Starving the Beast

David Broder has a surprisingly good column on the reversed PBS cuts, arguing that the zeal to save Big Bird might have hurt the kids he teaches. The $100 million in restored cuts had to come from elsewhere, and so they did:

None of this suggests that the House was wrong to rescue Big Bird and his friends in public broadcasting. But it is a fact, as both Regula and Obey pointed out, that the broadcast stations and their audiences have far more influence on Congress than most low-income Americans possess. As Obey put it, "At least the people who pay attention to public broadcasting do have a megaphone of sorts, and they can get their message known."

Obey was also on sound ground in pointing out that "the press has focused 90 percent of its attention on public broadcasting," playing down or ignoring the trade-offs that were forced in other programs by the strictures of the budget plan pushed by President Bush and approved by party-line Republican majorities in Congress.


It's one more instance of the prevailing political culture -- controlled by a budgetary and tax system that puts the lowest value on the needs of those who are most vulnerable.

Just goes to show how rough financial meltdown is on Democratic priorities. Little seemed more obviously worthwhile than repelling a politically-motivated attack on PBS and NPR. Of course, if it had been presented in the context of health, labor, and education cuts, it would have been a harder choice. But this is their strategy: starve the beast. It's generally thought of as a way to halt the growth of government, but it's more than that. When a body starves, it tries to eat itself. At the beginning, the fat goes, but after a while, lean muscle mass and a variety of other vital substances get burned as well. And that's where we are now.