The presidential campaign, which until recently had been focusing on looming issues such as the nation debt and health care, has taken a surprise turn and now seems to be mostly about Big Bird. Yes, this thing:
It got started during the first Presidential debate, when Mitt Romney said this:
What things would I cut from spending? Well, first of all, I will eliminate all programs by this test, if they don’t pass it: Is the program so critical it’s worth borrowing money from China to pay for it? And if not, I’ll get rid of it. … 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. 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.
From there, things took off. Republicans cheered Romney’s heroic, masculine stance against Big Bird. Democrats were aghast at Romney’s savage attack against Big Bird. One liberal interest group briefly aired an ad defending Big Bird, until the creators of Sesame Street asked that it be taken down.
Lost in all of this shouting was any question about how Sesame Street actually relates to the government. Sesame Street is produced by a company named Sesame Workshop. It’s a private company. The government does not pay for it, or even for part of it. Sesame Street airs on PBS stations. The government pays for less than a quarter of the total budget for those stations. Regardless of what cruel budget-cutting Romney inflicts, Big Bird will be safe. In fact, Sesame Street merchandise has earned over a billion dollars in the past twelve years. I’m pretty sure that’s enough to pay someone to run around dressed as a large, yellow bird.