In the latest conservative hissy fit, congressional Republicans have threatened to cut off any taxpayer funding to the Smithsonian if they do not remove a video from their exhibit that the Catholic League called “hate speech.” Leaving aside the obvious irony of Bill Donohue declaring something is hate speech, the threat from Congress that they will pull funding from something because some constituents don’t agree with it appears to be a disturbing trend that is likely to continue to grow as Republicans take over the House in the next legislative session.
According to the Washington Post:
[Congressman John] Boehner’s spokesman, Kevin Smith, said in a statement that the congressman was monitoring the episode. “American families have a right to expect better from recipients of taxpayer funds in a tough economy,” Smith said. “While the amount of money involved may be small, it’s symbolic of the arrogance Washington routinely applies to thousands of spending decisions involving Americans’ hard-earned money.”
But this is only the latest instance of the congressional religious right’s belief that they alone get to decide for the American public what is or isn’t worthy of taxpayer dollars, or even government support without funding. Only a few months ago, Senator Jim DeMint blocked a bill for a women’s history museum that would have needed no taxpayer dollars, saying that there were already enough places that women’s achievements were cataloged (like, for example, a quilting museum).
Or more recently, after NPR fired Juan Williams for comments made on a Fox News show, Congressman Cantor once more jumped in with a bill to defund the radio station, a vote that failed on the floor.
The legislation was introduced by Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA). In response to the vote Cantor lashed out at House Democrats and accused them of being “unwilling to listen” to the American people.
NPR also issued a post-vote news release that called Republicans out for trying to assert government control over the content of the news. The release states, in part, “The proposal to prohibit public radio stations from using CPB grants to purchase NPR programming is an unwarranted attempt to interject federal authority into local station program-decision-making. Furthermore, restrictions on the authority of CPB–a Congressionally chartered, independent non-profit organization-to make competitive grants to NPR, or any other public broadcasting entity, is misguided.”
On the other hand, progressive leaders seldom threaten to cut off funding to projects that they, or their constituents, do not approve of, regardless of the unpopularity or the cost. One of the biggest examples would be the multiple military endeavors we are engaged in, often without even a majority of the country’s support.
Conservatives push for issues like no taxpayer funding of abortion, removing it entirely from health care reform, and attempting to permanently codify the Hyde Amendment, as well as defund Planned Parenthood or any other resource center that so much as speaks of abortion, regardless of if they perform them or not. Meanwhile, all taxpayers continue to fund useless abstinence-only education programs, crisis pregnancy centers that focus as much on trying to convert mothers to Christianity as they do on actually assisting a woman who is struggling with her choice to have a child, and other faith-based initiatives that are as much about finding new followers to their religious dogmas as they are about providing the assistance they are allegedly offering.
The double standard of taxpayer funding — that conservatives get to decide what projects are “moral” enough that all taxpayers should be asked to pay, will likely be a growing twist to the 2011 legislative session, as Republicans will continue to threaten to cut off funding to anything that they believe their religious constituents shouldn’t be forced to support. Meanwhile, they continue to gut unemployment, health care, tax credits for the lower and middle class earners, social security, and other safety net programs that most Americans believe are the backbone of our society.
Looks like “moral” is in the eye of the beholder.
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