Occupy This: Keeping Our Piece

Sesame Street

Sesame Street (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Just to be perfectly clear: Mitt Romney has no plans on killing Big Bird. Our gigantic yellow friend is safe from the trophy mount, roasting pan, or where ever else a seven-foot tall fictional avian might go when he shuffles off his mortal coil. So while Mr. Romney’s proposal to cut funding for PBS (because when you are on a diet, the first thing you want to cut out is water) has many bad consequences, the demise of Sesame Street is not one of them.
The selling of Sesame Street, however, is. Without public financing, these programs will have to toe a line so as to not offend their corporate benefactors, just like every other show on television. They will have to bow to demands allowing product placement in their episodes, shilling high fructose corn syrup to your kids. Discussion of climate change will be right off the table on programs like Nova. So to will discussion of evolution, not that the CEOs, COOs, or CFOs actually care, but it might offend segments of their customer base and besides learning science might get people thinking again about the aforementioned climate change.
A friend suggested that if every PBS viewer, 170 million people, just kicked in one dollar a year more than what they already do when the fundraisers come around, that it would make up for the loss of public funds. This sounds like a great idea, if you don’t consider that many of those 170 million live paycheck to paycheck, and yeah $1 a year is not a lot, for almost everyone, but when you are living like that, you don’t exactly budget yourself and you don’t exactly think about what worthy causes are going to get your money.
This solution also ignores an important fact: the airwaves, all airwaves, belong to all of us to begin with. Asking for a pittance, really chump change compared to say the F-22 Raptor program, or comparable to the pay plus expense accounts of one party in a single chamber of Congress, to run what is essentially ours to begin with is not unreasonable. If we cut this funding, will PBS have to compete in auctions with other broadcasters just to get on the air? Would they be able to in that environment? We may not actually lose Big Bird, since Sesame Street probably makes plenty off licensing agreements, but we would lose Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, Nova and dozens of other, politically neutral, educational programs.
It is easy to say if we want it we can just pony up for it. “Why should people pay for a public broadcast system they don’t use,” you might ask. Fair enough, but then, why should my taxes go towards maintaining a military that can project force half way around the world when I would be perfectly content paying less for one that could only protect our borders. We have these things because they serve a broader public good, and we are willing to pay for them because it is both better, and cheaper to have them ready to go than to build them up when we do need them.
I will end this on a dire and blatantly partisan note. We need to ask ourselves why the candidate for the party that is so unapologetic about pandering to corporate interests (as opposed to being apologetic about it like their opponents) would want to cut such a small part of the federal budget to begin with? It could not be because they want to do everything in their power to control the flow of information to the public, could it? Don’t bother answering, if you have to think about it, I am not sure what I can say to convince you. We are in the middle of a struggle, one between the vast majority of Americans and a small but aggressive portion of the wealthy elites and the public officials they have groomed to act on their behalf,. The first weapon we have is knowledge, and they are doing everything in their power to disarm us.

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