OPINION: Paying for 17 federal programs at a Bengals game

Jonathan McCollough | Staff Writer

Last fall I went to see the Cincinnati Bengals take on the Miami Dolphins at Paul Brown Stadium. Usually I would eat before going to a game to avoid the overpriced cost of food, but this time I ate there.

I bought a Cheeseburger for $7.50, a cup of fries for $5.50, a hot dog for $5.00, and a bottled water for $4.50. My final bill came out to around $22.50, but when I looked at my receipt to confirm everything was rung up correctly, I realized that I had accidentally paid for the equivalent of 17 federal programs.

That may not make a lot of sense, but let me explain.

The 2017 federal budget request for the Corporation of Public Broadcasting, which runs PBS, NPR, and over 1,400 local TV/radio shows, is $445 million. Based on the latest census information, that divides out to $1.37 per American, or about one-fifth of the cheeseburger I bought at the Bengals game.

The National Endowment for the Arts asked for $150 million to help fund artists, art exhibitions and art education all across the country. This comes out to just $0.46 per American, or one-tenth of my bottled water.

The Office of Violence Against Women assists victims of sexual abuse and oversees programs across the country that help reduce domestic violence and sexual assault. Their budget is $480 million or $1.48 per person. That’s the cost of one-fourth of my fries.

You may be asking yourself why any of this is relevant. It’s because the Trump Administration has planned to propose dramatic budget cuts to the federal government that will seek to privatize the CPB, cut funding for the OVAW, and eliminate The National Endowment for the Arts entirely, along with 14 other federal programs.

Taylor Tepper from TIME Magazine did the math and found out that all together these federal programs cost $22.36 per American per year, just a few cents less than what I paid for my meal at the Bengals game.

Other programs on the chopping block include the National Endowment for the Humanities, which funds research, education, museums, and more, the Economic Development Administration, which supplies local businesses with the resources they need to compete globally, and the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, which aids efforts to transition America to a clean energy economy.

The total budget for all of these programs combined comes out to around $7.2 billion. That’s less than one-fourth of one percent of the total federal budget.

Such a tiny drop in the bucket is essentially symbolic and will not really change much of anything, especially given Trump’s new proposal to increase military spending by $54 billion.

If you believe in preserving and supporting the environment, civil rights protections, the safety and well-being of women, the arts, minority-owned businesses, and public broadcasting, and think all of these programs are worth $22.36 a year, the same cost of a single meal at a Bengals game, call your Congressman.