Moms Know Romney is Right: It’s Time for Big Bird to Fly By Himself (OPINION)

Over the next few months, the editors of Parents.com will report on hot-button election issues that American families face today, from healthcare to education. In the spirit of offering diverse perspectives on the election, we’ve chosen three moms from across the political spectrum to be guest bloggers on Parents News Now. Each one of them will offer a unique take on the topics that they–and you!–are most passionate about. (Read the entire blog series.)

By Nancy French

In the first debate between Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama, the GOP nominee ruffled some feathers by saying that he’d cut the budget by eliminating non-essential costs, like the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.  Because the debate moderator, Jim Lehrer, is employed by PBS, Romney added:

“I’m sorry Jim. I’m going to stop the subsidy to PBS. I’m going to stop other things,” he said. “I like PBS, I like Big Bird, I actually like you too.”

I’m sure moms everywhere have seen the clip a dozen times.  As soon as Romney said those words, the social media universe exploded. Immediately, a fake Twitter account for Big Bird was set up.  The first tweet was, “WTF, Mitt Romney?” and another was, “Yo Mitt Romney, Sesame Street is brought to you today by the letters F & U!”  Celebrities also chimed in. In one of the 17,000 tweets per minute, Whoopi Goldberg lamented that Romney wanted to “kill Big Bird.”  Calls were made for a “Million Muppet March” on Washington.  A photoshopped picture of a forlorn Big Bird sitting on the Sesame stoop holding a “Will Work for Food” sign flew into inboxes across America. The next day, the President, still reeling from the previous night’s debate debacle, made fun of Romney for “getting tough on Big Bird.”  Even PBS sent out their own press release, which read, “Elimination of funding would have virtually no impact on the nation’s debt. Yet the loss to the American public would be devastating.”

More than anyone else, moms have affection in our heart for lovable Elmo, the mysterious Snuffleupagus, and even the garbage-dwelling Oscar the Grouch.  But would a change in funding be “devastating?”  PBS’s self-importance is a little much for Americans who are struggling to pay the bills and find work.

So why does the government subsidize this show anyway?

The Public Broadcasting Act was passed in 1967 to address the paucity of quality children’s programming.  Now, however, moms know television is brimming with vibrant, entertaining, and educational offerings.  Is Gordon more educational, for example, than Nickelodeon’s Dora the Explorer?  Does Maria provide more diversity than the Disney Channel’s Doc McStuffins? Are the Sesame Street writers more clever than the ones who create the hilarious Phineas and Ferb?  Children’s television has come a long way since everyone had platform shoes, bell bottoms, and pet rocks. Sesame Street is no longer the only game in town, so is it really so vital to the republic?  If so, couldn’t this important cultural institution thrive by itself?  Michelle Malkin addressed this issue in National Review:

According to the 990 tax form all nonprofits are required to file, Sesame Workshop president and CEO Gary Knell received $956,513 — nearly a million dollars — in compensation in 2008. And, from 2003 to 2006, Sesame Street made more than $211 million from toy and consumer product sales.”

Moms might not know these specific figures, nor do we precisely know how many Sesame Street books, stuffed animals, and lunchboxes we have in our homes at this moment.  But we do know this show created the “Tickle Me Elmo” mall riots and that the show can survive without us reaching into our own pockets.  (After the debate, the new unfortunate name for the formerly in-demand doll is “Subsidize Me Elmo.”)

Even the President realizes that the Corporation for Public Broadcasting is bloated beyond reason.  His Bowles-Simpson deficit-reduction commission said “the current CPB funding level is the highest it has ever been.”  Malkin writes, “Doing away with the appropriation would save nearly $500 million in 2015 alone. Over ten years, those savings would total $5 billion (or roughly ten Solyndras). In these tough times, that’s more than chump change and child’s play.”

To make matter worse, President Obama released an official campaign ad mocking Romney’s promise to eliminate funding to PBS.  He also sent out a campaign fundraiser telling voters that Romney “wanted to kill Big Bird.” 

