Big Bird Gets Political
Mitt Romney would like to make fried chicken of Big Bird. In fairness, Mr. Romney’s actual words to Jim Lehrer at the first Presidential debate of this year were, ”I’m sorry, Jim. I’m going to the 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 keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for it.”
Let’s take a step back for a moment. In 1967, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting was created by Congress via the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967. The beginning of the act reads, “it is in the public interest to encourage the growth and development of public radio and television broadcasting, including the use of such media for instructional, educational, and cultural purposes.”
When Lyndon Johnson signed the Act, he said, “Television is still a young invention. But we have learned already that it has immense–even revolutionary–power to change, to change our lives. I hope that those who lead the Corporation will direct that power toward the great and not the trivial purposes. At its best, public television would help make our Nation a replica of the old Greek marketplace, where public affairs took place in view of all the citizens.”
When the Act was signed into law, its purpose was to secure for citizens its public airwaves for educational and public affair purposes. At its best, public broadcasting serves as a counterbalance to privately held media corporations, which broadcast views and opinions on airwaves.
So, while we have privately owned media companies such as Fox Broadcasting and MSNBC, who do take conservative and liberal positions (respectively), the idea behind public broadcasting is to offer more neutral and educational programming for a wider audience.
In 2010, the Federal Government allocated approximately $420 million dollars to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (the equivalent of approximately one-tenth of one percent of the federal budget) .
PBS, National Public Radio (NPR) and other stations receive grants and funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. In other words, NPR does not receive direct funding from the Federal Government.
While conservatives like to argue that the issue surrounding the de-funding of The Corporation for Public Broadcasting is a fiscal matter, the reality is it is a political one.
Our Federal Budget includes a Senate Hair Care Services Revolving Fund for goodness sake. (Yes, taxpayer dollars help to keep our Senators looking good.)
The true problem is that Conservatives have long held the belief that PBS and NPR are liberal organizations. Their argument is that the Federal Government should not be funding liberal political views.
Others (like myself) argue that the government has a vested interest in securing public broadcasting space for educational and cultural purposes. A more informed, educated and engaged population is of benefit to our nation.
Big Bird is a member of Sesame Street, a beloved and educational program for children. Some may question why the Federal Government should contribute funds to programming such as Sesame Street.
The reality is that there are many children in this country at a unique disadvantage due to poverty; home lives which are dysfunctional and destructive; and, under-performing schools. The idea of creating programming such as Sesame Street is to touch the lives of these children in a positive way and to introduce these (and all) children to the alphabet, language, lessons of civility and friendship. In other words, to open the minds of children who otherwise may be lost. But Sesame Street is only one part of what PBS does: PBS also creates programming for schools. Teachers and school districts may opt to incorporate PBS productions into the school environment.
Some conservatives argue that it is not our job – it is a parent’s responsibility – to care and teach their children.
We live in the real world. Some parents cannot, some parents will not and some should not.
It is to our advantage to ensure that we reach as many children and as many minds as possible with educational programs. It creates a stronger work pool, a safer living environment and less financial outlays later. And, frankly, why wouldn’t we?
If we can pay a bill to have a Senator’s hair done, we certainly can expend one-tenth of one percent of our Federal budget to create, as Lyndon Johnson said, a nation who “wants more than just material wealth; our Nation wants more than a “chicken in every pot.” We in America have an appetite for excellence, too. While we work every day to produce new goods and to create new wealth, we want most of all to enrich man’s spirit. That is the purpose of this act.”
And because at the end of the day, we should be able to laugh at the absurdity of our political landscape , a few of our favorite Big Bird Memes.