It's been frustrating serving on the Ways and Means and Budget Committees, enduring the repetition of Republican talking points despite evidence to the contrary. Many of their unfounded claims and misguided efforts go unchallenged or fly under the radar, but the attack on Big Bird and public broadcasting may finally catch up with them. People may not understand the vagaries of Medicare and tax reform, but 170 million Americans know and understand Big Bird and public broadcasting.
When Americans were asked specifically if they felt the 15 cents of the public broadcasting dollar that is supplied by the federal government should be increased, decreased, or remain the same, the overwhelming majority wanted to increase or maintain funding, including nearly two-thirds of Republicans.
The Republican effort to attack public broadcasting and force Sesame Street to take advertising betrays an appalling lack of appreciation and understanding of what public broadcasting is and represents. A recent study demanded by public broadcasting's enemies in Congress reveals that there is no alternative to public funding and that advertising on Sesame Street would actually result in less money for public broadcasting because people would refuse to voluntarily contribute to watch commercial advertising.
Big Bird is not just another cartoon creature to be hawked by Disney or sugary breakfast cereals. He is a non-commercial friend of children who does not want anything from them other than to help them understand their world and learn.
The short-sighted, politically expedient, destructive approach to public broadcasting led by Mitt Romney characterizes the GOP approach to taxation and healthcare. Unlike taxes and healthcare, which can be muddied with faulty arithmetic, kneecapping Big Bird is a straightforward attack that the 170 million Americans who use and appreciate public broadcasting every month can easily see. The Republican strategy is the same, however: target a program that benefits millions of Americans but not specifically the top 1%, like Medicare, food stamps or PBS, launch a massively misleading campaign to convince voters it's a waste of money, and destroy it. It's shameless and we can't let them get away with it.
Public broadcasting has a long and storied history of educating the public. Perhaps we need Big Bird to educate Governor Romney about the value of public broadcasting and investing in services for the American public instead of coldly shutting them down. After all, if Big Bird can be friends with a Grouch, he can probably be friends with a bully.
Follow Rep. Earl Blumenauer on Twitter: www.twitter.com/repblumenauer