But the public didn’t respond like he anticipated. On Twitter, people said they wished Obama was as serious about protecting our embassies as he is about protecting Big Bird.  Then, Romney said, “You have to scratch your head when the President spends the last week talking about saving Big Bird,” he said. ”I actually think we need to have a President who talks about saving the American people and saving good jobs.”  Worst of all, Sesame Street asked the President to take down his ad.  This prompted a Drudge headline with a photo of Big Bird saying, “Leave Me Alone, Obama!” and a NY Post cover of Big Bird in the Oval Office over the headline “Cheep Shot!” To top it all off, the Washington Post said his fundraising letter was incredibly misleading by writing, “How did ‘I love Big Bird’ turn into ‘kill Big Bird’? Only through a spin machine going on hyper drive.”

Recently my four-year-old asked me if we could get her face painted with silver glittery paint at a high school football game. 

“I don’t have a dollar,” I said, realizing I’d spent all I had at the concession stand.  She looked at me with huge tears in her eyes, unable to understand why she couldn’t have her face painted like her friends.

It’s a hard lesson. But since Sesame Street prides itself to teaching lessons to children,  PBS and the President should use this momentous occasion in history — when America has a national debt of over $16 trillion — to teach children a lesson about money.  When it runs out, you stop spending. 

As much as we love you, Big Bird, it’s time to fly by yourself.

Read more blog posts from Nancy French

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  1. [...] the bills and find work.So why does the government subsidize this show anyway?Please read the rest here! /* /* Filed Under: Uncategorized Tagged With: Barack Obama, Big Bird, Mitt Romney, Parents [...]

  2. by Chris Candide

    On October 12, 2012 at 12:33 pm

    Amen. This is the definitive piece on this entire non-troversy. Thanks Nancy!

  3. by Allison

    On October 12, 2012 at 12:44 pm

    Could not agree more! PBS is already partially funded by private and corporate donations and they are more than capable of running PBS without digging ourselves into more debt to pay for it. Mitt Romney is right. It is not worth borrowing money from China to pay for. We need responsibility in this country. We cannot keep spending money we don’t have. We become weaker every hour that this debt grows.

  4. by Kelly Hutchinson

    On October 12, 2012 at 1:11 pm

    Well done article. Could not have said it better myself. We need someone strong on the issues and unafraid to make and stand by tough decisions. Mitt Romney is that man. He will help make America strong again.

  5. by Janiece Staton

    On October 12, 2012 at 1:51 pm

    What Ms. Rossi fails to address in her remarks is the fact that the Corporation For Public Broadcasting makes its programs available for FREE PUBLIC TELEVISION stations all over the country! While some people can afford cable TV programs, including Nickelodeon and Disney TV shows, there is an enormous segment of the population who cannot AFFORD the additional expense of cable. Cable TV is a luxury item, where educational TV programming is hardly a “luxury” that impoverished families and many middle class families can afford to go without. Public TV stations benefit us all – both children AND adults.

    For-Profit TV stations have no interest in benefiting the general American public. ALL they care about is generating PROFITS, for themselves and their advertisers. The purpose of PUBLIC TELEVISION is vastly different from that of COMMERCIAL TELEVISION.

  6. by DVD Bach

    On October 12, 2012 at 2:11 pm

    It’s a shame to see parents buy into this kind of disinformation; a number of your facts are wrong. The “kill Big Bird” line did not come from President Obama. Michelle Malkin is an inveterate liar; good luck finding a source to back up her numbers. And the shows you’ve compared Sesame Street to are all on cable, which costs money that many low-income families don’t have to spend.

    The fact is, PBS offers a wide range of constructive, educational programming that appears to escaped your notice, and as you yourself point out, cutting its funding would have next to no effect on the budget or national debt.

    Awful lot of energy you’ve wasted on a non-issue, don’t you think?

  7. by Christina

    On October 12, 2012 at 2:33 pm

    Wow so glad to see someone post about the reality of this. Couldn’t agree with you more!

  8. by TDalrymple

    On October 12, 2012 at 4:15 pm

    Roughly two-thirds of those defined as poor by the federal government do in fact have access to cable television. And besides, I think the general point that there is far greater access to a greater diversity of media holds regardless.

    To “DVD Bach,” I would just note that the figures cited by Malkin were cited by others as well, as they come from publicly available 990 tax forms. Ms French is not dependent on Malkin here. And Ms French does illustrate the “kill Big Bird” line not coming first from Obama. It made its way into pro-Obama advertising very quickly, though, that’s for sure.

