October 05, 2012

Horse 1372 - Romney vs Big Bird

Of course Romney is going to hate public broadcasting, unlike his friends at Fox News, the Washington Times and to a lesser extent the Tribune group, PBS and NPR do not toe the line for either political party. As the Republican Party has shifted to the right, its stance on the utility of public broadcasting must by inference from an ideological point of view also change. Obviously it follows that the smaller the role that government should play in the economy, the lesser that it should hold any form of public good, club good, public infrastructure or investment.
At the extreme right of the left-right spectrum is a point at which government plays precisely zero role in the economy whatsoever, and if a party moves closer to that position then its official views will also follow.

As the internet has come to democratise information, for-profit media outlets like newspapers are quickly driving themselves to oblivion. As the drive for profits becomes harder, news cycles become faster, news itself moves ever closer to the concept of Commodity Hell and the roles of proper journalists and subbies get cut from newsrooms, in an ever quickening spiral of reducing costs.
I myself am more of a creature of the left and I don't apologise for that but even I see the pointed irony that it is media organisations like the ABC, BBC and Deutsche Welle which by virtue of already supplying video, audio and text, were already across the technology required in the 21st Century and were better equipped to deal with the changes. In Australia, both News Corporation and Fairfax seemed to start out on the back foot; Murdoch has publicly asked for the abolition of the ABC despite it providing services which he would not provide because they'd be considered unprofitable.

Anyway, onto Romney's comment about PBS:
“I’m sorry, Jim, I’m gonna stop the subsidy to PBS. I like PBS; I love Big Bird. I actually like you too but I am not going to keep spending money on things... to borrow money from China to pay for.”
- Mitt Romney, 3rd Oct 2012

Basically Romney in the US Presidential Debate on 3rd Oct (US Time) has promised to defund PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) and probably by inference NPR (formerly National Public Radio).

PBS is unlike the BBC or ABC in that it doesn't entirely live in the government's pocket but has to beg for money from the public and for "sponsors", some of which it gets from private organisations, foundations and trusts. Both PBS and NPR are like the poor cousins of the BBC and ABC and by the term "poor cousins" I mean very very poor indeed.

The weird thing is that PBS programs like "PBS NewsHour", "Frontline" and even "Sesame Street", and NPR radio shows like "All Things Considered", "Morning Edition" and "Tell Me More", which get exported around the world have actually done more to promote American interests abroad than anything that NBC, ABC, CBS and Fox have ever put out. From an historical perspective, "Only A Game" which broadcast NFL matches into Germany during the building of the Berlin Wall and beyond into the merger with then AFL, also did its part in cheering US Servicemen abroad.
It seems to me that Romney hasn't considered exactly how PBS and NPR projects the United States' "image" abroad; nor does it seem to bother him much; possibly through ignorance.

PBS's budget accounts for about 0.012 percent of the entire US federal budget. To put that in perspective, it would be the same as me cutting 22c from my weekly pay packet, which isn't even enough to buy a single Chuppa Chupp.
Just over half the US Federal Budget is made of Medicare & Medicaid, Social Security and Defence Spending. Those first two sections of pie will grow massively over the next twenty years as the baby-boom starts drawing pensions, getting old and causing vast expenses. As for wanting to make cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, then that's pretty well much political suicide for anyone who attempts it.

According to the NRA, it has just over 4 million members. In contrast the AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) probably has 40 million members, or roughly ten times as many. And which parts of the US Federal Budget are the AARP more likely to lobby for? Well, they'll tell you straight off the bat:
"Protecting and strengthening Medicare and Social Security for the future are the very heart and soul of our mission."

- AARP's Website, A Vote For The Future
One thing that any candidate does not want to do is annoy 40 million voters at a single stroke.
This then suggests that the next big piece of pie is defence spending. For a nation which spends almost 5 times that of China on defence spending or more than the next 13 countries combined (including China), deliberately mentioning a cut of 12 thousandths of a percent on the television network you intend to defund smacks more of ideology than actual intent to do something about budget deficits because if you wanted to attack the spending pie, surely you'd start with the biggest pieces?

As for the rest of the debate between Obama and Romney, apart from partisan commentary who like to yell at each other like opposing groups of football fans from either end of the pitch, I can't say that there was anything much to interest me because it was simply devoid of actual substance. Really all I heard was more "spin" than a spinning top in a blender in a washing machine on a carousel.

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