The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

October 10, 2012

Our View: Romney's critics miss the mark

The Joplin Globe

— During last week’s presidential debate, Romney identified public broadcasting as one of the targets of his budget cuts, should he be elected.

“I’m sorry, Jim. I’m not going to keep the subsidy to PBS,” Romney told moderator Jim Lehrer. “I like PBS. I love Big Bird. I actually like you, too. But I’m not going to keep spending money on things, borrowing money from China to pay for it.”

Critics pounced.

Doesn’t Romney see the educational value of these programs? Doesn’t he understand that public broadcasting gets just one one-hundreth of one percent of the federal budget? Eliminating the funding would “devastate” public broadcasting but it wouldn’t even put a scratch in the debt. Doesn’t he get it? Don’t they know that public broadcasting only costs $1.35 per American per year?

All true.

But here’s the point: It is time Americans had, with the help of our elected leaders, a serious conversation about the proper role and reach of the federal government. Too often our elected leaders have steered us away from that conversation in order to keep buying our votes.

Is it really the role of the federal government, which is now running deficits of more than a trillion dollars annually, to subsidize Big Bird?

The solution for PBS is to allow it to compete in the marketplace with all the other radio stations. With a demographic that’s better educated, more well informed and has more disposable income, PBS would more than likely make more money than it does now as a subsidized program.

If this argument is going to be about our children, then let’s talk about the $16 trillion national debt we’ve left them. That $1.35 doesn’t stack up so well now.

The conversation this nation needs to have may begin with Big Bird, but it will of necessity have to include the new health care program, defense spending, and ultimately the entitlements of Medicare and Social Security as well as corporate welfare. It won’t stand to gut funding for “Sesame Street” and other children’s programs if we continue as a nation to bail out and subsidize oil companies, big agriculture, Wall Street firms and more.

Even if it just one one-hundreth of the way, Romney opened the door.