Romney is also apparently unaware what a goodwill ambassador Big Bird is around the world. He and his Sesame Street friends enter the living rooms of over 120 million viewers in more than 140 countries. Many of whom, quite frankly, are baffled as to why Romney would attack such a good show -- a show that has won more Emmys than any other children's program. (see the New York Times blog article, Romney's attack on Big Bird sows confusion abroad and feeds it at home ).
For many lower-income families, both in America and abroad, PBS is their only access to good, commercial-free, child-safe educational programming. I didn't grow up on Sesame Street (now I'm really showing my age) but my grandchildren have, and I can see the positive effects on their early learning. Which is why the Obama campaign has seized on the PBS issue. It's not just about saving Big Bird (although he has become a symbol of the debate), but about the negative values that Romney holds regarding education.
Romney has already said he wants to do away with the Department of Education, as well as eliminate Pell grants, Head Start, and low-interest student loans. He thinks we don't need any more teachers, that everyone can pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, and that if you want to go to college or start a business, you can just borrow the money from your parents. (Which, in my case, would not fund much more than a lemonade stand.) Now he wants to do away with one of the best learning tools we have.
PBS is also a good source of top-of-the-line science and nature programs like Nova and Nature, as well as specials on astronomy, physics, space exploration, evolution, and medical breakthroughs, to name a few. Some of the most amazing hummingbird footage I've ever seen came on the PBS video I got for signing up as a supporter of Nature this year. Of course, you have to believe in the validity of science to appreciate this fine programming -- which may be why Romney's more conservative supporters hate PBS. After all, these are the same people who don't believe in evolution (upon which all our DNA research is based) and want to teach creationism in our schools.
Which brings us to the real reason Romney went after PBS: to pander to the Far Right. If he is any kind of an accountant, he can't really believe that cutting PBS funding will even make a scratch in the federal budget. The government money that PBS receives is less than one percent (.00014 to be exact) of the total budget -- about $1.50 per year per person. Considering what we all get for that buck-fifty, it's a pretty good deal. However, polls have shown that many uninformed Americans think that PBS gets a huge percentage of the national budget. It seems Romney also thinks that, since he keeps linking PBS with "borrowing from China." Plus, the conservatives have been trying to shut down PBS for years. So for those who already drank the Kool-Aid, PBS is a right-wing rallying point. In fact, Romney has been harping on PBS and Big Bird since at least December 2011 (read more on that... with examples)
After the debate, Romney said that Big Bird would survive under his administration, but he'll have to have commercials ("look at Corn Flakes" in Romney's words.) Oh yeah -- let PBS become just like all the cable shows, pushing sugary drinks and nutritionless cereals, violent video games, toys the kids don't need, and relying on advertisers' ratings for what shows to include. If Romney really wants to stop the flow of US cash to China, he might start with all those cheap made-in-China toys that break within days or -- even worse -- end up being toxic.
And speaking of toxic, remember that Romney and his running mate, Paul Ryan, don't believe that human-made pollution is causing climate change, or that fumes from coal plants are bad for your health. (In spite of the propaganda, there is no such thing as clean coal.) Nor do they value our national parks, about which Romney has said that he "can't see the point in them." (He wants to make the Grand Canyon available for drilling and mining -- see "How might our national park system fare under President Romney? for more info.) So of course, Romney would not be too thrilled that PBS ran an excellent series on the history, beauty, and benefits of our national parks. (I suppose a guy who needs an elevator from his garage to his house doesn't do much wilderness hiking.)
One last thought: The cost of a whole year of PBS programming is equal to only six hours of defense spending. Frankly, I'd rather spend my $1.50 to keep on hiring Big Bird.
|Cartoon courtesy of the LA Times|