During last week's presidential debate in Denver, Mitt Romney prompted one of the most memorable moments of the night when he told moderator Jim Lehrer, of PBS NewsHour, "I like PBS, I love Big Bird, I actually like you too, but I'm going to stop borrowing money from China to pay for things we don't need."
Since the debate, which most pundits say Romney won, President Obama has zeroed in on Romney's promise to cut government funding of PBS. Obama joked the day after that Romney was "finally getting tough on Big Bird," and the campaign released an ad mocking Romney for the statement. "Mitt Romney knows it's not Wall Street you have to worry about—it's 'Sesame Street,'" says the narrator of the ad. (The nonpartisan Sesame Street Workshop has asked that both campaigns stop using Sesame Street characters in political ads.)
Supporters of Romney's proposed cuts argue that with the country facing a debt crisis, Sesame Street and other PBS programming can find ways to continue without the government's help. Critics point out that the federal subsidy to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (which provides funding to PBS, as well as NPR) makes up a minuscule part of the budget and most of the money it receives goes to supporting member stations, with those in rural areas especially dependant on the funds. "Elimination of funding would have virtually no impact on the nation's debt. Yet the loss to the American public would be devastating," said PBS in a statement released after the debate.
Should government spending for PBS be cut? Here is the Debate Club's take:
Patrick Butler President and CEO of the Association of Public Television Stations
Michael R. Strain Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.
Elisabeth Jacobs Fellow at the Brookings Institution.
Mattie Duppler Director of Budget and Regulatory Policy at Americans for Tax Refor