Conservative National Public Radio

It’s Sunday evening and I am listening to NPR while driving home. I am neither apologizing for this nor confessing. I listen to FM stations that carry NPR for their music programs. I listen to NPR itself for the story-telling show, “This American Life,” and for “A Prairie Home Companion.” I even listen to political programs that are locally produced and carried by NPR affiliates because it’s good for me to know what the enemy is thinking. The day of the week matters in this story because I am pretty sure the Sunday spots don’t go to stars. I should know, I have a Sunday spot on AM radio myself. (“Facts Matter,” 11 am to 1 pm on KSCO Santa Cruz, 1080AM.) The presenter, whose name I did not catch, is interviewing on air another NPR person, a reporter who did and investigation on the topic: Does NPR have a left-wing bias? Imagine!

The presenter snickers at the sound of the name of the investigation. The reporter reports in some detail on the results of his inquiry. It turns out NPR does not have a left-wing bias at all. In fact, it’s to the right of the Wall Street Journal on some issues, he asserts. The presenter snickers.

I don’t have much of an opinion on the investigation itself. I did not hear much about the methods used except that they involved both self-identified liberals and conservatives keeping a journal. I don’t have much against this soft methodology. It’s used all the time. It’s known to be soft; it does not make it useless. I am a little perplexed by the findings because, of course, I am convinced NPR has a left-wing bias. Yet, it’s not the job of research, it should not be the job of research, to comfort our received ideas. One of the ways you know good research in the social sciences, in fact, is that it shakes trees and allows rotten fruits to fall to the ground.

The reporter asks to put on air an oral interview he had with one of his subjects who had declared unambiguously that NPR had a pro-liberal bias. The presenter snickers but agrees to it. The cultured voice of a very calm man comes on air. The reporter asks him for an example of liberal bias at NPR. The man, I will call the subject, does not hesitate. Now, pay attention. It sounds complicated but it’s not. He recalls an NPR interview of the CEO of Hewlett Packard on the current economic bad times in America with a special attention to high unemployment. Now my own disclaimer: I don’t think that CEOs have any special claim to knowing what should be done at the national level to improve the economy. Some do, others who are not CEOs do too or better.

According to the subject, the HP CEO stated very clearly that if it were his decision, he would give a broad tax vacation for five years to anyone creating a new plant. The presenter snickers. Now, the idea is not new, it’s familiar. You can sometimes induce new business, and therefore, new employment, by offering tax advantages to new employers. The underlying reasoning is simple: Set up shop “here,” rather than say in Brazil, or in Germany, or wherever, because you will save on taxes in the short term. It’s nor clear how often this strategy is effective in creating new jobs but European countries, including Ireland, and some American states, have been using it for years. On the face of it, it’s not absurd. HP CEO, ads several times that this strategy costs nothing. Of course, it does not because you cannot lose revenue from businesses that do not exist. Plants that have not been built and put to work generate neither jobs nor taxes. I think it’s obvious.

Now, I have to introduce a fifth character in this little drama. There is the NPR presenter in charge of the show who snickers, there is the NPR reporter who did the investigation, there is the conservative subject who alleges that NPR is biased; the fourth person is the HP CEO who makes a suggestion to improve employment. The fifth person is the lady reporterette who interviews the conservative subject. The reporterette mindlessly responds to the HP CEO: “But can the country afford it?” On the show, twice removed from the action in place and time, the presenter who hears this snickers.

The subject repeats the HP CEO’s assertion, “This strategy costs nothing.” The presenter snickers. The reporter who is on-air with the presenter makes a slight noise with his throat as if he were embarrassed, bless his heart! He is not so embarrassed however that he intervenes to point out the obvious to her. After all, non-profit, liberal organization care a great deal about hierarchy. (There are good reasons for this I will only go into if someone asks me.) Again, the reporter on air with the snickerer, does not state the obvious: Trying something that is free does not cost anything and therefore, the answer is that yes, “the country” can afford it.

The show ends with the presenter snickering. Obviously, she closes without ever catching a glance of her own illogicality.

So, here, we have it: NPR is a liberal network. It irritates many people because it snickers all the effing time, or almost. Not all liberals, just many, many, many snicker. Second, although capable of interviewing individuals who are knowledgeable about economics, including distinguished economists, NPR is staffed on a day-to-day basis with Liberal Arts graduates who do not understand the first week of Econ 101. They ask stupid questions of talent and when talent gives intelligent answers, it goes right over their heads. Third, NPR staffers are so full of liberal ideology that it makes them deaf and dumb (I mean the metaphorical dumb, not unable to speak). Given an interesting research topic, given good questions within a good research design and well chosen subjects who respond clearly, NPR still does not get it. Or NPR people get it almost never. NPR does promote or cause to happen interesting interviews but it, the entity NPR, learns nothing from them.

Oops, I almost forgot: What excuse is there for a nation-wide broadcast system that receives any government subsidy at all and directed at free American citizens? I ask because the potential for abuse of our democracy with this arrangement is so obvious. NPR liberal supporters of government funding are so certain of their intellectual superiority it turns them into cretins. Like cretins, they never ask the obvious: What would happen at an NPR dependent in any measure on the good will of Congress if the country experienced twelve solid years under a conservative Republican president working with conservative Republican majorities in both houses?