  9. by InformedDad

    On October 12, 2012 at 5:21 pm

    You’re missing the point as I’m sure Fox “News” did when it gave you all your opinions. The point is that Romney is making a big stink about cutting That the deficit and how he’s going to save the day, but when you ask him how he’s going to do that, the best thing he come up with is public tv/radio which is .01% of the budget. Meanwhile he wants to add to our defense budget which is already higher than the defense budget of the next ten countries combined. It’s ludicrous. The American people deserve some facts to go along with all the rhetoric. If you’re serious about cutting spending you dont start with .01%. What’s Romney hiding? He’s going to fix all our problems but he cant provide one reasonable example of how he’s going to do it. I’m sorry but in Romney’s case, “trust me” is just not going to do it for me.

  10. by Jada in GA

    On October 12, 2012 at 8:32 pm

    Seems to me that Sesame Workshop has AMPLE money to keep the bird on the payroll and on TV, and cute little Elmo too. Heck, Elmo is in the top 1% all by himself…he’s a cute little furry capitalist selling his toys and books and movies and such! :) Two points that many are missing here: The govt is BROKE, so it must cut PBS along with a whole lot more. PBS is just a tiny example of what should be cut! Second, PBS will do just fine with continued corporate and private donations. Maybe Sesame Workshop will pony up a bit more money now too!

  11. by md

    On October 13, 2012 at 11:43 am

    You really don’t understand the point of public television, do you?

  12. by Blessedmommyof3

    On October 13, 2012 at 6:03 pm

    This is such a “one” sided article! PBS is not just for children but it host educational shows for adults too! Especially people who can’t afford cable. There is so many things that you can be focusing on about children issues then what “Mitt” says he probably haven’t even seen an episode of Sesame st or set down to watch PBS! Come on people and wake up! Don’t you see he’s trying to get your attention off of what he’s really trying to do? SMH Jesus is the only one who can save us! Not Mitt talking about taking bigbird! (Cut his pay then ask him how he feels afterwards)

  13. by Nancy French

    On October 14, 2012 at 11:53 pm

    BlessedMommyof3, Mitt’s paycheck can’t be cut, because when he was Governor, he wouldn’t accept payment! He is a true public servant.

  14. by Nancy French

    On October 14, 2012 at 11:54 pm

    I love PBS, guys — I just don’t think my children’s grandchildren should have to pay for it. These are tough times!

  15. by BikerDad

    On October 15, 2012 at 5:07 pm

    This is such a “one” sided article! PBS is not just for children but it host educational shows for adults too! Especially people who can’t afford cable.

    The only problem with your argument is people who can’t afford cable aren’t the adult audience of PBS.

    ■36% have a household income of $75,000+
    ■29% have a household income of $125,000+
    ■8% have a household income of $200,000+
    ■75% of viewing households have an ATM card
    ■49% have an IRA/Keogh account
    ■73% are homeowners
    ■31% have auto loans
    ■28% have liquid assets in excess of $100,000

    source: http://www.janson.com/media/2010/12/13/pbs-audience-demographics/

  16. by Iconoclastic Tim

    On October 15, 2012 at 5:14 pm

    PBS has great programming. I enjoy a lot of what is on PBS, even if I don’t always share the political views of what is there. But that doesn’t mean I want to spend tax money on it. Frankly, they don’t need it. And if they can get by without it (and they can), then save the money and plug another gaping whole in our revenue stream.

    What Romney said, in essence, was that he had no intention of going further into debt in order to fund an entity that can function just as it is now without the public funding.

  17. by citybase coupons

    On October 16, 2012 at 2:40 am

    I am planning on printing them at the library on campus. I want to use up my print credits before it gets reset this upcoming year. Is there a way to print coupons with out installing the coupon printer. The school doesn’t allow programs to be downloaded.

  18. by reader

    On October 18, 2012 at 9:52 pm

    I don’t think public television would be harmed by cutting funds in any significant way.

    Have you ever checked out the public broadcasting catalogs? They sell lots of things (I like to buy their DVDs). They certainly sell for a premium price! They know how to make money.

    Also, it seems to me the adult programming is politically leftward (that used to be what I liked about it, back when I watched it a lot – before I stopped watching TV), so I’m not sure it’s appropriate for taxpayer funding anyway.

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