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Who should pay for public radio?

How do you think public media should be funded? Commentator Tucker Carlson says cut federal funding and let the listeners pitch in.

Curious to see exactly how public media gets its funding? View the infographic

One of the on-again off-again debates in Washington is who ought to pay for public broadcasting: The government, which helps support hundreds of public radio stations across the country, or us, listeners, who give millions of dollars every year that help shows like this one get on the air.

Commentator Tucker Carlson says listeners could -- and should -- pay more.


Tucker Carlson: I love public radio. I listen to it every day. But sometimes, as I drive to my white-collar job in my expensive foreign car, surrounded by fellow public radio listeners driving to their white-collar jobs in their expensive foreign cars, I feel a little guilty. All of us are pretty affluent, I think to myself. Do we really need a federal subsidy?

I live in Washington, D.C., but the scene would be familiar to anyone who lives in Winnetka, Ill., the North Shore of Boston or the westside of L.A.: In general, the richer the zip code, the more people tune into public radio. Public radio listeners tend to have a household income more than $30,000 above the national average. They're also whiter, better educated and more than twice as likely as ordinary Americans to work in top management. Not the profile of your average welfare recipient.

Yet that's in effect what we are. Public radio receives more than $100 million a year in tax dollars. Teenaged shift workers at McDonald's, every harried single moms emptying wastebaskets at a law firm, lettuce pickers in California are laboring so that you and I -- you in your Prius, me in my Saab -- can listen to a certain sort of educated news and opinion as we cruise in air conditioned comfort to the office each day. Has there ever been a more unfair tax?

Every few years somebody in Congress tries to kill it. Public radio executives never quite defend their subsidy -- that would be impossible to do with a straight face -- but instead they respond by pointing out that lots of people really, really like public radio. That's true. Of course you could say the same thing about the Rush Limbaugh Show. And that's the point: When people like something, they'll pay for it. Public radio listeners could certainly pay the whole tab for public radio. They just don't want to. Maybe, just to be decent, we should start.


Tucker Carlson is the editor-in-chief of The Daily Caller and a member of Maine Public Broadcasting.

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About the author

Tucker Carlson is a 20-year veteran of print and broadcast media and co-founder of The Daily Caller, a 24-hour news and commentary website.

Curious to see exactly how public media gets its funding? View the infographic

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$100m of taxpayer money every year on top of what subscribers donate. Disgusting. NPR could have advertisers that are condusive to their format. How much do the execs earn? That is one example of waste that could be eliminated.

It figures that for this issue ,Marketplace talks to a free market capitlaist rather than a citizen advocate like , say STeve Rendall or Janine Jackson from "Fairness And Accuracy in Reporting" a media watchdog group. As a believer in democracy ,I believe the govt plus listenersupport should fund public radio; that isif the public were truly represented. However, this commentary, void of any rebuttal shows how "public" radio has bowed to corporate pressure. WE listeners are seen more as consumers rather than citizens who must make inforemd decisions about the direction of our society and our relations with the reat of the world. The majority of programming on "public" radio reflects the interests of the economic and political elites in the US. If "public" radio is so independent where are the voices of socialists or others who question the rhetoric of "free market" capitalism at its very roots? Where are the voices protesting stated rationales for US foreign policy? Much time on "public" radio is devoted to promtion of commercial entertainment epecially television shit coms and other big industry drivel. I beieve in public radio. Where is it?

Tucker Carlson suggested what ought to be hailed in this day when the federal government is borrowing nearly 40 cents of every dollar it spends and fully 8% of everything domestically produced. For that he was called an ignorant presumptuous heartless racist and an enemy to the last bastion of decency in the world - NPR. His mortal sin? He dared to say, "Cut my subsidy."

Carlson is right, and all the invective served to reveal was a lot of people with an overdeveloped sense of entitlement. These are tough times and demographics tell us that the budget will remain a big problem even after the current economic slump is over. Let's cut the CPB subsidy and then keep looking. We can save our federal assistance for really important needs - like SSI disability assistance.

If Lyle was really concerned about SSINF disability insurance he wouldn't be going after the fractions of pennys on the tax dollar well spent on NPR. He would be going after the real money in tax expenditures subsidizing oil, coal, and hedge fund managers, plus he would be seeking increases in the tax rate on millionaires. As usual for these hacks, they try to make it a choice between two beneficial government services, neither of which they support, trying to create a wedge issue between those dependent on SS disability insurance and NPR listeners. He conveniently ignores all of the previous posts by people not in Tucker's economic demographic profile who like and listen to NPR.

CPB provides a true public benefit, educating and informing the public. I am happy to see my tax dollars go to support it, and I am a member of two of my local stations.

I would support getting rid of most corporate subsidies (even though that means higher prices) and would support taxing hedge fund managers earnings like regular income since they earn it by working rather than by risking their own capital.

But how dare you tell me what I have to support in order to care about the disabled? That's your little value judgments your imposing on me and no thank you. I say disability insurance is more important than the CPB subsidy (and oil and coal subsidies if push comes to shove) and I refuse to back down. I cited disability payments after hearing one listener say that she was on disability and needed NPR to keep her company (as though one entitlement justified the other for heaven's sake). As for all the posts from listeners who don't conform to Carlson's cited profile...well, he cited mean statistics and then described the lifestyle corresponding to the mean. That got him a lot of hate mail, but it doesn't change the statistics. To subsidize all those unfortunate deservings who listen to NPR, you have to subsidize many more that are quite well off.

