Conservatives, let’s save PBS

Published 12:19 pm Thursday, August 30, 2012

I guess Mitt Romney thought he was preaching to the choir when he told “Fortune Magazine” some juicy details of his economic plan. But the choir is not a monolith; it’s made up of distinct individuals.

Romney indicated that his actions as president would include completely eliminating federal subsidies for public broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Arts and the National

Endowment for the Humanities.

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Before we go any further, let’s nail down the staggering figures that supposedly have the Founding Fathers (who did favor “promoting the general welfare”) turning over in their graves. The amount distributed by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting each year amounts to less than $1.50 per American!

I have no doubt that a Republican landslide could steamroll right over those appropriations (as well as whatever federal money goes to ballets, orchestras and art museums), but it would be a Pyrrhic victory. As with heaping indignities upon the military foes we conquer, it could create generations of ill feelings for Republicans/conservatives. We need to take the high road.

I know, Democrats/liberals will always find something nasty to say about the other side; but, the Second Amendment notwithstanding, Mitt doesn’t have to give them ammunition.

I think the idea of “compassionate conservatism” can still be salvaged. But giving arts projects a sneering “sink or swim” edict will not serve that cause.

If (and that’s a mighty big if) we were going to have a true bare-bones, scorched-earth, take-no-prisoners budget, I would grudgingly say that arts funding needs the old heave-ho. But if we’re going to have a dog and pony show and then retain congressional perks, “nonessential employees” and mega tax breaks for targeted industries, making the arts an early target is just chintzy, petty and counterproductive.

Yes, in a perfect world, arts projects would “stand on their own” – but not even the oil companies do much standing. They’re sitting at the table 24-7, wolfing down tens of billions of dollars in subsidies!

I dread seeing “disdain for the arts” become a litmus test for conservatives. Yes, the firebrands in the GOP Establishment (the ones who supported the Children’s Television Workshop until they realized it didn’t involve sweat, beatings or gruel) are licking their lips at the prospects of yanking the rug out from under elitist pinkos; but other Republicans/conservatives serve on the boards of local public TV stations, and millions of salt-of-the-earth folks with traditional values feel no guilt about learning from public TV or adding a little culture to their lives by occasionally admiring a sculpture exhibit.

These people may shake their heads at the excesses of the liberal elite in Hollywood, but they do not feel obligated to walk in lockstep with the right-wing elite with their gated communities and country clubs, either.

Don’t take the easy way out if you perceive a liberal slant to the arts. Create programming that is as intellectually compelling as conservative icon William F. Buckley’s “Firing Line” — programming that public TV station programmers won’t be able to turn down. If scurrilous lies come across on PBS or NPR or a neighborhood mural, counter those lies through talk radio, blogs and the grapevine.

Here’s a litmus test for conservatives: true conservatives do not throw out the baby with the bathwater! Support the arts!


Danny Tyree is a nationally syndicated columnist. Email him at or visit his Facebook page, “Tyree’s Tyrades.”