During the first 2012 presidential debate, Mitt Romney told moderator Jim Lehrer, the former anchor of the PBS NewsHour in response to how he would cut the budget deficit (currently $16.2 Trillion) “I’m sorry, Jim, I’m going to stop the subsidy to PBS,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.”
This was met with an explosion of internet memes, cartoons, Photoshops and columns circling around the premise of Romney wanting to fire Big Bird or kill Big Bird.
Everyone who made one of those is an idiot.
How is saying “I like Big Bird but I won’t borrow money from China to fund him” anywhere comparable to “I want to murder Big Bird and/or remove a beloved childrens character or show from the airwaves”?
How much money do you think the person who Photoshopped this parody of the Obama 2012 “I’ve got his back” picture donated to PBS in the past year? Or in their life? No way to know for sure, but I’d bet zero. Instead, “having Big Birds back” here means forcing everyone to pay for an already highly profitable brand (suddenly corporate welfare is super honorable now?).
I wouldnt force a country to borrow money from China to pay for Dora the Explorer either but that doesnt mean I want the little bitch DEAD. Jesus…
There is not a “small” chance Sesame Street would go away if Government stopped funding part of it with tax dollars – there is ZERO chance of that happening. Sesame Street makes hundreds of millions of dollars in merchandising each year. Remember the Tickle-Me-Elmo craze from the late 90s? Remember the entire aisles of toys, clothes and every day items featuring the Sesame Street characters? They’re not free, are they? That money goes somewhere. Why are you okay with your tax tax dollars funding a business so NOT in need of help – let alone an entertainment business in the first place.
According to financial statements for the year ended June 30, 2011, Sesame Workshop and its nonprofit and for-profit subsidiaries had total operating revenue of more than $134 million. They receive about $8 million a year in direct government grants and more indirectly via PBS subsidies. Big Bird and friends also receive corporate and foundation support, and donations amount to about a third of revenue. Distribution fees and royalties comprise another third and licensing revenue makes up the rest.
At the end of fiscal 2011, Sesame Workshop and its subsidiaries had total assets of $289 million. About $29 million was held in cash and “cash equivalents,” mainly money-market mutual funds. Another $121 million on the balance sheet was held in “investments.” According to the accompanying notes, these investments included stakes in hedge funds and private-equity funds. It’s unclear from the financial statements if Big Bird has ever invested in funds run by Bain Capital, founded by Mitt Romney, but no doubt Sesame would be welcomed as a client by many investment managers.
So Big Bird likes to maximize revenues and investment gains as much as the next muppet. And now the President has made this adorable critter the symbol of federal programs that allegedly require eternal taxpayer aid, even if it has to be put on the future tax bill of today’s pre-schoolers. Is that funny?
Big Bird is 43 years old and has become richer than Mitt Romney on our dime. The Public Broadcasting Corporation (corporations are evil – erm – except this one I guess?) does not need my money to function. Its insanely unfair and unwise to have government funding one form of entertainment and not others and the claim that a highly popular culturally iconic show like Sesame Street would “die” without the small percentage of its budget that it receives from the government is such a stupid lie that it deserves scorn and ridicule – not endorsement and parody.
Mitt Romney is a former Venture Capitalist and Governor of the state of Massachusetts… he was never a senator or congressman and did not “vote to kill” anything.
UPDATE: It is really sad that we have a president whose campaign is endorsing this lie… just wow….
UPDATE AGAIN: Dear God… its gotten so much worse. The Obama campaign actually cut an ad on this non-issue. Big Bird has been asked to be left out of it. This is so embarassing that a sitting president is getting this desperate and dishonest.
KIRSTEN POWERS: It’s a truly terrible ad. When you watch it, it’s sort of shocking that they’re doing this. It suggests a campaign that’s completely out of touch of what’s going on right now. And not just because it’s trivial and there are serious things going on, but also because it’s just this out of nowhere messaging. What does Wall Street have to do with anything, that’s not what we’re talking about? And suddenly now, trying to suggest that Mitt Romney is somehow like Bernie Madoff? I have a very low bar in terms of expectations with politicians, but this is even a little low by the normal bar. To tar him as being like these criminals.
BRET BAIER: Now, even to go with the other side, the Occupy Wall Street side, they charge that the President never put anyone on Wall Street behind bars, and that’s an ad that…
POWERS: Yeah, and what has he ever done, exactly? The Bush Administration prosecuted the first two. So what has Obama ever done to be tough on Wall Street? So it raises all of these questions.
Over at MSNBC, the panel on Morning Joe agreed, with Democrat and Obama supporter Donny Deutsch pleading “Get it off the air. Get it off the air immediately. It shows such weakness.”
Put this another way. When your campaign strategy loses Matt Lauer, Chris Matthews Bob Shrum, and earns four Pinocchios from the Washington Post, where exactly does that leave you? In a fine, feathered mess, that’s where. Lauer interviewed Obama campaign adviser Robert Gibbs this morning on Today, and asked, “Is that the kind of political ad that a campaign releases when it feels that it has ideas and solutions on its side, or is that the kind of political ad a campaign releases when it simply wants to get attention?” As if on cue, Gibbs insists that Mitt Romney declared “war on Sesame Street”:
The Washington Post labeled this lying ad the maximum number of Pinocchios for making the argument that Gibbs and the rest of the campaign is running with (emphasis added by me):
Similarly, it is just as silly for the Obama campaign to claim that Romney would use this minor bit of funding to help pay for tax cuts (After all, Romney denies his tax plan even is aimed at benefiting the wealthiest Americans.)
But in any case, Romney clearly said that he loves Big Bird, not that he wants to kill it. And even if he eliminated public funding for PBS, how would that affect Sesame Street, where Big Bird resides?
Not much. The 2009 financial disclosure from Sesame Workshop, the company that produces the program, shows that just $7.9 million came from government grants out of $130 million in total revenue, or about 6 percent.
The company also benefits from station program fees, some of which may come from federal dollars given to local PBS affiliates, which the company has suggested brings the percentage up to about 8 percent. The rest of the money comes from many corporate partners — as well as sales from those cute stuffed toys.
The WSJ hammers our “small president” via “Big Bird”:
On Monday night in San Francisco, Mr. Obama claimed Mr. Romney “said he’d bring down our deficit by going after what has been the biggest driver of our debt and deficits over the last decade—public television, PBS. You didn’t know this, but for all you moms and kids out there, you should have confidence that finally somebody is cracking down on Big Bird.” He’s also rolled out a TV ad starring the Sesame Street favorite.
Mr. Obama is mocking a small effort to reduce federal spending, but it would be funnier if Mr. Obama hadn’t also rejected all the larger efforts too. From Congressional Republicans. From his own Simpson-Bowles deficit commission. From a bipartisan group in the Senate. At the San Francisco event, as at the debate, as at every other campaign event this year, Mr. Obama offered no plan to move the government’s spending into the same galaxy with its revenues.
But the Big Bird jokes kept rolling, along with the usual fact-free attack against the Republican candidate. “Governor Romney’s plan is to let Wall Street run wild again, but he’s going to bring the hammer down on ‘Sesame Street,’” said the President, in the definition of a non-sequitur.
The United States may be on a fiscal path to Greece, and working-class guys in Toledo may have stagnant incomes, but Mr. Obama says their tax dollars must continue to flow to one of the most successful TV properties of all time. Middle-aged readers may think that Big Bird’s popularity peaked in the 1970s, but his earnings power remains strong.