Think about your life and how long you’ve been alive. Many of you are probably a few decades old if not older. In your life, have you ever had to tell someone to breathe because they just decided not to? I’m not talking about people who have some kind of trauma and you’re standing over their chest performing CPR and imploring them to take a breath. I’m talking you and some guy just sitting on the bench enjoying the afternoon in the park, or you and a friend out to dinner.
Did you ever have to beg someone to take a breath?
I know I haven’t, but there’s a very simple reason for that.
Breathing is important, and I don’t have to convince you of that fact.
A few years ago during the election, we were told that PBS is the single most important cultural thing on the planet. If we cut funding for PBS we would be sending the United States into a cultural abyss from which it would never recover and it would be all the fault of greedy capitalists who didn’t understand the importance of culture, education, and non-corporate entertainment. The same argument was made a few years earlier with regards to NPR. You can’t allow “corporate” radio to take over; we need a counterbalance to corporate radio!
PBS makes most of its money through donations and grants from private foundations. A chunk of PBS’ budget is funding from the Federal Government. In spite of the fact that PBS claims that it’s a small percentage of their funding, they’ll fight you tooth and nail to keep it because it guarantees that their programming will never be subject to market whims and demands. Even as it’s being beat into us that the money isn’t that important, we’re also being told that taking it from them would amount to slitting the throat of Big Bird.
Oh. Big Bird. I nearly forgot about him.
You see, as PBS held its hand out for federal money at a time when the federal government needs to cut spending, Big Bird and his pals over on Sesame Street are raking in the dough. Despite not wanting to be capitalist and run ads, Sesame Street’s merchandising could fund a portion of the operating budget way larger than what the federal government is handing them. While PBS profits from the money it takes in as part of its marketing strategy to put Sesame Street toys in front of every child, it’s returning nothing back to the taxpayer for the money it takes. It is essentially taking money simply because it’s there to be taken.
The argument is that this programming is important. We can’t be without it. So we’re begging you to fund what’s important!
Wait a second. If it’s important, why do you have to beg me?
If Bill Moyers and Sesame Street and Masterpiece Theater and all these things are so relevant, why the begging? Why the federal funding? If it mattered that much to people, they would be falling over each other to open up their checkbooks and write one out. Instead, we have to be told how important it is so that we can truly grasp it, and it’s never taken into consideration that maybe some people don’t feel it’s important, or that they do and it’s just not important enough to actually shell out some cash for.
This is the problem with government doing what’s good for us: they make the decision unaccountably, spend the money unaccountably, then use that spending to curry favor and votes all the while forgoing the simple logical check of “is this actually important?” That part doesn’t matter to them; only getting votes matters.
There is a world of difference between “nice” and “important,” and that which is “nice” isn’t always “important.”