Friday, October 19, 2012

Flipping the Big Bird

It’s October, and the weather has started to finally cool off here in the desert Southwest.  The evenings are pleasant again, and the mornings are cool and dry and perfectly luscious.  With the start of each day, we get to savor the decline and fall of another endless summer.   It is a time of great rejoicing, and a general sense of giddy relief floods over the land… 

I have been very busy working outside this last week or so.  Every year around this time, I get very enthused about the idea of starting a winter garden, and so I have set about my annual ritual of clearing our garden space of all the dead branches and discarded junk that tends to collect there over the summer.  Unfortunately, this has caused me to fall woefully behind on my writing schedule.  So, to keep things moving along here at thunderstrokes, I have invited a prominent writer acquaintance of mine to contribute a post.

Mr. Clive Cumberbun is the executive director of the Center of American Values for America’s Americans, a conservative think-tank based in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.  While he was unwilling to provide me with an original piece of content (only because of an absolutely brutal polo schedule, according to his email), he did give me exclusive permission to post an item he recently wrote for the Center’s official newsletter, "The Rabid Pachyderm."  Gee, I hope they aren’t riding rabid pachyderms while they play polo…

Enjoy.  I’m going back outside.     

Reprinted with the author’s permission from The Rabid Pachyderm, originally published 10.08.12 
By Clive Cumberbun

In the aftermath of the first presidential debate, Mr. Romney has taken a great deal of undeserved political flak for daring to suggest that PBS and shows like Sesame Street be kicked off the public coffers.  While his position seemed to surprise much of the viewing audience, those of us who have been following this election cycle know that Mr. Romney has been quite vocal on this issue since the primaries began.  For example, in March Mr. Romney appeared on Sean Hannity’s show, trying to alert the American people to the critical problem represented by public television: 

For nearly a year, Mr. Romney has been remarkably consistent when it comes to cutting funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which provides funding for both NPR radio as well as PBS.  Thus it earns the distinction of being one of his most enduring, if not endearing, political beliefs (his other, ‘I believe in baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, but not Chevrolet,’ goes all the way back to 2009).

It has taken a true business leader like Mr. Romney to identify the real reason we currently owe China more than 1 trillion dollars.  Yes, the spendthrift residents of Sesame Street are to blame.  After seeing the show, one can only wonder how they ever managed to put such a stranglehold on the federal budget.  It is such a small place, with such a small population of inhabitants, many of whom (the brightly colored and mostly fuzzy ones called Muppets) don’t even qualify as being real.  One can only assume they have some top-notch lobbyists.

However it happened, the populace of Sesame Street has prospered unjustly at the taxpayer’s expense.  They have a history of swilling so successfully at the public trough that some of its most popular personalities have been implicated in various financial scandals over the years.  For instance, reports began surfacing as early as 1986 that Big Bird has been literally lining his nest with U.S. currency.  Considering the size of his nest, there’s probably enough cash in there alone to pay for the F-35 program.  Also, there have been rampant rumors that Mr. Snuffleupagus suffers from a severe cash-snorting problem, sometimes sniffing as much as two million in small-denomination bills at one time.  This is in spite of a strong allergic reaction to the ink used in printing currency, which explains the droopy eyes, his depressive tendencies, and excessive sneezing.
The embezzler and the addict
Obviously, we shouldn’t be using tax dollars to support corruption or substance abuse.  Mr. Romney gets that.  He’s one of a precious few in politics with the moral fortitude to sound the alarm on Sesame Street’s reckless and profligate use of public funds.  At last week’s debate, he showed courage by bringing a difficult and unpopular subject into the public forum for closer scrutiny.  However, instead of thanks, he has paid a terrible price.  Sure, five-year-old's can’t vote, but few things in life are more unnerving than hate letters written in crayon. 

His critics, it should be noted, including the liberal apologists over at Forbes, have been busy since the first debate trying to marginalize Romney’s position by focusing strictly on the amount of money involved:   

For fiscal year 2010, federal funding for PBS through CPB (the Corporation for Public Broadcasting) accounted for about 12% of PBS’ revenue. In terms of dollars, that works out to about $300 million. There’s not much wiggle room to be had: the money that actually goes to CPB is split according to a mostly statutory formula. For 2015, Congress has budgeted $445 million for CPB. That’s less than 1% of the budget. Way less. It’s about 1/100th of a 1%.

The numbers referred to in this report are, or ought to be, highly suspect, for reasons I will explain shortly.  But even .0001 percent of the federal budget is nothing to sneeze at, with all due respect to Mr. Snuffleupagus.  That’s $445 million that could be better spent on something important, like attacking another country.  Well, maybe not another country, but $445 million would allow us to attack something much closer, like San Francisco.  With that kind of budget, the U.S. military could certainly engage in an operation lasting several hours, or at least as long as an episode of Too Close for Comfort.  

