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Archive for January 4th, 2011

The International Monetary Fund is a great place to work – at least for those who don’t feel guilty about getting extravagant salaries from taxpayers. And what do IMF bureaucrats do for the money we pay them (American taxpayers finance the biggest share of the bureaucracy’s expenses)?

Many of them jet around the world in business class, stay at first-class hotels, and tell nations to raise taxes and devalue their currencies. And to add insult to injury, they specialize in misallocating global saving and investment by bailing out irresponsible nations.

This is not to say the bureaucrats are always wrong. While the IMF often is bad on taxes and monetary policy, the bureaucrats sometimes give good advice on trade, regulation, and government spending.

But even when they give good advice, that doesn’t justify their big salaries (which are tax-free, by the way). The real question, though, is whether the IMF should even exist – especially when the bureaucracy more often than not is on the wrong side of key public policy issues.

Unfortunately, instead of being cut back or phased out, the IMF is getting even bigger. While the rest of us are having to tighten our belts, the bureaucrats at the IMF are having fun spending our money. The gold-plated international bureaucracy now wants to spend big bucks to upgrade it already lavish headquarters in Washington. Here’s a blurb from the UK-based Guardian.

…the International Monetary Fund’s bureaucrats plan to concentrate on a matter closer to home in the new year – sprucing up their offices in downtown Washington DC. Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the fund’s managing director, quietly announced last week that he would be asking permission from the organisation’s cash-strapped member states to refurbish its main headquarters building. …Pressure groups greeted the news with scepticism, pointing out that eight years ago the fund spent $150m on a second building, complete with external waterfall, after saying its original site – known as HQ1 – was no longer big enough for its staff of highly-paid international officials.They said the fund was now flush with cash after selling some of its stock of gold and extracting fees and interest payments from troubled countries such as Ireland and Greece. …Peter Chowla, programme manager at the Bretton Woods Project, a think tank that monitors the activities of the IMF and the World Bank, said: “After a nice financial crisis, the IMF’s balance sheet is looking very health – lots of interest to pour in from Greece and Ireland and commitment fees on money never even lent to Colombia, Mexico and Poland. So the fund is thinking about spending some of the proceeds on remodelling its headquarters.”

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Even if we had a giant budget surplus, federal subsidies for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting would be misguided and improper. In an environment where excessive federal spending is strangling growth and threatening the nation’s solvency, the argument to defund PBS and NPR is even stronger – particularly when private funding easily could replace the $422 million provided by federal taxpayers.

I suppose the fact that PBS and NPR have a statist bias is another argument for getting rid of taxpayer subsidies, but that’s barely a blip on my radar screen. It wouldn’t matter if government TV and radio was genuinely fair and balanced. Taxpayers should not subsidize broadcasting of any kind, period.

Moreover, as explained by Professor William Shughart of the University of Mississippi, the private market provides high-quality and niche programming, thus debunking the traditional pro-CPB argument for taking tax dollars from middle-class people to support the viewing and listening habits of upper-income people.

…congressional appropriations for CPB, the primary channel through which tax dollars are funneled to PBS television and NPR, amounted to $422 million. …about 15 percent to 20 percent of public broadcasting’s operating expenses are financed by federal taxpayers. Over the last four years, private donations, both in cash and in kind, accounted for about 33 to 39 percent of the public media’s annual revenue. State and local governments, foundations, colleges and universities, both public and private, contributed another 29 percent of the total. Supporters of continued taxpayer support of CPB and its affiliated local stations argue that $400 million is a small price to pay for financing a voice “independent” of the commercial media. Juan Williams, recently fired in response to his expression of unease in boarding aircraft with obviously Muslim passengers, would beg to differ, as many other Americans would. …the History and Discovery channels, Public Radio International, American Public Media, and SIRIUS satellite radio, among others, compete effectively with NPR and PBS—and millions of Americans willingly pay for commercially distributed content. If NPR and public television cannot survive in such an environment without taxpayer subsidies, they should be allowed to go the way of the dodo bird.

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