About jacquesdelacroix

I am a sociologist, a short-story writer, and a blogger (Facts Matter and Notes On Liberty) in Santa Cruz, California.
This entry was posted in Socio-Political Essays and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Conservative National Public Radio

  1. Sam says:

    Your argument/the token NPR conservative’s argument doesn’t fly.

    Assuming that the 5 year tax vacation on new plants raised the number of new plants opening 50% over the previous year (something which I think would probably be heralded as an overwhelming success) 2/3 of the taxes you are forgiving would have been paid as those plants would have opened regardless of the tax incentive.

    If by “costs nothing” you mean that no money must be spent by the government from its received taxes then yes, you are correct, but trivially so. By this definition it would cost nothing for the government to forgive all taxes for everyone. This obviously is not what people intend when they speak of what does and does not cost the government money. Rather, the definition is something like “does the action in question increase or decrease tax revenue (or perhaps budget surplus/deficit is better to allow for things that affect spending and not taxation) over previous years (or over what it would have been otherwise, which previous years are a good estimation of) and by how much.” By this definition the proposal does indeed cost money.

    I’m open to the argument that in the long run it may increase tax revenue and be a good idea, but it would cost money either way unless the alternative to its institution is literally 0 new plants.

    Anyway, I think you’re probably right about NPR. In its defense, though, it is a boon to American culture, exemplified in those shows you enjoy, and the government subsidizes projects on this basis frequently regardless of their political bias. For instance I’m sure the vast majority of recipients of NEA grants are liberal and that many express their views in the very projects that are funded by the NEA. Likewise I’m willing to bet that one of the things that large companies do with tax breaks is give political donations, probably more to conservatives than liberals. Of course you will say that, at least in the case of NEA, this is not a reason to forgive NPR but a reason to also condemn the NEA, which is fair, but it’s important to note that NPR is not unique in having a bias funded by government money.

    • jacquesdelacroix says:

      Sam: No one, least of all I, referred to a “token conservative.” Bad start as far as paying attention is concerned. That’s one. Second: I did not defend the idea that a tax vacation for new plants does any good. Such was not my purpose. It still isn’t. I simply emphasized that the NPR reporterette did not understand the idea well enough to combat it as you, for example, just did. She did not have 1/00 of the understanding you just showed. Neither did the presenter.

      Obviously, I think there are good things on NPR. I and other conservatives, just don’t see why rednecks driving gas-guzzling monster trucks have to pay anything toward supporting your mother’s opera habit.

  2. Bruce says:

    Can someone show me in our founding documents where the government has the right to force it’s citizens to pay for any kind of entertainment?
    The marketplace, not the state, should determine what radio programs sink or swim.

  3. Meredith says:

    Do you have a link to the recording of that show? A transcript? Who was the reporter? What show were you listening to?

    I listen to NPR every day, and I have yet to hear anyone “snicker”, during an interview unless it was some sort of satire.

    • jacquesdelacroix says:

      I caught the show while driving. It did not get the presenter’s name because it was not mentioned more than once or twice. It sounded as if she had a regular Sunday night program. I already mentioned it’s probably not a choice slot and she is probably no NPR star. There was no reason for me to seek a link. I know what I heard; what I heard was not difficult to understand; my readers know that I never lie or exaggerate and that when I make a mistake I correct it myself on the blog. One who were really interested could probably find the program in the archives because it reported on an investigation abut NPR;s alleged left bias.

      I too listen to NPR every day. I hear snickering every day. Either I hear what’s not there, a mild mental condition that gets worse with age, or you are deaf, my dear. Of course, I don’t mean physically deaf, more like tone-deaf.

      I hope you caught my last paragraph: There is no reason at all for Peter to be forced to pay for Paul’s radio irrespective of how good it is by Paul’s standards.

  4. Danny says:

    The show was On The Media, the female co-host is Brooke Gladstone. A generally excellent show. The episode was one of a three-part series suggested by and featuring Ira Glass. All the podcasts should be available online, Meredith.

    • jacquesdelacroix says:

      Thanks, Danny. By the way, I like Ira Glass’ productions a great deal.

      • Danny says:

        Yea me too, the whole This American Life crew is really great, very innovative, esp. at the beginning in the 90s. I also recommend digging into their online radio archives, particularly the 2001/2002 seasons.

      • jacquesdelacroix says:

        “This American Life ” is so good that should NPR public subsidies br cut, I would do my best with my own money to help that particular show stay on the air.

  5. Peter Miller says:

    May I contribute some factual evidence? The UK Govt once asked me to find out whether tax subsidies did in fact influence industrial location decisions. I’ll spare readers the elaborate methodology of the survey and the charts and tables that went into the report. The answer is: No. Of course industrialists will take any free tax gifts that foolish Govts put on the table, but those subsidies are simply not a consideration in where to locate. This is consistent with my experience in doing projects for industry as well.

  6. Sean L. says:

    For those who think the government should continue to fund NPR — What do you think of the content coming from Voice of America? Trustworthy or propaganda?

    If you think VOA is propaganda, why would you think any differently about NPR when the same people sign their paychecks?

  7. Pingback: Conservative National Public Radio « Notes On Liberty

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