'Did you hear that?!  An explosion!  It sounds
like it came from Monroe's apartment..."
That should be plenty of time to reduce the left side of the Bay to a pile of smoldering ash, and send the city’s flamboyant population screaming like schoolgirls from the Apache helicopters with Hellfire missiles aimed directly at their private parts.    

Or, we could just return that money to the Chinese, although I think my idea is better.

Yet Mr. Romney’s critics continue to split hairs on the subject of just how much largesse Sesame Street receives from the government.   Here’s what the Christian Science Monitor had to say on the subject:

According to the latest Internal Revenue Service Form 990 financial disclosure that Sesame Workshop has made public, its total revenue for 2009 was about $130 million. Of that, about $7.9 million came directly from government grants. So, a rounding error in a Pentagon checkbook.

Now, Big Bird gets program fees from stations, too. Sesame Workshop lists $27 million in content distribution revenue. Some of that comes from federal dollars funneled to local PBS entities, though the Form 990 doesn’t break that out. 

Let’s figure that 8 percent of Sesame Workshop’s total budget comes from the government. That’s the figure the company has quoted in recent media reports. Given a $130 million overall budget, that comes in at about $10.4 million.

Given that this year’s federal deficit is $1.1 trillion, Big Bird is nothing but speck of dust on a mote on a dandelion that Horton the Elephant is trying to save from being boiled in oil.

Wow, that was one elaborate metaphor there at the end, wasn’t it?  It practically oozes intellectual elitism.  Furthermore, as happens so often with the smarty-pants set, the overwrought analogy completely misses the point.  Horton happens to be part of the Dr. Seuss franchise, while Big Bird is a Muppet.  Everyone knows these two groups do not get along, as witnessed by the serious brawl that broke out last December at the Children’s Fantasy Character Convention in Saginaw City, Michigan, which threatened to spill out into the streets until it was quelled by the timely intervention of Clifford the Big Red Dog* and Team Umizoomi.  I don’t know much about the incident, or exactly what triggered the near-riot (although some sources say it started when the Lorax referred to Elmo as a ‘shallow and highly annoying hand puppet’), but I do recall that a whole lot of innocent Who’s needed medical attention afterwards.** 

*I don’t even have time to address the issue of Clifford’s communist leanings.  Just ask yourself, Why does Clifford have to be Red?  Why isn’t it Clifford the Big Red, White, and Blue Dog?

**Don’t feel too badly for those shiftless little hooligans, or ‘who-ligans,’ as I like to call them.  It was reported that after receiving state-of-the-art treatment in the emergency room of the local Saginaw City hospital, every single one left without paying a penny.  One of them was heard to complain that “imaginary characters don’t get health care coverage from their employers, even if they work full-time,” and another, “$3,000 is just too much to pay for a couple of stitches and an ice pack.”  This only serves to validate the largely ignored final part of Mr. Romney’s famous statement, in which he said, “47% of Americans expect the government to take care of them, but when you factor in nonreal people, that number rises dramatically.”

At any rate, if we are to believe the Christian Science Monitor (and do we really believe anything portrayed as ‘fact’ by a publication that claims to be both ‘Christian’ and ‘Science?’), Sesame Street skims somewhere in the vicinity of 11 million from the federal budget each year.  The Christian Science Monitor, however, fails to address one essential fact.  Sesame Street, like the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, is almost entirely funded off-budget.***  The $11 million listed in the official budget is known within the beltway as ‘the cookie jar,’ as it actually represents the amount spent on fresh cookies each year for a certain, insatiable, furry blue Muppet. 

***The actual total amount of funding provided each year is protected by executive privilege, and has been since President Nixon inexplicably first signed the “Sesame Street Emergency Relief” executive order on July 15, 1969.

But what liberal rags like Forbes and The Christian Science Monitor don’t understand is that there’s something more important at stake here than money, and that something is nothing less than the very souls of our young people.  Mr. Romney, while he claims to ‘love Bert and Ernie and Big Bird,’ well understands that we right-thinking Americans must oppose the poisonous propaganda that Sesame Street spews in its ceaseless efforts to indoctrinate our youth with their own particularly virulent strain of liberalism.  Sure, they call it ‘sharing’ and ‘cooperation,’ but we see those things for what they really are:  the bricks that pave the primrose path all the way to socialism’s front porch.  Those of us on the right correctly understand that what makes for a strong country is not a willingness to work together, but a good, old-fashioned, ‘win at all costs’ mentality and a willingness to focus purely on our own individual interests.  We fervently believe in the example set by one of the all-time great Republicans, Benjamin Franklin.  Alright, so there were no Republicans (or parties) back in his day, but I’ve given him honorary status because he was so good at offering advice to others on how to live their lives.  Anyway, Mr. Franklin famously said, “God helps those who help themselves.”  If that’s not a whole-hearted endorsement of religious fervor and social Darwinism, the union of which forms the very foundation of modern Republicanism, I don’t know what is.

