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On Bryce’s Mind

By Staff | Oct 20, 2012

The Obama campaign has released an ad that Sesame Workshop (formerly Children’s Television Workshop) is demanding to be pulled.

The ad in question features a beloved, 8-foot tall yellow bird cast in a very sarcastic light. It starts by listing off all too familiar names like Bernie Madoff and Kenneth Lay, who were involved in scandals the business world, and that Big Bird towers above them. It then said Big Bird was “big, yellow” and “a menace to our economy”, that Mitt Romney realizes that Sesame Street, rather than Wall Street, should be a cause for concern, and that Romney would take on “our enemies, no matter where they nest.” The ad can be found online, especially in left-leaning news services like Huffington Post.

But why would the Obama campaign release such an ad? What’s got Geordi LaForge from “Star Trek: The Next Generation”/the guy from “Reading Rainbow” in a twist?

During the first presidential debate, Republican candidate Mitt Romney said to debate moderator Jim Lehrer that he would cut the government subsidy that gives funds to Public Broadcasting Service if it doesn’t fall within a certain criteria.

“I like PBS. I love Big Bird. Actually, I like you too,” Romney said to Lehrer, “But I’m not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for.” He said that his test was if he had to borrow money from China to pay for a program, then he would cut its subsidies.

Ever since then, the Obama campaign has not only been saying that Romney is a liar, but that Romney wants to eliminate PBS and Sesame Street. The Romney campaign has been alleging that the Obama campaign’s focus on saving Big Bird is a distraction from the real issues in this country: jobs, the economy, the deficit, out-of-control spending, you name it. But that doesn’t mean that said distraction, or the real issues are not on people’s minds.

In fiscal year 2012, the government appropriated $445 million to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which not only supports PBS, but also supports National Public Radio. That seems like a lot of money doesn’t it? Well, yes to people like you, Tribune reader, and me, but that is way less than some of the other things into which the government puts money. It is only a very small fraction of our country’s budget. Nearly twice the $445 million goes into getting spaces for federal offices. Amtrak got more than a billion dollars in subsidies and operating grants. But those things still have nothing on the defense budget, which is over $600 billion.

PBS and Sesame Workshop are not financial institutions that have been deemed “too big to fail” and need to be bailed out with TARP funds. They are not industries that need stimulus funds or else they will go belly up. They are non-profit entities that distribute entertaining and educational programming to people in the U.S. and around the world. But LeVar Burton (LaForge/Reading Rainbow guy) and Mark Wolfe fear that may change.

In a special piece to CNN, both Burton and Wolfe wrote that the cuts to subsidies would affect people locally. Taxpayer funding that goes to PBS goes toward smaller stations, some of which serve rural areas, and cutting that would force said stations to shut down. While that saves this country’s populace more than one dollar per person per year, it also takes away jobs and creates more unemployment.

Will PBS and Big Bird be fine? Well, Sesame Workshop makes money from merchandising and licensing of its characters to other companies. However, people would have to donate more to PBS, and PBS stations would have to gain more support from other companies in order to make up the 15% of its operating budget that Romney would cut.

In other words, PBS could continue operating if it got more money from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and viewers like you.

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