Big Bird has been living rent-free on Sesame Street for 43 years. The popular Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) character is on the dole because the left believes government should use taxpayer cash to support the arts. With the U.S. debt topping $16.2 trillion, it’s time for the eight-foot-tall talking bird to start paying his own way.
The funding controversy reignited Wednesday when presidential debate moderator Jim Lehrer, the former anchor of the PBS NewsHour, asked the candidates how they would cut the budget deficit. “I’m sorry, Jim, I’m going to stop the subsidy to PBS,” answered Mitt Romney, as just one example. “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.”
Democrats are using the attack on the children’s show as a rallying cry. President Obama has brought up the yellow, feathered character in no fewer than five speeches so far. “For all you moms and kids out there, don’t worry, somebody is finally cracking down on Big Bird,” the president said Sunday at a fundraising event in Los Angeles.”Elmo has made a run for the border. Gov. Romney plans to let Wall Street run wild again, but he’s bringing the hammer down on Sesame Street.”
The Obama campaign is hiring people to protest at Romney rallies dressed in Big Bird costume. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee also launched a petition to gather supporters’ names and contact information under the guise of preserving public television’s funding.
Republicans aren’t backing down. On Sunday, ABC’s George Stephanopoulos asked Romney campaign senior adviser Ed Gillespie whether it was a mistake to target the public TV network, which operates under a $445 million federal appropriation for public broadcasting.
“It’s not that big a percentage of the budget — that’s true,” said the former chairman of the Republican National Committee. “But every penny that you look and raise as a potential cut seems to be sacred with this administration and you can’t cut it and they demagogue it.”
Former Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) chairman Kenneth Tomlinson agrees it’s time to pull the plug. “Public television doesn’t need this massive bureaucracy funded by the American taxpayers called CPB to survive and be successful,” Mr. Tomlinson said in an interview. “PBS now has this highly successful show, ‘Downton Abbey.’ Such shows as well as Big Bird do not depend on taxpayer funding of the plush CPB bureaucracy in Washington.”
Over the last two years, the GOP-controlled House has passed bills to stop subsidizing CPB, the government agency that funnels the loot to public television and National Public Radio, only to be blocked by the Democratic Senate.
The bigger issue with Big Bird is tackling the mindset that government needs to bankroll everything that liberals like. It makes no sense to do that when the network could survive on its own in the marketplace from private donations or advertising. Uncle Sam needs to tell Big Bird to go feather his own nest.
Emily Miller is a senior editor for the Opinion pages at The Washington Times.