If you ever doubted that Gov. Bob McDonnell is seeking the GOP nomination for vice president in 2012, consider his budget-trimming action Tuesday.
He cut $424,000 from the already slashed state appropriation for public broadcasting, through his line-item veto power, which the legislature can’t override.
That translates into $60,000 in educational video and online programming Blue Ridge Public Broadcasting provides to 3,000 teachers in 42 school divisions that serve 200,000 public, private and home-schooled students, through a contract with the state Department of Education.
Although its budget hasn’t been finalized yet, “it’s now questionable whether we can provide educational services that we have been providing,” said James Baum, president and CEO of Blue Ridge Public Broadcasting.
Now, this cut was entirely unnecessary to balance the books. How do we know that?
Because there is no shortfall to cover. The governor already has bragged about the surplus we’ll have at the end of this year. And the legislature already has squared up revenues with expenditures for next year.
McDonnell claimed he did it because public broadcasting is not a “core” function of government, and that he was “eliminating spending on programs and services that should be left to the private sector.”
Sounds good, but he undercut his own argument the very next day when he announced $4.6 million in taxpayer subsidies to a Steven Speilberg movie that will be shot partly in Richmond and Petersburg later this year.
All this cut means is that come June 30, 2012 (the end of the fiscal year in question), the surplus will be $424,000 larger than would otherwise have been. And there will be a surplus, because the economy is improving.
But from a political perspective McDonnell’s action was a genius play. That’s because Republicans on the national level have been trying to financially rape public broadcasting for years.
This year, things heated up when James O’Keefe, a right-wing lawbreaker and self-styled documentary maker, used a hidden camera and some unethical editing to phony up a gotcha video on some National Public Radio executives in Washinton, D.C.
He seemingly trapped them into considering accepting a big donation from representatives of a purported Islamic fundamentalist group (read: terrorists). Actually, they were actors O’Keefe hired.
Of course, the unedited tape showed that O’Keefe’s story line was a total lie. But those executives lost their jobs, and it launched conservatives on Capitol Hill into a frenzied campaign to cut all federal funding from National Public Radio.
They howled like starving wolves who smell fresh meat. It was a disgrace. They should feel ashamed.
And now comes McDonnell, and his $424,000 cut. He’s screeching about it like a peacock who has just spread 424,000 new feathers on his mating-season tail.
Let’s translate that screech: “Look at me! I cut public broadcasting even more than our conservative Virginia General Assembly did. Pick me!”
This what passes for political machismo in national GOP politics these days. It’s a ploy to get McDonnell maximum notice during the presidential primary season that begins in earnest later this year.
You can almost hear the fawning by the party minions. “He took it to public broadcasting! Wow! He’s our man!”
Now perhaps you’re thinking $424,000 is nothing to sneeze at. That’s true. It’s a lot of money, and every little bit helps.
It would pay off my mortgage, cover the college tuition for my kids, eliminate a car loan, stock my gun locker and buy some gold and diamonds for my wife.
It’s a princely sum, that is, until you divide it up by Virginia’s .88 million residents, all of whom are taxpayers in one way or another. Then it translates to 5.3 cents per person.
A nickel a head, so that the 2012 surplus will be unnecessarily larger, and so that the state can curtail educational programming to Virginia school children.
Viewed that way, his action is wrong. It shortchanges everybody and rewards nobody.
Except McDonnell — it could buy him a slot on the Republican presidential ticket.
I’d rather have my nickel spent for another purpose.