Finally, you can pretend it's your tax dollars paying for NPR if you want to, but the money is really borrowed from the chinese.

Lyle needs to get a grip. If you really care about the disabled, you would realize zeroing out the CPB budget would be a drop in the bucket compared to cutting the tax subsidies for gas and oil companies by a factor of 5. The CPB and NPR provide an important public service providing quality news, arts and cultural programming of much higher quality than one finds on commercial TV and radio. Well informed citizens are necessary for well-functioning democracy. Perhaps Lyle thinks voters only need to listen to “Professor” Glen Beck, or Rush to get their history and news. The tax subsidies to oil and gas companies just provide more money for companies that already have a lot of it and slows down the development of alternative energy sources and energy conservation.

Increasing taxes on Tucker and his demographic would provide more funding for both CPB and SS disability insurance. Taxes are how citizens pay for public services like NPR, highways, environmental protection and a host of other services. Do you talk about the public subsidy for police departments, fire departments or schools? No, only nutty Libertarians do. Lyle gives himself away with his rhetoric. First it’s a public broadcasting subsidy, then a public broadcasting “entitlement”. He uses the term “entitlement” to refer to the SS disability insurance he claims to support so strongly instead of calling it insurance or social insurance.

Then of course Lyle pulls the “China owns us” card. Perhaps we should look at the numbers to get a better grip of who owns U.S. Debt. At the bottom you will also see how much CPB gets compared with SS disability insurance compared to the tax subsidy for Gas and Oil.

(my efforts to format the following as an easy to read table have been frustrated by the format -- my apologies.)

From CBS Who owns U.S. Debt 2012 Billions of dollars
14 Taiwan 149.6000
13 Caribbean Banking Centers 185.3000
12 Brazil 206.4000
11 Oil Exporters 232.0000
10 Insurance Companies 250.1000
9 Depository Institutions 284.5000
8 The United Kingdon 429.4000
7 State and Local Governments 484.4000
6 Mutual Funds 653.5000
5 Pension Funds 842.2000
4 Japan 1,038.0000
3 Other Investors/Savings Bonds 1,107.0000
2 China 1,132.0000
1 Federal Reserve and Intragovernmental Holdings 6,328.0000
Total 13,322.4000

From Wikipedia CPB 2009 0.4220

From SS Web page Total Cost of SS Disability benefits 2003 78.0000

Various sources (24 billion over 10 years)
Oil and Gas Tax Breaks 1996 2.4000

To summarize, CPB gets about 0.422 billion, SS disability insurance is about 78 billion and the gas and oil tax breaks the Republicans protected about 2.4 billion per year. In the above table, China's share is about 8.5%. This could be lowered if we didn't give tax subsidies for companies that relocate jobs to China.

Tucker is not getting hate mail. He is just being called to account for being a right wing flack, using the transparent rhetoric of the right meant to stir up fear and resentment. He is just a more gentile Rush.

I think this commentary was short sighted. Many folks use Public radio as a service to get a better understanding the world. It's for sure their use is not based on their personal wealth. Everyone has circumstances that affect their ability to afford to live in the world. Some folks have lots of money, some of which they earned and some of which their personal circumstances generated, that's great but a lot of us just try to make it. It's nice that Public radio is affordable and they have been able to survive the perils of 'modern times'. Let's hope a political hack like this will not hurt something that helps makes the world a better place. Citizens need to learn about the world and their place in it. NPR does that very well.

"Tucker Carlson is a 20-year veteran of print and broadcast media..." HOW? well, that's a discussion for another day.

i was in the car with my husband (luckily he was driving) when i heard this drivel master come on the air and i knew it wasn't gonna be good. first, shame on you marketplace for subjecting your listeners to this "veteran of broadcast media." secondly, tucker carlson hasn't had anything worthwhile to say since jon stewart eviscerated him on his own show years back.

thirdly, let me blow his mind right now. i have been listening (and sometimes contributing) to NPR for over 30 years. i am an african american woman, high school graduate and i drive an 11 year old PT Cruiser. i work in a library but i didn't always - mostly was a secretary. oh, yeah, my husband listens to NPR all day, every day. he's african american too and a high school graduate.

people like tucker carlson should stick to commenting on what they know . . . even if it's not much.

I don't have a white-collar job or an expensive car. I drive a 14 year old Saturn that has over 112,000 miles on it. I don't have a 2nd car. I was injured on my job and was put off work by my employer. I receive less than one hundred dollars a month in Workers' Compensation Permanent Disability from my employer. I receive some disability money from the Social Security Administration.
"All of us" are not "pretty affluent." I can't afford the $40.00 membership to my local public radio station. One pledge drive, I contributed three dollars. Most recently, I gave five dollars. I don't have cable TV. It's difficult for me to pay my taxes. I keep my thermostat set at the lowest possible setting (58 degrees) to save money. I often wear a warm jacket in the house. My clothes are second-hand.
I listen to public radio every day. I received most of my education at public schools and public colleges. I have a 4 year college degree (B.A.). I am seven-eighths (7/8ths) Caucasian.
I was a welfare recipient, as a child, for about twelve (12) years. (Aid to Families with Dependent Children). My parents divorced when I was a toddler and my father seldom paid his child support obligation.
While attending college, my husband and I qualified for the Dept. of Agriculture's Food Commodities program. Later in our married life, when he was unemployed, we qualified for and received Food Stamps for one month. We were very grateful to have this help.
I'm using the computer at the public library to send this e-mail because I don't have a working computer at home.

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