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Bush the grouch

Here' another fine moment in the history of soaring political oratory.

"Oscar the Grouch has been friendlier to the Sesame Street characters than President Bush, who has chosen to make huge cuts to children's television programming," said Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass.

Yep, it's time once again to re-fight the political battle over PBS funding. Some fights never get old, huh?

The article I linked above says that Bush's proposed budget could strip more than $150 million in federal funding from the CPB over the next two years. It's hard to gain an overall sense of perspective, though, because the article never tells us what the current level of federal funding is.

Well however much it is, it's that many dollars too many. Yeah, I guess that means I live in a garbage can too, along with our big ol' meany grouch president.

I'll admit that in a $2.7 trillion budget, public broadcasting funds amount to a piss in the ocean, but in a way, that's sort of the point. If we're going to balk at trimming some nickel-and-dime yuppie subsidy like public broadcasting, what hope do we possibly have of taming the really unruly political beasts in the budget?

Look, it's not 1970 anymore. When I was born, there were basically three television channels... if you were lucky. If you lived in a rural area, you probably couldn't even get them. Nowadays, with the advent of cable TV and satellite radio, there are more channels than one can realistically keeps track of, including many which offer the same type of high-brow fare which supporters have always used to justify PBS in the past.

With 10 jillion TV channels already out there, do we really want to spend hard-earned federal tax monies in the face of rising deficits just to make it a jillion and one?

And although this is not going to be very politically correct, I'm going to say it anyway. Who watches PBS? Who sits through those interminable and excruciating commercials on "non-commercial" TV in order to watch Peter Paul & Mary's 97th reunion concert, or "The Three Tenors?" Seriously? Is it

  1. Single-parent, underprivileged minority households in the Bronx, or
  2. Dirt-poor West Virginia coal miners for whom Velveeta is the base of the food pyramid, or
  3. Upper West Side urban professionals who happily pay six dollars for a soy vanilla latté?

Here's a hint: it's number 3. The CPB is an upper middle class entitlement, a regressive wealth transfer to the most affluent members of society. Sorry, but it's true.

And that whole "Oscar" business is a red herring anyway, since the enormous commercial success of the "Sesame Street" franchise makes it inconceivable that Oscar and Big Bird and Elmo would disappear absent taxpayer subsidies.

So what? So Bush's mistake was in not slashing the budget to zero.

Yeah, I'm sure there are plenty of people out there who disagree with me. But you know what? Just save it until after the budget process is complete, okay?

Why? I'll tell you why. Dollars to donuts, whatever cuts Bush is recommending in his budget will be put back long before the budget becomes reality. Every single dime of it. Mark my words.

If I'm wrong? Then come yell at me.


So Barry,
You were born in 1970?

Alas, no. I was born in 1966.

You're right, $150M is a piss in the ocean. Why not start with something really wasteful? Why not cut the tens of billions in subsidies to oil companies?

I guess I'm validating Barry's point because I have to admit, I like public broadcasting. My daughter watches the PBS kid shows, and I watch Nova, Frontline and Wide Angle. And my favorite Newark, NJ jazz radio station, WBGO, gets a large part of it's operating budget from public funding.

Most of those educational shows would not be on the air were PBS forced to compete with the mind-numbing Disney Channel for ad revenues, and there isn't a wide market for an all-jazz radio station.

Out of all the targets for cuts, I would have to rank public broadcasting as some of the best money spent by our government. And unfortunately, there just aren't enough people like me in America to make a privately-funded PBS a commercial success.

While we're at it, maybe we could do away with federal art patronage altogether.
And is anyone else out there old enough to remember when schools did just fine without a Department of Education?
Don' get me started...

First, having worked in the Bronx housing projects, I can tell you that there are a lot of families who watch televsion with the rabbit ears and, while a majority of the poor these days have cable or satellite, there are a significant number still who don't.

Second, if you just want to stick it to urban professionals, you could also close down Yosemite as most of the hikers there are not miners from West Virginia. Same goes for the Grand Canyon and, since they have bears at Disney World now, I think it is time we sold Yellowstone to developers.

