Congressman Graves on the “Skinny Budget”

Mar 21, 2017

President Trump released his so-called “skinny budget” last week, and this past weekend I had a chance to chat with Congressman Garret Graves about it.

“Some of this disruptive stuff that the President’s doing – yes, it’s uncomfortable,” the 6th District Republican admits. “But I think, looking at the state of our country, some of this disruptive transformation is necessary.”

The President’s budget proposes deep cuts or eradication of many domestic spending programs, in favor of putting more money toward military defense and homeland security.  Graves says he’s waiting for more detailed information on the proposals, but he’s heard plenty of griping about what people believe is – or isn’t – in this proposal.

“There are a lot of programs that are on the chopping block right now that certainly have merit. There’s no question about that. I think that the exercise that the administration is going through right now is trying to decide which programs have most merit,” Graves says, adding, “There’s an idea called ‘zero-based budgeting’. Everything starts at zero every year. Programs have to earn their funding by demonstrating efficacy.”

Funding for NPR’s parent organization, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, is being zeroed out. I asked Graves about our “efficacy.”

“I want to give you the perspective of what I think a lot of people in Washington are thinking,” he said, carefully. “Number one, they look at Corporation for Public Broadcasting and say, ‘Well, look, this is being done by the private sector all over the place. Why do we need to make taxpayer investments in this?’

“Number two: people look at public broadcasting and say, ‘This leans liberal’,” he says, with a grimace. “You know, let’s keep in mind you have a Republican House, Senate and White House at this point. Why in the world would we fund something that just beats up Republicans or conservatives?”

On the other hand, Graves – who was a supporting member of WRKF until he ran for Congress -- acknowledges public broadcasting stations get the bulk of their funding from member support.

“For every one dollar in federal funds, you’re leveraging four in private. You’ve got to look at things like that.”