however, this budget will force stations to eliminate vital local news, entertainment and cultural programming. A sensible budget would increase, not cut, taxpayer support for public broadcasting.”

The elimination of CPB would not necessarily mean the end of private, independent entities like the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) or National Public Radio (NPR), but it could have a significant impact on their network stations.

“We have always had support from both parties in Congress, and will again make clear what the public receives in return for federal funding for public broadcasting,” said PBS CEO Paula Kerger, who argues that the $1.35 cost is small but tangible: “increasing school readiness for kids 2-8, support for teachers and homeschoolers, lifelong learning, public safety communications and civil discourse.”

The National Endowment for the Arts didn’t just release a statement expressing their “disappointment” about potentially being axed out of existence. The statement from Endowment President Jane Chu is currently overlaid on the homepage of Arts.gov.

“We are disappointed because we see our funding actively making a difference with individuals of all ages in thousands of communities, large, small, urban and rural, and in every Congressional District in the nation,” says Chu. “We understand that the President’s budget request is a first step in a very long budget process; as part of that process we are working with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to prepare information they have requested. At this time, the NEA continues to operate as usual and will do so until a new budget is enacted by Congress.”

The 52-year-old National Endowment for the Humanities is also being targeted by the Trump administration.

“We are greatly saddened to learn of this proposal for elimination, as NEH has made significant contributions to the public good over its 50-year history,” said Chairman William D. Adams. “Since its creation in 1965, NEH has established a significant record of achievement through its grant-making programs. Over these five decades, NEH has awarded more than $5.3 billion for humanities projects through more than 63,000 grants. That public investment has led to the creation of books, films, museum exhibits, and exciting discoveries.”

Adams points to a number of ongoing NEH-funded projects: “Residents in Whitesburg, Kentucky are preserving the photographs and films of their local Appalachian region through Appalshop cultural center. Veterans returning from war in Iraq and Afghanistan connect with classic texts and the public through Aquila Theatre. Students, teachers and historians have access to the papers of Founding Father George Washington. Through these projects and thousands of others, the National Endowment for the Humanities has inspired and supported what is best in America.”

The similarly imperiled Institute of Museum and Library Services provides supports to institutions nationwide.

“Our agency’s support enables museums and libraries to offer learning experiences for students and families, as well as to increase care for, and access to, the nation’s collections that are entrusted to museums and libraries by the public,” explains IMLS Director Dr. Kathryn K. Matthew. “We’ve invested in rural and smaller communities by supporting basic infrastructure and by developing libraries as local community hubs for broadband connectivity and digital literacy training — helping hundreds of residents gain job-related skills and, in many cases, find employment. In summary, our grants and programs support libraries and museums as essential contributors to improving Americans’ quality of life.”

Then there’s the Chemical Safety Board, which is tasked with investigating industrial chemical spills. That’s also up for elimination in the White House budget.

“For over 20 years, the CSB has conducted hundreds of investigations of high consequence chemical incidents, such as the Deepwater Horizon and West Fertilizer disasters,” notes CSB Chairperson Vanessa Allen Sutherland. “Our investigations and recommendations have had an enormous effect on improving public safety. Our recommendations have resulted in banned natural gas blows in Connecticut, an improved fire code in New York City, and increased public safety at oil and gas sites across the State of Mississippi. The CSB has been able to accomplish all of this with a small and limited budget. The American public are safer today as a result of the work of the dedicated and professional staff of the CSB.”

Since 1974, the Legal Services Corporation has provide legal assistance to those who face an economic barrier to adequate legal counsel. That could end, if the Trump budget wish list is fulfilled.

LSC President James Sandman says he’s confident that the organization will continue to be supported by Congress, the body actually responsible for writing the budget.

“I am optimistic that the bipartisan support we have enjoyed in Congress for more than four decades will continue for years to come,” says Sandman.

“The Legal Services Corporation is as American as apple pie,” add John Levi, Chairman of the LSC Board. “We promote what Thomas Jefferson described as ‘the most sacred of the duties of government,’ which is ‘to provide equal and impartial justice to all its citizens.’ And we do it at a cost that amounts to less than one one-hundredth of one percent of the federal budget.”

The Neighborhood Reinvestment Corp. (aka NeighborWorks America) is not commenting directly on the President’s budget, but is reminding people what the nearly 40-year-old organization contributes.

In a statement emailed to Consumerist, NeighborWorks pointed to a list of achievements from just fiscal year 2016. By providing financial and technical support to nearly 250 nonprofit businesses, the organization says it assisted some 360,000 families find affordable housing, maintained or created 53,000 jobs, repaired 55,000 homes, and provided counseling and financial education to more than 116,000 people.

The Delta Regional Authority has provided economic development support in 252 counties across eight states (Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Tennessee), for nearly two decades but now faces being eliminated.

DRA Chairman Chris Masingill says his organization has been the “leading advocate for supporting job creation, building communities, and improving lives” in the areas it serves. Furthermore, he contends that DRA’s objectives are in line with the stated goals of the administration.

“Our nation’s top goals include building our infrastructure and ensuring greater security for Americans,” notes Masingill. “These are important and admirable priorities, but it is important to keep in mind that agencies such as DRA are proven vehicles for delivering a modern infrastructure, and security also means providing economic security to our people. DRA has an outstanding track record of making strategic investments in the physical and human infrastructure that supports the economic security of some of the poorest, most underserved communities in our nation.”

Masingill also makes the argument that the DRA provides a solid return on investment for taxpayers.

“Throughout its history, DRA has added value to the budget approved each year by Congress,” he explains. “DRA has invested $163 million into more than 1,000 projects that have partnered with other public and private investments for a total of $3.3 billion. Those investments have helped to create and retain more than 26,000 jobs, train more than 7,200 workers for 21st Century jobs, and deliver water and sewer improvements to more than 64,000 residents.”

The DRA will be joined later this month in D.C. by representatives from other organizations on the budget kill list, including the Appalachian Regional Commission, Northern Border Regional Commission, and the Denali Commission.

Finally, there’s this statement from the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars:

“We are concerned but also confident that at the end of what is likely to be a long process, the Wilson Center’s 50-year record of nonpartisan research, scholarship and analysis will continue to be recognized and validated. Like the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials and the Kennedy Center, the Wilson Center is an official memorial to a President. We will continue to fulfill our important mission to serve U.S. policymakers and the American public as outlined in our Congressional mandate while the budget process takes its course.”