That and last night's Frontline on the sex trade between the Ukraine and Turkey was devestating. Frontline alone is a great program, unmatched in my view in its fairness by any commercial network as it is a program that could produce a documentary on George Bush (the one on his faith) that could be loved by both a Bush lover such as Valerie and a Bush #%@#er like myself. I send in my money, but I also vote to allow some tax dollars to support PBS.

So, PBS does broadcast a lot of very good things - those great Ken Burns documentaries and the 10 hour "Free to Choose" special broadcast way back when (1979 or 1980?) which was in my view, perhaps, the greatest single defense of the Free Market since Jefferson's day, and Frontline - there IS clearly a market for such things.

The History Channel and the Discovery Channel don't get the ratings that some other cable networks glom either, but Discovery hasn't "gone under," in fact it's even spun off some other versions, including a documentary channel that DOES broadcast many of those Ken Burns pieces.

Would Freidman's great program and Frontline be without a home if PBS weren't around to air them?

Let's say, worst case scenario, yes, that is, they wouldn't be broadcast. Well, I like Kieth Oberman too (liked him since his days on ESPN), but he's getting slayed being up against FOX's Bill O'Reilly. Should I be able to get the government to step in and save Oberman's show too?

There IS a market for really well-produced educational TV, but it's smaller than the market for soft porn and soaps. THAT reality isn't an indictment of public tastes, they are what they are, and there have always been and probably always will be far more people who'd prefer to watch "pure entertainment" and fantasy during their leisure hours than those who'd want to watch educational programming.

The good news is that with the advent of cable TV the pie has been split into much smaller pieces allowing for a lot more niche programming, like the History Channel, etc. Not all the networks can compete for the same softporn and fantasy viewers, many will have to exist by filling in specific niches, from the Animal Planet to the various Discovery Channels, to Court TV, etc.

Now I don't like government funds going for Corporate R&D and to energy companies for developing alternative energy programs either. Those monies SHOULD come out of profits, and under normal market conditions, they do. Private companies (yes, publically traded companies, ARE private enterprises) have a right to "adjust" their profit ratios, within a competitive market to increase R&D and to expand operations.

Right now, so long as oil remains under $100/barrel, many ways to produce oil that would rid America of its foreign dependence, are simply not cost effective.

Once oil exceeds $100/barrell, the gasification of coal, which we have a huge supply of, and getting oil from oil sands and shale (both of which the U.S. & Canada have in tremendous abundance) become much more cost effective, relative to the market price and with further advances in technology, the processes by which coal, oil sands and shale can be made to produce oil will become cheaper still.

In short, there is NO need for government/"the taxpayer" to subsidize energy companies at all.

The world's energy conglomerates are all currently doing exactly the right thing, using up the world's cheap oil (ie. OPEC oil currently being sold at below market rates). Once that "cheap oil" exceeds a given price mark, then other technologies will eradicate the necessity for using that particular source of oil...and eventually other forms of alternative fuels may ultimately replace oil all together.

BUT the government shouldn't be funding what the energy companies already have a stake in and a responsibility for.

If this were a vote, I'd vote to eradicate BOTH energy company subsidies AND the funding for PBS, as both are unnecessary and unwarranted.

JMK: You like Oberman? Wow, I'd have never thought...

BTW, the History channel is probably the most popular channel in our house.

Oberman's a funny guy!

The History Channel is great.

For now it seems that BOTH corporate welfare and subsidized programming like PBS & NPR will continue.

Bill Moyers has claimed the current administration is trying to purge PBS of its Liberals, while many others have complained of their persistent pro-Liberal, anti-Conservative bias. If they were able to run on some kind of fee, or pay-per-view, schedule, or raise their entire operating budget through those telethons, it would free them from the politics that come along with such subsidies, depending upon the whims of those in power.

Given the relative pittance that the funding represents along with a strong hunch that there are far more egregious wastes in the federal budget, I have no problem with the funding.

There is still some wonderful quality programming on PBS. For my fellow conservatives who can't stand Bill Moyers, I suggest you simply not watch him.

BTW, I still love Oberman even if I don't care for his politics. He is back with Dan Patrick on ESPN Radio from 2-3 p.m. weekdays and they are as terrific as ever!

Also have to throw in with the History Channel fans. It is always a source of good viewing (although my wife refers to it as the Nazi Channel for its many programs about Hitler's Germany!).

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