I am reminded of a bumper sticker I saw the other day.  I don’t normally get to read a lot of bumper stickers, spending as much time as I do in my think-tank, but last week I was out driving my Hummer (the H2 model, equipped with the optional end-times package), when I happened to notice one that was especially apropos.  It said, “He who dies with the most toys wins,” except someone had crossed out ‘He,’ and written ‘She’ over it.  While I certainly can’t approve of the feminist slant expressed by that particular commuter, it struck me that the underlying sentiment is exactly the kind of thing we should be proud to support.  Bravo, bumper sticker makers.  Once again, you’ve managed to capture the spirit of an entire political philosophy with one of your pithy phrases.     

On the other hand, critics contend that by taking his anti-Sesame Street position, Mr. Romney is simply pandering to that segment of the voting public who don’t read and can’t do simple math, and are therefore wary of anyone who can, especially those unable to reach the drinking fountain yet without a boost.  I prefer to think of it as a politically savvy move.  Proposing to cut Big Bird off at the nest may not help Mr. Romney win this election; but if successful, it could pay big dividends in 20-30 years, when the next Romney runs.  That’s called ‘paying it forward,’ which is not to be confused with sharing and cooperation, and therefore not socialism.  You can be assured it isn’t because it’s a Republican doing it.

The final, and probably most pathetic, argument made by critics is that government has a responsibility to provide at least one source of news, information, and entertainment that is not controlled by corporate interests or pressured by commercial sponsorships.  They claim that because the American people own the air through which the radio and television signals travel, that they are somehow entitled to this type of broadcasting.  This is, of course, poppycock.  These people fail to consider, purposely in my opinion, that in a market economy, the best programming will always find a way to gain corporate support because business is attracted to what people want to watch, or listen to.  This ensures the best shows will always be successful.  And commercial pressures are simply intended to make programming as appealing to the target audience as possible.  Therefore, neither one should be dismissed as being bad for America; in fact, they should be encouraged and celebrated for catalyzing competition and fostering excellence.  For proof, one need only look at the enormous success of a corporate media giant such as Fox, and compare it to the anemic offerings of public television.  On one hand, you’ve got Bill O’Reilly and Greta Van Susteren, and on the other, Bill Moyers and Gwen Ifill.  When it comes to programming, on Fox you’ve got shows like NFL Football, American Idol and Family Guy, while PBS offers Sewing with Nancy, This Old House and Sit and be Fit.  Need I say more? 

Popular or not, Mr. Romney’s bold opposition to continued federal funding is a great first step.  It is just the kind of medicine our entitlement nation needs.  But why stop there?  Instead of eliminating funding for just Sesame Street, or PBS, or the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, why not go all the way and eliminate children?  Mr. Romney himself said that we can’t go on borrowing money from China and passing it on to our kids.  Eliminating kids would eliminate the embarrassment of passing our debts on to anyone.  And speaking of embarrassment, wouldn’t you love to see the look on the Chinese government’s face when they finally come to collect and discover there’s no one here?  Plus, imagine this:  no children means no need for schools, those black holes of public funding that absorb billions of dollars every year and give us precious little in return but older children who demand even more money so they can go buy new video games and iPhones. 

The point is, without kids weighing us down and forcing us to consider the future, we can afford to live the way we’ve always wanted.  We can spend every dollar we get on ourselves.  We (and by ‘we’ I mean those who are currently voting age or older) can finally have things exactly the way we want them.  And isn’t that what life is all about?  If we run out of money, we can just make more.  Who’s going to stop us?  We can buy everything we want, take all the dream vacations we want, live the luxurious lives we want, the lives all of us survivors deserve. 

Which brings us back to Mr. Romney, who has not only already seen this future, but lived it.  He has not only been to the mountaintop, he has crossed the river Jordan and built a highly fortified estate in Promised Land Lanes.  What makes Mr. Romney such a great man – and a great leader – is that he hasn’t contented himself with living out his remaining days in isolated splendor and lavish abundance; no, he has risked his own personal comfort to return to his lesser brethren, and bring America with him.  If not all of America, at least the remaining 1%. 

To get there, some tough choices will undoubtedly have to be made.  However, ending federal funding for public broadcasting isn’t one of them.  It’s time to let those PBS-types fend for themselves.  Trust me; they’ll get the message quick enough.  A few 365-day pledge drives and they’ll be lining up for corporate patronage as quickly as any politician. 

I look forward to the day when I can sit on my balcony on a perfect morning in late spring, looking out over the bombed-out remains of San Francisco, and eating my bowl of Sugar Frosted Elmo Flakes while I listen to the latest figures on the amazing economic recovery without the distracting noise of children playing next door.  It will be perfect, just as long as I don’t find any red fur in my flakes. 

That would be gross.

1 comment:

  1. Your "guest columnest" should look into the possibility of Romney actually being a muppet himself. Me thinks he doth protest too much!