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Big Bird: Should PBS get off the dole?

Thousands of people took to Twitter to defend Big Bird from Mitt Romney's threat to end federal funding for PBS.

“You do not mess with Big Bird,” said Mary Elizabeth Williams in Salon.com. Perhaps Mitt Romney now understands that, after having threatened the lovable Muppet with extinction during last week’s presidential debate. To illustrate what a frugal spender he’d be, Romney said that even though “I love Big Bird,” he’d end federal funding for PBS—Sesame Street’s home since 1970. Almost immediately, the Internet exploded with Big Bird love. Thousands of people took to Twitter to defend the oversize avian from the Republican presidential nominee, including one who tweeted, “Yo Mitt Romney, Sesame Street is brought to you today by the letters F & U!” It’s one thing to pull the plug on PBS’s Frontline documentaries and twee British dramas—but almost every American under 50 has warm memories of Sesame Street. Besides, giving Big Bird the boot won’t make a dent in the deficit, said Lori Rackl in the Chicago Sun-Times. The $450 million the government gives to PBS’s parent company for all public broadcasting amounts to “about 1/100 of 1 percent of the federal budget.” 

First of all, “I loathe Sesame Street,” said Mark Steyn in NationalReview.com. Its saccharine, politically correct brainwashing of kids has contributed to “the infantilization of society.” Second, the nonprofit Sesame Workshop not only gets taxpayer subsidies, it’s had close to $1 billion worth of merchandising sales. If Sesame Street isn’t commercially viable, nothing is. “It is difficult to see why the Brokest Nation in History should be borrowing money from the Chinese Politburo to pay for it.” The Sesame Street gang should get off the dole and move to a commercial channel, said Michael Medved in TheDailyBeast.com. While teaching toddlers the letters of the alphabet, Sesame Street could also instruct in “independence, pride, and self-reliance.”

The outrage over cutting Big Bird’s subsidies perfectly captures “the fiscal mess this country is in,” said Marc Caputo in The Miami Herald. “Every government dollar has a constituency,” and any proposed cut brings screams of bloody murder. When Democrats suggest reducing defense spending, Republicans accuse them of threatening jobs and national security. When conservatives try to trim entitlements, liberals call them heartless granny-killers. But if the U.S. is ever going to stop adding to its $16 trillion national debt, everything—including even friendly, fake birds—has to share in the pain.

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