Editorial Roundup

Arts spending vs. defense

President Trump probably won’t get his way on this, but he is right to ask the question of whether the federal government ought to spend $740 million a year on arts programs.

Trump’s budget, unveiled last week, calls for the elimination of funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. They’re among a number of domestic programs Trump proposes to eliminate or greatly scale back.

The resistance has already started, and it’s understandable. That $740 million has to involve a lot of jobs. More than that, supporters rightly contend, the arts are a worthwhile endeavor that deserves the support of government funding.

It also is fair to argue that in a $4 trillion federal budget, the money for these three programs isn’t a whole lot. It comes to about 2/100ths of 1 percent.

The proper response, one which may not win the battle but still ought to be debated, is that the government can no longer afford to do everything. Difficult choices must be made, and this is one of them.

Yes, the arts are important. But does anyone seriously think that there is no non-government, non-profit organization that could carry on the work of PBS and National Public Radio? If the half-century since PBS started airing “Sesame Street” and other wonderful programs has proven anything, it’s that there is plenty of private money willing to finance television.

The same is surely true of other artistic ventures that government money helps. There are thousands of foundations in America that are more than willing to pay for these programs. Trump is right to encourage them to do so.

It will be curious to see how many of the president’s budget ideas get through Congress unscathed. Probably not too many. One that definitely shouldn’t is Trump’s proposal to add $54 billion to the Department of Defense budget.

Is he kidding? The current defense budget is $585 billion, which includes $65 billion for “ongoing emergency war fighting,” according to The Associated Press.

Trump’s budget says the military needs to rebuild after two wars left its equipment in poor condition. (That in itself is a good argument for being a bit more selective about the frequency of activating our troops.) But some in Congress believe Trump is being too cheap. Sen. John McCain, for one, wants at least $37 billion more than Trump recommends.

The executive and legislative branches are foolish if they expect to eliminate things like arts funding but then want to write a blank check for defense. Yes, we need a strong global military presence, but what cost-control efforts are being made? Why is neither Trump nor the Republican-led Congress willing to consider more military base closings, which would save billions? (The likely answer: Because of the jobs that are involved. Apparently military jobs are more valuable than arts jobs.)

There’s no sense in making tough decisions on some programs while letting a far larger part of the budget grow unchecked. It’s obvious that the tradeoff for a larger defense budget will be protection of arts programs and other funding. As the president would say in a tweet: Sad!

During World War II, the U.S. senator in charge of a committee reviewing military spending did a good job preventing some of the inevitable excesses. His name was Harry Truman. His work attracted the attention of the president and history shows this senator went on to greater things.

Today’s Congress sorely needs a Truman — a spending hawk who knows the budget ropes and can help rebuild the military without driving us further into debt.

Jack Ryan, Enterprise-Journal

Fox’s fake news

Fox News loves to give talking heads the freedom to spout off conspiracy theories and other provocative assertions.

It may be good for ratings, but it’s journalistically irresponsible of the cable news operation to not vet in advance what its “experts” might report.

Last week, Fox helped create an international incident — and gave some short-lived cover to another bogus claim by President Donald Trump — when one of its analysts, Andrew Napolitano, reported he had it from reliable sources that British intelligence officials had helped President Barack Obama spy on then-candidate Trump. That “scoop” was discredited by officials on both sides of the Atlantic and later disavowed by Fox itself.

Fox has now indefinitely pulled Napolitano from its lineup as a result of his sloppy work. He’s not the only one who deserves benching, though. So do those editors at Fox who didn’t ask Napolitano for his proof before putting him on the air.

Tim Kalich

Editor and Publisher

Greenwood Commonwealth