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Bird fever is sweeping the nation. During the very first, eagerly awaited presidential debate – and even now, some days after – the economy and healthcare are nowhere near as ubiquitous as Big Bird.
The avian giant was brought into the political crossfire on Wednesday, when Mitt Romney said to Jim Lehrer, “I’m sorry, Jim. I’m going to stop the subsidy to PBS. I’m going to stop other things. I like PBS. I love Big Bird. I actually like you, too. But I’m not going to — I’m not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for it.”
Responses to this statement have ranged from the very humorous to the visceral. Sometimes both. Bright yellow memes have cropped up and spread faster than any flu. Most of these feature the image of some unemployed version of the eight-foot giant. When a presidential candidate threatens the future of a beloved childhood icon, it’s not impossible to predict where the conversation is going to go.
To date, it has been ongoing. The participants in this conversation have not just been teenagers fooling around on Photoshop: PBS had choice words for Mr. Romney in a statement released shortly after the debate. So did the creators of Sesame Street, as well as different voices in circulations such as the Times. What could only have been a spur-of-the-moment example has set off some type of debate across different media spheres.
Romney’s reasoning seems off the mark when the numbers are considered. According to the Huffington Post, only one fifteenth of the federal budget goes to public broadcasting. And that small part only makes up seven percent of the overall costs for the show. That’s a very small percent. The rest is covered by licensing and sponsorships. The “public” in public broadcasting does not seem all that public in the larger picture.
It was a dent in what was decided to be a surprisingly good performance on the part of Romney. A bad example completely overshadowed what was meant to be an entirely different statement. Our economic debt with China is going to be Goliath for whoever it is that will have to make our future executive decisions. It goes back to the core disagreement between the candidates: How much should government be involved? And to that extent, how much should it invest in its citizens?
Next time though, Sesame Street should be kept out of it.
Image Courtesy of Gage Skidmore