Friday, October 5, 2012

Sesame Street is Brought to You by the Letters U, S, and A

    My first blog post to reach a wide audience (thanks, Powerline) was in January 2012 and was titled Nickel and Diming.  The subject was President Obama's plan to save $3 billion over 10 years by combining six government agencies.  Here's how I approached it at the time:
According to the Administration's own budget, total federal expenditures in 2012 will total $3.7 trillion.  In one year.  Even if expenditures were frozen for 10 years (which is about as likely as another old cliche about somewhere freezing over,) the total for the decade would be $37 trillion.    Savings of $3 billion on $37 trillion is the equivalent of a family earning $50,000 saving - are you ready for this? - $4.05.  Yes, that's four dollars and five cents.  I double checked.  President Obama has essentially proposed skipping a Starbucks latte once a year.
    I further noted that the savings amounted to $300 million per year.  The President held a special event in the East Room of the White House to announce his plan, a plan that had its genesis in his 2011 State of the Union address.  The AP reported:
At the time, Obama grabbed attention by pointing out the absurdity of government inefficiency. In what he called his favorite example, Obama said: "The Interior Department is in charge of salmon while they're in fresh water, but the Commerce Department handles them when they're in saltwater. And I hear it gets even more complicated once they're smoked."
    Quite a dog-and-pony show to cut down on the "absurdity of government inefficiency" at a savings of $300 million per year, or about .0081% of the annual budget.  So when Mitt Romney was asked about cutting government expenditures and PBS and Big Bird entered the discussion, absurdity was taken to a whole new level.  Mitt Romney was given two minutes by Jim Lehrer to respond to the question or how he would address the deficit.  After saying that the deficit is a moral issue and enumerating ways to approach it (raise taxes, cut spending, economic growth), Romney decided to give two examples of spending he would go after,  one big and one small (despite the Obama Truth Team's assertion to the contrary).  Obamacare and PBS (or the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.)
Romney: "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. Obamacare’s on my list... I’m going to stop the subsidy to PBS. I’m going to stop other things. I like PBS, I love Big Bird... 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."
    Suddenly, according to President Obama and his campaign, saving the federal government $425 million per year is worthy of ridicule.  The last two days have seen multiple responses (videos, tweets, blog posts) belittling Romney use of PBS as a deficit reduction target.  Does the Obama campaign really want to argue that Sesame Street (which actually does very well via merchandising, thank you very much) is worth borrowing money from China?  The fact that Sesame Street gets only 10% of its funding from PBS only goes to emphasize the campaign's disingenuous righteous indignation towards Romney.  Ironically, Sesame Street is no Solyndra - it could easily stand on its own.  And yet the president is always talking about hundreds of millions in tax breaks going to Big Oil that doesn't need it seems anxious to give the impression that hundreds of millions to Big Bird makes perfect sense.

    Come to think of it, why not privatize the PBS and Sesame Street and Big Bird?  Then they could start paying taxes.  After all, in this case, they really didn't build that.  Somebody else did that.  The taxpayers.  We've had Big Bird's back all these years.  Now it's his turn to give back.

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