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June 18, 2005

Big Bird's Values are My Values

The Republicans are proposing some pretty huge cuts in funding for PBS -- $100,000,000, or 25% of PBS' budget. This should be an opportunity for any Democrat who wants to make a play for the parent vote -- unless you're worried about the liberal media contaminating your children's minds with literacy, you'll probably support PBS.

Another possible way for Democrats to gain ground in the culture wars, suggested by Matt Yglesias, is legislation that allows parents to buy some cable channels and not others. Republicans are against this measure because of cable company campaign contributions, and I think there's a lot to be gained in being the party of Family Choice Cable.

--Neil the Ethical Werewolf

June 18, 2005 in Media | Permalink


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The Dems should help the Republicans get this the floor for a vote. Then hold a press conference on the steps of Congress with Big Bird and Elmo. Let the Republicans explain why there is money to build a sewer in Sadr City, but not a dime to teach American children to read and count.

The scripts for the campaign commercials kind of write themselves, don't they.

Posted by: Kelly M | Jun 18, 2005 5:14:44 PM

Then the Dems can explain why taxpayer dollars are paying for programming that is so good, educational and in demand (I am not being facetious) that could be paid for in the free market. Someone will pick up all of the programs on PBS that are in demand.

PBS was started when there were 4 other channels on television to assure alternative, educational programming got out to the people. With cable and satelite TV, eductional DVDs available and the internet, PBS is no longer necessary.

Would you people still want the government to support PBS if it was not a liberal outlet?

Posted by: Captain Toke | Jun 18, 2005 6:03:58 PM

Unlike your trolling on the other post, Captain Toke, your comment here is worthy of response.

I support PBS because it's the best that TV has to offer kids. It's interesting to note that private channels haven't produced anything quite like Sesame Street. Furthermore, public TV is the only way to deliver an educational show that kids of all income levels will watch, without commercials where people try to sell things to them. There's no drive for product tie-ins or anything that would distract from the educational function of the programming.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Jun 18, 2005 6:34:33 PM

If it is the best, then the free market will recognize that and those programs that are in demand will continue.

Most public libraries have educational VHS tapes and DVDs. If someone is so poor that they don't have a VHS player, I doubt they have a TV.

Taxpayers are paying for something that can pay for itself.

I am sure if PBS were balanced and did not push a liberal agenda, there would be less resistance to fund it, but there would be calls from the right to cut off funding because the right has more confidence in the free market.

Posted by: Captain Toke | Jun 18, 2005 6:49:21 PM

If it is the best, then the free market will recognize that and those programs that are in demand will continue.

The free market votes educational programs first off the island every time.

The rest of your comment isn't worth commenting on. Are you really this much of an attention whore in real life?

Posted by: Doug | Jun 18, 2005 7:08:30 PM

Right on, Kelly - this one needs a good, stage-managed event with all the puppets present.....

Posted by: donna | Jun 18, 2005 7:14:07 PM

"legislation that allows parents to buy some cable channels and not others"

I think this is a really great idea. It may not be important enough to initiate a fight to the death with the cable companies (and their employees and maybe shareholders) for, but it's still a good idea.

Posted by: roublen vesseau | Jun 18, 2005 8:14:56 PM

Representative Nita Lowey (NY-18) is beating you guys to the punch. On Thursday, she brought Bert and Ernie puppets with her to the Labor H appropriations bill markup on Thursday. Also, ten years ago, the last time PBS funding was threatened, Mrs. Lowey invited Bert and Ernie to testify before the Appropriations Committee. Check out her press release, linked to below (sorry the link's kinda ugly, I don't know html):


Posted by: anon | Jun 18, 2005 8:19:16 PM

Screw the parents, I support being able to pick and choose which cable channels to subscribe to. There's an awful lot of crap and fluff that comes with my package that I'd just as soon not have cluttering up my dial (which it isn't, since I'm pretty ruthless about cutting out channels that I don't watch), and several other channels I'd love to get. I could happily trade all the "outdoor life" crap for a good hockey channel, the Golf Network for a nice liberal channel, the various "women's networks" for some more history and science channels, all the Spanish channels for some good Canadian and European feeds, etc.

