Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Yes We Want to Support NPR – But Why Are They Making It So Hard to Do So

Is NPR Special – Or Just Another Non Profit Getting Fat and Ugly

It is bad enough to suffer the attacks of right wing critics, but even worse is to provide those critics with the gun, ammunition and a clear target.  Yet this is just what National Public Radio has done in building a new, expensive luxurious headquarters building in D.C.

NPR's $200 million palace - Built with support from people like you (and I) -
people who may be fools.

First of all they didn’t just build an office building, they built a palace.

NPR’s gleaming new headquarters building in the shadow of the Capitol in Washington has soaring ceilings, a “wellness” center, an employee gym and a gourmet cafe staffed by a resident chef.

Oh but they say, this wasn’t built with taxpayer money,

NPR officials point out, the new headquarters wasn’t financed with tax dollars, at least not directly. The organization raised funds through a combination of tax-free bonds, individual donations and the proceeds from the sale of its old building.

But yes some taxpayer subsidization was involved.

the District granted $40 million in tax abatements and froze property taxes on the site for 20 years as part of a deal to keep NPR from moving out of the city. NPR had considered a site in Silver Spring.

Having a building in downtown Washington is about the most expensive way to go.  And those of us who support NPR and its mission are certainly going to think twice about making any contributions to an organization so politically tone deaf, so lacking in understanding of what it means to be a non-profit and so possessing a feeling of entitlement that it would lavish itself with a luxury building.

NPR now joins the ranks of other national non-profits who think that the public support, whether from tax dollars or contributions entitle them to pay huge salaries to executive, to have great benefits and to provide employees with the Taj Mahal of office space.  Maybe it’s a disease of post-modern America, maybe this disease has no cure.

Mitt Romney, when asked to come up with cost savings famously said he would cut support for public radio, a statement that only revealed his utter ignorance on public policy (the elimination of the federal subsidy would not make the slightest dent in public spending or the national debt).  But as a cultural issue maybe Mitt was on to something.  Maybe all of us should redirect our efforts and support only those local groups that we know are using the money to fund its mission, not to fund a workplace palace.

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