Making Waves in Hawaii
Jul 22, 2011 -
Should the U.S. taxpayer spend $21 million dollars a year to fund a Honolulu think-tank? Or is this something better left to private financing?
That’s the question I put to the House Foreign Affairs Committee this week. Over 48 hours, the Committee considered a lengthy bill on the State Department’s operations. I had inserted language into the bill to eliminate something called the East-West Center, a government-funded think tank established in 1960 to promote "understanding" and good relations between the U.S. and the Asia-Pacific region. It works on programs "of cooperative research, study and exchange," producing academic papers and hosting seminars.
Throughout its history, Administrations – both Republican and Democrat - have requested far less funding than the Center has received. But every year, Congress – and in this case, one Senator – has stepped-in and essentially doubled the Center's take. In the past 6 years – Congress has given the institution $54 million more than Administrations requested for it. The Washington Post named this a government program "that won’t die."
I don’t need to read the East-West Center’s report on U.S.-China economic relations to know that for every dollar we send to this talk shop, we borrow another 40 cents from China. Is it worth it? Of course not. What’s more, the Center gets funding from private foundations, foreign governments and institutions, and the private sector.
At the end of the debate, my effort to privatize the institution won the day.
One proponent of the Center called my effort "potentially devastating" to our country’s foreign policy. Devastating? Really? Check the website and judge for yourself. You will see the Center is hosting an art exhibit on Vanuatu’s emerging urban culture.
Don’t miss it. You're paying for it!