Last week, OMB Director Mick Mulvaney said of the budget cuts that will, among other things, eliminate funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, “Can we really continue to ask the coal miner in West Virginia to pay for these programs?” Later, he said of these cuts that we can’t ask the single mother of two in Detroit to pay for these things.
My guess would be that Mr. Mulvaney has never had a substantive conversation with either a West Virginia coal miner or a single mother of two in Detroit. The Trump team came up with this talking point, and it probably sounded pretty good as a bunch of wealthy white men sat around a table and discussed it. And it is immensely revealing in what they think is important to these people.
The Trump administration has railed against “elites.” But how elitist is it to presume that coal miners have no interest in PBS? Why would we assume that a coal miner doesn’t enjoy the kind of quality programming PBS offers? Perhaps because he’s too busy cleaning his gun or watching Hee-Haw reruns? That’s a pretty elitist attitude if you ask me.
How do we know that the children of coal miners don’t watch Sesame Street and Bob the Builder? Exactly which demographic are shows like that reserved for? How do we know that the families of coal miners don’t enjoy Austin City Limits or Antiques Roadshow or even Washington Week or PBS NewsHour? I mean, did they survey coal miners to discover what they watch? Who knows? Some of them may have even been fans of — gasp! — Downton Abbey!
Furthermore, it’s possible that many coal miners can’t afford expensive cable packages that provide them with 839 channels, meaning PBS may be one of the few channels they can get with a basic subscription.
Another of the programs Mulvaney said coal miners shouldn’t be asked to pay for is after-school programs. Again, I’m not sure we can make the assumption that the coal miner in West Virginia doesn’t benefit from those programs, but I’m pretty positive that there are plenty of single mothers in Detroit who do benefit from those programs. Again, has anyone asked them?
And that brings me to Meals of Wheels, another program on the chopping block. Is there not one single coal miner in West Virginia whose parents depend on Meals on Wheels? Not one single mother of two in Detroit whose parents and also perhaps her children depend on Meals on Wheels?
I suggest some research. Let’s ask coal miners in West Virginia and single mothers of two in Detroit and the guy who hands you your burger at McDonald’s and the person who rings up your groceries at Walmart — let’s do a poll of people like that and ask them this question: Would you rather pay $400 million a year to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting or would you rather pay that same amount for Trump to visit his business in Florida every weekend, for Melania to live in New York, and for the Trump boys to go on safari to shoot giraffes? Both of these line items cost about the same. Which would you rather pay for?