NPR funded by tax dollars? OMG!

With Sarah Palin calling for an end to federal money going to NPR, I thought it would be worth investigating just how much of the average American’s tax money actually goes to NPR.

CBS news has an article with a bunch of facts and figures scattered through it. Teasing out the information, let’s start with a brief description of how the money flows:

There is no direct government funding of NPR. The only way tax dollars get to NPR is via station fees, which are paid to NPR by the radio stations that broadcast NPR programming. The stations get their taxpayer dollars via the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

So with that explained, here’s the math, using figures from the same article:

NPR’s budget for 2010 is $160m. 40% of that comes from station fees, so that’s $64m per year paid to NPR by the stations.

However, that $64m isn’t all tax money. The stations only get around 10% of their funding from the government. So to be fair, we should assume that 10% of the money to NPR is from the government. So NPR gets $6.4m of taxpayer money per year.

Now let’s put that into context.

Federal expenditures for 2010 are $3.55 trillion. That means NPR represents 0.00018% of government expenditure. If you’re looking to balance the federal budget, NPR isn’t a good place to start.

However, with the overall government budget being so big, it’s hard to know what that means to the individual. So let’s work out the average taxpayer’s share.

US taxes are at their lowest level since 1950, and nearly half of all households escape federal income tax. But let’s assume you’re not one of them, and let’s use the higher tax rates from 2007.

Because US taxes are complicated, I looked at the values for the amount of income tax the IRS actually collected in 2007, after everyone had claimed their various credits and exemptions, expressed as a percentage of the person’s taxable income [see right hand side of spreadsheet]. The average for that across all tax returns was 18.4% in 2007. So in 2007, after doing all the complicated form-filling, the average person who paid tax, paid 18.4% of their taxable income to the federal government.

So I’m going to assume you’re doing really well, and making $100,000 a year taxable income, and paying $18,400 in tax–more than triple the median tax paid in 2009, and more than the $11,588 average tax for 2007 [page 20, top right].

Your share of NPR’s funding is then 0.00018% of that, or a grand total of 3.3 cents.

So, next time someone complains to you about NPR being funded with his taxpayer dollars, give him a dime and tell him to shut up about it for 3 years.

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