NPR math

NPR’s primary justification for continuing to receive government funding is that without it, smaller member stations would be forced to close.  This got me to thinking about whether NPR could actually tighten its belt and find some other source for the $400,000,000 (whoa – got that number from this article from the Washington Examiner – $400,000,000 is what goes to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting – NPR gets only a small part of that from CPB – per wikipedia (which is within the ballpark of NPR’s own 2009 consolidated financial statement) let’s revise that number using wikipedia’s 10% estimate to 10% of 164,000,000, which is …) $16,400,000 that they currently get from you and me.

Can the shortfall can be made up by salary management in house?  Given that NPR is a public institution, surely no one is working there to become rich.  From that starting point, let’s make the statement that no NPR employee’s household income should exceed President Obama’s “millionaire” tier of $250,000.  If an NPR employee’s spouse is making more than that in some less savory means than public service at NPR, the household should not be penalized, but that employee should donate his or her entire salary back to the NPR coffers.  Likewise, if both members of an employee’s household work for NPR, the total salary for the household will not exceed $250,000.

With that rule as a starting point, let’s examine some salaries (from NPR’s 2009 990 return) and see if we can save those small member stations!

employee 2008 compensation reported on IRS 990-J amount eligible for replacing lost gov’t funding assuming $250,000 base salary assuming $47,999 base salary
Kevin Klose $1,220,618 $970,618 $1,172,619
Andrea Sporkin $216,729 $0 $168,730
Kenneth Stern $1,223,717 $973,717 $1,175,718
Maria Thomas $113,579 $0 $65,580
Annie Davis $262,918 $12,918 $214,919
Dana Davis-Rehm $252,316 $2,316 $204,317
James Elder $242,786 $0 $194,787
Dennis Haarsager $328,525 $78,525 $280,526
Robert Holstein $217,092 $0 $169,093
Kathleen Jackson $215,624 $0 $167,625
Margaret Low-Smith $223,773 $0 $175,774
Joyce MacDonald $183,241 $0 $135,242
Mitchell Praver $379,712 $129,712 $331,713
Micheal Riksen $231,588 $0 $183,589
Joyce Slocum $173,770 $0 $125,771
Michael Starling $203,278 $0 $155,279
Ellen Weiss $255,873 $5,873 $207,874
Steven Inskeep $356,499 $106,499 $308,500
Renee Montagne $405,140 $155,140 $357,141
Michele Norris $312,976 $62,976 $264,977
Robert Siegel $358,653 $108,653 $310,654
Scott Simon $364,465 $114,465 $316,466
total $7,742,872 $2,721,412 $6,686,894

Interesting – not there yet, but if these noble souls decide to limit their salaries to the current U.S. average ($49,777 for all households, as best I can tell from census.gov), we’re now only looking for $9,713,106.

I can’t find data on what NPR pays guest talent, but maybe someone can point me in that direction. Given the altruistic mission of NPR, I think we should be able to direct all of the money currently paid to guest performers to the shortfall, as the goodwill a performer would receive for appearing on NPR should more than offset any lack of remuneration.

After that, we can look at what they spent on operations outside the U.S. – given NPR’s predictability in reporting on foreign affairs, it seems that that is money better spent elsewhere as well.  That bucket contains another $6,179,703.

If we assume that guest performer outlays are similar to salaries paid, take only half of the outside operations budget, and take the more generous salary give-back, we’re looking at a total of $7,742,872 + $3,089,851.50 +$6,686,894, or $17,519,617.50!  And we’re there with some left over.

Fly, NPR!  Be free!


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