The GOP Scrutinizes the CBP | Amtrak Hit the Breaks | More DeLay | Bush Cuts His Own Taxes

Corruption at Public Broadcasting—The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) is the administrative funnel through which congressional appropriations are doled out to PBS, the Public Broadcasting System’s television outlet, and NPR, National Public Radio. The CPB received about $378 million from Congress for the 2004 fiscal year, representing about 15 percent of public broadcasting’s revenues.

Some are now suggesting that the CPB should be renamed the Committee for Partisan Buffoonery.

According to an unchallenged report on page one of the New York Times (May 2), Kenneth Tomlinson, the chairman of the Republican-dominated eight-member board at the CPB, has begun a sweeping—and, until now, secret—campaign to monitor public broadcasting for liberal bias and to turn it more to the right.

As CPB chairman, Tomlinson helped give the Wall Street Journal‘s conservative editorial board a half-hour, Friday-evening broadcast spot on PBS. That was maneuvered into place to “balance” PBS’s news magazine Now, formerly headed by Bill Moyers, who Tomlinson found too liberal.

A hint of this conservative meddling came last year when NPR fired the widely admired Bob Edwards from his 25-year job as host of its Morning Edition news program. That followed the Bush appointment of two members to the CPB board who were heavy G.O.P. contributors.

It now turns out, thanks to the Times‘ disclosures, that Tomlinson, a former top editor of theReader’s Digest, has hired a Bush White House communications aide to monitor PBS and NPR broadcasts. Not only that, but the Times discovered that Tomlinson has picked Patricia Harrison, a former co-chairman of the Republican National Committee and now an assistant secretary of state, to become the CPB’s president.

No wonder an editorial-page cartoon by Steve Breen in the San Diego Union-Tribune showed Barney, PBS’s ubiquitous purple dinosaur—now with elephant ears and a trunk—singing to nearby children: “I love you; you love me. Let’s support the G.O.P.”

Amtrak—Or should it now be Bumtrack? Amtrak’s full-page ads are still running, inviting well-heeled commuters from Washington to New York to Boston and a few smaller stops along the way, to ride the expensive Acela high-speed express. The trouble is, the Acelas aren’t running and, just when Amtrak is maneuvering with Congress for its annual appropriation, they may not run again for months.

The problem seems to be a mechanical one—the cracking of high-speed brake drums in almost the whole fleet of Acela-express passenger cars, made in Canada. But it is also managerial, stemming from questionable manufacturing decisions.

Amtrak received $1.2 billion in federal aid this year and says it will need $1.8 billion for the fiscal year beginning on October 1. The Bush Administration has proposed eliminating funding for Amtrack and spinning the railroad off as a private company.

Pounding “The Hammer”—Another cartoon, this one by Mike Lukovich in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution showed a G.O.P. elephant hugging House Republican Leader Tom DeLay’s shoulder and saying: “Despite the growing number of ethics allegations, he has my support.” But then, stepping aside and saying to DeLay: “OK, where’s my wallet?”

They Gave Themselves a Break—The Bush campaign plug that Americans—even the richest—shouldn’t have to pay more than a third of their income in federal income taxes worked well for the President and Vice President Dick Cheney. The rich did get richer, in their case.

Bush finagled Congress to cut taxes in a way that gave him and Mrs. Bush the opportunity to pay only 26 percent of their joint 2004 income of $784,219 in taxes. This amounted to $28,846, or 12 percent less than they would have paid under the pre-Bush tax law. The Cheneys paid only 23 percent of their joint income of $2,173,892—$81,336, or 18 percent less than under the former tax law.

These calculations for the Bushes’ and the Cheneys’ tax payments were done by Citizens for Tax Justice, a Washington watchdog group whose sleuthing on our grossly unfair tax system you can check out at www.ctj.org.