Posted by: Michael | Jun 18, 2005 9:41:55 PM

Oh, and Captain, if the free market is such a fuckin' great thing, perhaps you'd care to explain how things like Enron and Tyco happened, or why MasterCard just announced that a hacker had gotten access to potentially 40 million credit card numbers. The free market cares about one thing, and one thing only: maximizing its profit. That's not a good model for public broadcasting (or education, for that matter).

Posted by: Michael | Jun 18, 2005 9:43:56 PM

Hey Michael, I believe the perpetrators of Tyco will be going to prison pretty soon and the Enron guys are right behind them.

If you would rather experience a socialist life, go to China or Cuba. They're living large in those places! Gonna get me a rice cooker from Fidel!

You are right, we don't want our students to compete, we don't want to reward hard work! And besides, the dumb kids might feel bad. Let's teach kids that everyone should be rewarded equally, no matter how hard you work. That DOES sound like our public schools.

Go read a history book about successful economies/societies, Michael.

Posted by: Captain Toke | Jun 18, 2005 10:14:08 PM

Go read a history book about successful economies/societies, Michael.

Like with debtor's prisons and poor laws? Love the unfettered power of capitalism. No need at all for us to look after the less able or the unlucky (e.g. is it the fault of poor children that their parents made poor decisions?)

Posted by: TJ | Jun 18, 2005 11:03:22 PM

The poor in this country live better than middle class people in most other countries. This country doesn't know poverty compared to much of the world.

The citizens of US are more generous towards it's own poor and the rest of the world's poor, more generous than any other country in the world, thanks to the free market.

Posted by: Captain Toke | Jun 18, 2005 11:21:12 PM

Actually, "Captain," you should take your own advice. (Truth in advertising: I'm a graduate student in modern European history.)

Posted by: Michael | Jun 18, 2005 11:42:39 PM

You might also want to quit toking and get out of the country and have a look around a bit. If you're correct (and you're not) that people in the U.S. are better off and more generous than people elsewhere, perhaps you could explain to me why I saw fewer people begging on the streets of Paris in 10 days this January than I see on the streets of Chicago each and every time I go there. Or why the French can take two hours every day for lunch, and get a month's paid vacation every year, while we're working longer and longer hours for paychecks that are worth less and less--and which lately haven't even been keeping pace with inflation unless you're in the managerial class, in which case you're on top of the world.

Posted by: Michael | Jun 18, 2005 11:45:57 PM

What's the unemployment rate there? It is around 9%, it is about 5% here. Yeah, I hear things are going great over in Europe!?

Per capita, US citizens (private donations and US tax dollars) are more generous than any other countries people.

Do you remember when they called us stingy during the tsunami, and we got the stastistics of most generous countries?

You must have been in a nice part of Paris. Go to Mexico sometime if you want to see poor.
Like I said, people considered 'poor' in the US live better than a lot of the world's middle class.

Posted by: Captain Toke | Jun 19, 2005 12:00:07 AM

By the way Michael, what country has the world's most powerful economy?

Like I said, educate yourself about successful economies/societies.

Posted by: Captain Toke | Jun 19, 2005 12:04:07 AM

I know everything I need to know about successful economies and societies. And that tells me that the United States is neither right now.

I was all over Paris. Some nice areas, some not-so-nice. And on the Métro at least twice a day. I still saw fewer beggars on the streets than I see walking the eight blocks from Northwestern Station down Madison Street to Michigan Avenue in Chicago.

Posted by: Michael | Jun 19, 2005 12:12:19 AM

Hey Michael, I believe the perpetrators of Tyco will be going to prison pretty soon and the Enron guys are right behind them.

You just don't get it. They arn't going to prison because of the free market, they are going to prison despite of the free market.

High unemployment. So what? They have far better safety nets. Being unemployed there isn't like being unemployed here.

