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Geneseo Republic - Geneseo, IL
  • Amy Gehrt: Mitt Romney ruffles feathers during presidential debate

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  • The first debate between President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney could have been a game-changer.
    During the head-to-head matchup last week Obama seemed flat, while Romney, trying to score points in the wake of his infamous 47 percent comment, gave the performance of his life.
    Yet in the hours and days since then, Romney’s words have once again returned to bite him. Repeatedly. Independent fact checkers have had a field day with Romney’s apparent inability to tell the truth. In fact, according to nonpartisan organization ThinkProgress, “Romney told 27 myths in 38 minutes.”
    Even more illuminating, one so-called “fact” Romney rattled off about his health care plan was so far off the mark his own campaign called him out on it.
    But perhaps his biggest gaffe of the night was going after Big Bird and the rest of the “Sesame Street” crew.
    “I’m going to the stop the subsidy to PBS. I’m going to stop other things,” Romney said. “I like PBS. I love Big Bird. I actually like you, too,” he said to debate moderator Jim Lehrer. “But I’m not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for it.”
    Romney was clearly hoping the remark would resonate with voters who want a concrete plan for reining in the federal deficit. But, as it turns out, picking on one of the nation’s most beloved children’s characters makes one seem more like a bully than a financial leader willing to make the tough choices.
    It’s not difficult to see why, either. Like most Americans, I grew up watching “Sesame Street.” It helped teach me the alphabet, numbers, colors and even simple math and reasoning skills. Important life lessons many of us still carry with us today were also reinforced on the program. We learned social skills such as sharing, respecting others’ feelings and property, overcoming shyness, being friends with those who are different than you, controlling impulses ... the list goes on and on. Even difficult subjects such as death have been movingly tackled on “Sesame Street.”
    Admittedly, times have changed since I was a child. The cable explosion means there are far more channels from which to choose, and some are even devoted to children’s programming. However, much of it is mindless drivel, and even the rare educational offering falls far short of “Sesame Street.” Perhaps that is why so many parents still trust the iconic show to educate and entertain their little ones, even if they are fortunate enough to be able to afford cable.
    As PBS itself noted in a statement issued Oct. 4, “Our service is watched by 81 percent of all children between the ages of 2-8. Each day, the American public receives an enduring and daily return on investment that is heard, seen, read and experienced in public media broadcasts, apps, podcasts and online — all for the cost of about $1.35 per person per year.
    Page 2 of 2 - “Earlier in 2012, a Harris Interactive poll confirmed that Americans consider PBS the most trusted public institution and the second most valuable use of public funds, behind only national defense, for the 9th consecutive year. A key thing to remember is that public television and radio stations are locally owned and community focused and they are experts in working efficiently to make limited resources produce results. In fact, for every $1.00 of federal funding invested, they raise an additional $6.00 on their own — a highly effective public-private partnership.”
    In fact, according to the Huffington Post, financial statements show Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization that produces “Sesame Street,” actually earned $46.9 million in licensing revenue in 2011 — helping to pay 1,320 employees.
    Not all of the shows are so successful, of course, but they all still provide employment opportunities that wouldn’t be there otherwise. That knowledge certainly seems to poke holes in Romney’s “job creation” justification for eliminating public broadcasting programming, doesn’t it?
    And if the jobs report released Friday showing the unemployment rate had dipped to 7.8 percent — the lowest level since January 2009 — is any indication, the economy is improving, slowly but steadily, without the need to ruffle the feathers of millions of Americans by killing off Big Bird.
    Amy Gehrt may be reached at agehrt@pekintimes.com. The views expressed in this column are not necessarily those of the newspaper.

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