Confessions of an
apostate -- stop flow
of public funds to PBS

When it was reported that Congress was about to cut appropriations to the Public Broadcasting networks -- TV and radio -- I was pleased. Such a reaction is inimical to the outlook and preferences of a lover of classical music and one who appreciates the public radio presentations of it.

That such a view of the matter should come from one of the small group of founders of Hawaiian Public Radio some 35 years ago is almost unbelievable. I worked hard for a public radio station to play classical music full time. Those were the days, as recent as the late 1970s, when classical music was not prominent on the airwaves, except from a valiant little religious station that chose to diversify its religious matter with an announcer or two (I was one) who would play classical music and comment on it.

To be opposed to government money being spent on art might even be considered by some to be reprehensible when done by a music critic and weekly columnist in the Sunday Arts section writing about classical recordings and music at home for nine years -- all with the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. Also, years as the radio voice of the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra (when unions allowed it to be broadcast); and host of two-hour radio programs reviewing new classical recordings for most of the time from 1955 to 2002.

So why such extraordinary contradictions in the viewpoint of such a person?

The reason, I hope to make clear, is that I fervently believe that it is not the role of government to spend the money it receives in taxes from everybody to support the interests and activities of some. No matter the clarion calls for promoting arts or sports or any fields of endeavored pleasure that are outside the responsibilities of government, even if conveyed with luscious rationales.

Except for the overwhelming misuse of the incidental phrase in the Constitution to "promote the general welfare," there is no authority in that document for the spending of money for any reason other than the purposes specified therein. To eliminate the violations of that authority, after decades of New Deals and Fair Deals and massive other new agencies and projects, will be extremely difficult. But it's possible and might be necessary to help to retain a free country.

My way of helping pay for classical music on the radio has been to do it myself without pay. Also, recently, after I stopped my radio programs, I have begun lending my name, perhaps still known to some, to the fund-raising projects of public radio and TV by helping to answer their phones during their annual money-raising events. The management people of the Public Broadcasting stations have noticed this (without comment), and I hope to continue to do so. Since the federal money assistance amounts to something less than 20 percent of Public Broadcasting costs, the transition back to constitutional conformity should be accomplished in the future, the sooner the better.

Cliff Coleman is a Honolulu resident.

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