This was inevitable, in more ways than one.  Jim DeMint has announced that he will introduce a bill to strip all funding from NPR and PBS:

Conservative Republican Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina today announced plans to introduce legislation stripping federal funding from National Public Radio and the Public Broadcasting Service.

The move comes following the firing of NPR contributor Juan Williams for comments about Muslims. Williams said among other things that he gets “nervous” when he sees Muslims on his airplane flights.

The firing prompted calls from Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee and others on the right to strip NPR of funding, and now DeMint, who is beloved in the Tea Party movement despite his Senate perch, has taken up the call.

“Once again we find the only free speech liberals support is the speech with which they agree. The incident with Mr. Williams shows that NPR is not concerned about providing the listening public with an honest debate of today’s issues, but rather with promoting a one-sided liberal agenda,” he said in a statement.

The Juan Williams controversy provided a catalyst, but this issue would have arisen anyway.  The GOP needs to find ways to cut costs, and the funds for public broadcasting would have eventually come under the knife, and sooner rather than later.  Republicans have paid lip service to conservative complaints over federal subsidies to PBS and NPR for decades but have never had the nerve to cut funds, especially when the GOP tried the “compassionate conservative” approach and grew government everywhere else.

The monies involved are not exactly minimal, but won’t balance the budget, either.  DeMint’s statement references the $4 billion spent by the US on PBS and NPR over the last nine years, which works out to something less than $500 million each year on average.  DeMint wisely casts this as just a small piece of right-sizing the federal government and reinstituting the proper boundaries and priorities in a Constitutional context.

In one sense, this may not be the best context in which to raise the issue, although certainly NPR gave about as big of an opening as one could imagine.  The real issues at hand are the fact that we simply can’t afford to fund feel-good arts programs any longer while we rack up huge amounts of debt, and more importantly, that public broadcasting is an anachronism — and has been for at least two decades.  In an era with 200 channels readily available on cable and plenty of over-the-air broadcast content, the government doesn’t need to provide subsidies for entertainment based on the predilections of bureaucrats in Washington.  In fact, there is an even better question within that issue: should the government in a free society ever have funded news channels in the first place?

Update: Eric Cantor will add the option to the House Republican’s YouCut website:

House Republicans announced Friday they would take action that could force a vote on defunding NPR in the wake of the firing of news analyst Juan Williams.

House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said that he is adding a measure to defund the publicly subsidized radio network to the conference’s “YouCut” program, which allows the public to vote online on spending programs they want cut. Williams was axed by NPR on Wednesday for comments he made about Muslims, drawing the ire of Republican leaders. …

“In light of their rash decision, we will include termination of federal funding for NPR as an option in the YouCut program so that Americans can let it be known whether they want their dollars going to that organization,” he said.