June 19, 2024

Just the Facts: Why is Big Bird in the National News?

Attention High School West: the verdict is in.  All of your problems, from your inability to play Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 on the kazoo to your continual lack of funds to put towards this awesome Star Wars Tauntaun Sleeping Bag(this writer is dangerously out of touch with the problems of the average high schooler) are due to the thieving antics of that child-indoctrinating, giant, yellow fiend: BIG BIRD.  Or so the Obama campaign would like you to believe the Romney campaign is saying.

Hold up, why are adults talking about Big Bird?  Rewind to the presidential debate on October 3rd.   During that debate, Mitt Romney made some comments about the budget, specifically his plans to cut the deficit, “I like PBS. I love Big Bird. Actually, I like you [Jim Lehrer], too, but I’m not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for.”  So, Mitt Romney feels that a federal subsidy to PBS is not worth borrowing money from China for.  It could have been a statement soon forgotten after the debate if it wasn’t for an ad from the Obama Campaign mocking the statement. One thing led to another and soon Big Bird was all over the news – until Sesame Street requested that the ad be taken down.

But lost in this discussion is the actual substance of what Romney said: Big Bird and PBS are discretionary federal expenses that he believes should be cut to help shrink our deficit.  If Big Bird does get the budget ax, will that even have a noticeable effect on the federal budget? Does it matter? To answer that, let’s look at actual budget data.

In 2011, the federal government spent $725 billion on Social Security, $700 billion on defense, $755 billion on Medicare and Medicaid, $545 billion on welfare programs, $227 billion in interest on the debt, and $646 billion on everything else the federal government does.

PBS’ entire federal subsidy for 2012 was $223 million or 0.0012% of the total federal budget.

One would think that it would be common knowledge that the vast majority of the federal budget is the big five programs – Medicare, Medicaid, welfare, Social Security, and defense – and interest on the national debt.  But according to a poll taken in 2007, most people thought that NASA took 24% of the national budget, when in reality it only took 0.58%.

So, fellow High School West students, The Roundup hopes you learned something today about Uncle Sam’s finances. Good day.


This column was sponsored by the letter “B”.