I missed the first presidential debate. From what I’ve been hearing, though, President Obama tacked towards the timid and let Romney be the aggressor and controller of the evening. That’s a pity. Because Romney’s performance will likely be what folks remember about the debate, not the accuracy, or lack thereof, of his facts.
But during the course of the evening, Mr. Romney felt it necessary to bring out the old “we can’t afford PBS” canard once again. And once again, Big Bird became the whipping bird for the country’s economic ills. Oy vey. This all started sounding tiredly familiar, and then I remembered that I had fussed about this issue already way back in February 2011, when the newly-minted Republican majority in the House began making similar noises. “We have deficits!” they decried in harsh voices. “Big Bird must go!”
Just for old time’s sake, here is that earlier post again, “Bashing Big Bird.” The points it speak to remain quite relevant. What’s amazing is how consistently conservatives raise this canard whenever they go on about federal spending. However, cutting a program that makes up about 1/100th of the federal budget does not a deficit solve.
Bashing Big Bird (originally published February 16, 2011):
Big Bird and I have grown grey together. If you look at him closely, you’ll see a tuft of white feathers on top of his head. It’s been there for a while, but I’m pretty sure he wasn’t born that way. Maybe he was, and I just don’t remember. But in any case, it pleases me to think that my old friend, whom I grew up with, is aging and surviving just as I have managed to do.
So the Republicans want to defund public broadcasting again. Yawn. As Rachel Maddow pointed out on tonight’s show, they pull this stunt every time they get in power. And the Democrats respond with “they’re trying to kill Big Bird.” Though I guess the aging bird couldn’t make the rally but Arthur the Aardvark did.
Rachel rightly stated that the attack against public broadcasting isn’t fiscally driven, even if that’s what some Republicans might say. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting isn’t exactly rolling in the dough. Its 2010 budget saw a federal contribution of $420,000,000. Defunding CPB won’t exactly rid the country of its multi-billion dollar deficit.
No, the move to defund, either partly or entirely, public broadcasting is strictly ideological. Beyond the usual conservative talking point about wanting smaller government, public broadcasting, and Sesame Street in particular, represent what they hate the most about the 60s. CPB is the child of progressive thinking and an optimistic view that said things are possible. At a time of racial strife, the Sesame Street had white folks and black folks and Latino folks and Asian folks, and a bunch of furry monsters and feathered birds, getting along peaceably. Other shows born during this period include The Electric Company and Villa Alegre, both also impressively integrated for its era. I think, I fear, that the bi-lingual Villa Alegre, which portrayed Spanish-speaking people in a positive light as intelligent, three-dimensional human beings, could never get produced today, in this age of SB 1070. Some folks, I fear, don’t seem to mind that.
Public broadcasting is all about opening doors. This crop of Republicans seem to be all about closing them. Culture be damned. Children be damned. Well, how we fund our culture, how we fund institutions for our children is the very measure of who we are as a society. We can cut funding to CPB and get rid of Big Bird and Grover (my personal favorite). We can cut funding to National Public Radio and get rid of Piano Jazz and Jazz at Lincoln Center. But is that what we really want? I give generously to KCSM, Jazz 91, and have for the past 14 years. Keep jazz alive. But I’d like some of my tax money to pay for it, too, and to pay for public stations which I may never hear in parts of the country I may never visit. Because a cultured society, an educated society, a society which fosters these higher ideals in its children is the society I want to live in.
Ideological vapidity be damned.
© 2012, gar. All rights reserved.