Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell jumped on the bandwagon and joined the chorus calling for the federal defunding of NPR in the wake of the summary firing of news analyst Juan Williams for making a controversial statement about Muslims.

“I’ve voted to cut their funding in the past, and will again,” McConnell said in a statement. “With trillion-dollar deficits for as far as the eye can see, I think the federal government ought to be re-examining all of its expenditures to make sure we are focused on creating an environment where the economy can return to health and can begin creating sustainable private-sector jobs.”

The Williams flap created a nice bur-ha-ha and the perfect opportunity for elected officials and wannabes to toss some political hay. But while throwing around high-minded platitudes about free speech, liberal bias and budget deficits, most politicians, McConnell included,  completely miss the real principled reason why NPR should not receive federal funding.

Quite simply, the Constitution grants no authority for Congress to fund radio stations.

Progressives will quickly flock around the commerce clause and the concept of “general welfare” as constitutional justifications for funding NPR – a predictable appeal, which amounts to a “federal government can pretty well do whatever it pleases” view of the Constitution. But this clearly runs counter to the limited, federalist system our founders envisioned.

“The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation and foreign commerce; with which the last the power of taxation will for the most part be connected. The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement and prosperity of the State.” -James Madison, Federalist 45

It’s sad that so many politicians will do the right thing for pragmatic political reasons, but so few will actually stand on principle to protect and defend the Constitution.

McConnell is right. NPR should have its funding cut. All of it. Forever more.

But I remain skeptical. This discussion has come around before, and once the political winds shift, things always seem to quickly fall back into the status quo.

Until the American people begin electing people to office who truly respect and uphold the Constitution, we will continue to endure having our pockets cleaned out to fund any number of things the government has no business funding.

cross-posted from the Kentucky Tenth Amendment Center

Mike Maharrey

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