“I’m sorry Jim, I’m gonna stop the subsidy to PBS,” Romney told debate moderator Jim Lehrer, who is executive editor for PBS NewsHour. “I like PBS. I love Big Bird. I actually like you, too. But I’m not gonna keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for it.”
Within an hour of that statement, Big Bird memes started popping up on my facebook news feed (and I agree that several of them are hilarious, and I'll share some at the end of my post). At first it seemed weird to me that this is the biggest talking point of the debate. But once I actually looked into the figures for Sesame Street, as well as the socio-economical impact, I started to understand why this has become the most talked-about quote:
- Our government does indeed pay a subsidy to support PBS, it is a very tiny amount - 0.00014% of the federal budget. This works out to about 12% of PBS's revenue. Ending the subsidy to PBS is not going to save our government any huge amount of income, and will not make much of an impact on the national debt.
- Ironically, that subsidy to PBS doesn't fund Sesame Street itself - Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit that produces the show "Sesame Street," is a separate organization from PBS with its own revenue streams.
- 33% of students arriving at kindergarten without basic skills. Trying to shut down preschool shows that teach learning as a fun activity seems almost criminal when held against our nation's falling academic standing in the world-wide scene.
- A huge percentage of our nation's families are living at or below poverty level (including my own family). Many of those parents cannot afford basic cable, and PBS is the only channel with children's programing that is still accessible without cable. Our lower-income students are already at a huge disadvantage academically, I don't see any other reason to make it worse!
- A 2011 poll found that 69% of voters are opposed to defunding PBS.
- Sesame Street is a job creator! Sesame Workshop made $46.9 million in revenue from licensing Big Bird, Elmo, the Cookie Monster and other characters in 2011, according to financial statements. This money helped pay the salaries of 1,320 employees...not to mention the salaries of those toy companies, DVD producers, and other countless companies that make the Sesame Street products!