Just what middle class are you talking about, that's worse off than our poor? You want to give an example? Because there is a tent city for the homeless just blocks from Microsoft. Think on that for a second. And the poor here.. What poor are we talking about? Because assuredly you do not mean the transients and immigrants who do the scut work in much of the nation. Newsflash: The free market at work. Health benefit cuts? Free market at work. It doesn't pay to keep employees healthy when you can just hire new ones. Sure, in the long run, its bad for economy - but companies are short sighted, and do what's best in the short term, because that is what keeps CEO paychecks rolling in. Again, the free market at work. Hypercapitalism is sheerest foolishness. A blind man could see these problems. Companies will toss anything into food as long as people will still eat it. They'll plant monocultures, drain aquifers, throw mountaintops in streams, scour the world for people desperate enough to work in sweatshop conditions and dig their own consumer base out from under them. They'll form monopolies and kick the theory of capitalism out from under themselves in the name of profit for them.

Regarding US generosity:

the United States government provides more total money in foreign aid than any other nation, the article reported, "when aid is calculated per U.S. citizen or as a percentage of the economy, the United States ranks among the least generous in the industrialized world." The article cited a 2004 study from the Center for Global Development and Foreign Policy magazine that "ranks 21 of the world's richest countries based on their dedication to policies that benefit the 5 billion people living in poorer nations worldwide." The study ranked the U.S. 19th out of 21 countries in terms of foreign aid. This measure combined public aid with private contributions attributable to tax breaks.*

Educate ourselves, yeah. You're pastin' talking points here, man.

It's not about rewarding everyone equally, no matter how hard they work. That's simply not true. I don't think it's even true of Marxists.

What it's about is that an advanced industrial society such as our own ought to be able to provide a basic living to everyone irregardless. There is nothing counter to the free market about this; providing everyone with an even starting point is, in my opinion, a sign of commitment to such principles.

Just recently the United States became a net food importer. Highly disturbing.

The grain used in feeding just the meat animals of the United States could feed the world.

It's safer to walk the streets in Yerevan(Armenia) at night than it is in many U.S. cities. Yerevan is classified as a hardship post by the State Department.

Posted by: Sandals | Jun 19, 2005 1:37:31 AM

*Disclaimer: Actually, only 1 billion+ people could be fed by the grain and soybeans consumed by US meat livestock. But that could probably make a dent, yeah.

Posted by: Sandals | Jun 19, 2005 1:40:37 AM

Take a deep breadth and realize that democrats are NO more intelligent or literate than republicans. This mistaken belief is predicated upon presumption not fact.

The real question is surrounding PBS is the opportunity cost that it presents. If Americans feel that it is necessary and the funds could not be more effectively deployed elsewhere the will continue to to support funding.

Working to create plan to resurrect the democratic party with Big Bird sounds naïve at best. What ails the party is far more substantive than Big Bird.

Posted by: simon | Jun 19, 2005 10:44:22 AM

------"The study ranked the U.S. 19th out of 21 countries in terms of foreign aid."

Sandal, your 'objective' study does not include the billions in taxpayer money that goes to the UN each year(22% of the UNs overall budget, as a matter of fact) and the billions in military aid sent around the world.

I bet if you added that American generosity to the total, America would be #1 in money spent per person. But you don't want America to be #1.

Like I said, this country doesn't the meaning of poor. If you don't believe me, just go on down to Mexico. And Mexico is just one of hundreds of examples of places that have it a lot worse off than we do.

Sandal, read up on the poor and homeless in San Francisco.

Posted by: Captain Toke | Jun 19, 2005 10:53:34 AM

Captain Toke, this country is great, but it was not made great by people who rested on their laurels and dismissed every proposal with "we're fucking great already, we don't need to change. And everyody who disagrees can kiss my American butt." One of the traditional strengths of America has been its ability to ruthlessly criticize itself, and then to change for the better. When you stifle dissent, you undermine America's ability to change for the better, and you weaken America.

Posted by: roublen vesseau | Jun 19, 2005 11:46:28 AM

roublen, I agree we shouldn't rest on our laurels. But don't call this country stingy or greedy when in fact when you factor in ALL aid we give to our own people and the people of the world (foreign aid, military aid, UN contributions, public and private donations), when you factor ALL the aid given by this country, we give more per person than ANY other people on Earth.

There is nothing wrong with questioning authority or debate, but too many people instinctively blame America first.

Posted by: Captain Toke | Jun 19, 2005 1:12:45 PM

Fuck any funding of media by government. It ain't complicated.

Posted by: Robert Zimmerman | Jun 20, 2005 10:27:27 AM

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