Veronica Roberts

I think by now everyone would agree that the Muppets are a national treasure. Big Bird, Grover, Cookie Monster, Ernie, Bert, the younger Elmo and the rest of the beloved gang have lived on "Sesame Street" and entertained, taught us and our children since time immemorial.

So you could imagine my consternation when “debatee” Romney promised to “turn off the lights” by cutting federal funding for PBS during Wednesday night’s presidential debate. I’m sure the Muppets let out a collective gasp; I know the rest of us did. Facebook and Twitter is agog with funny depictions of the Muppets holding unemployment signs or staging revolts. One very catchy slogan I came up with is, "Romney, firing Sesame Street while coddling Wall Street." But let’s get serious for a minute.

Smiling one of his strange, misplaced smiles, Romney said this during the debate, addressing moderator Jim Lehrer, a long time PBS host, “I am sorry Jim, I am gonna stop the subsidy to PBS. I like PBS, I love Big Bird, I actually like you too but I am going to stop borrowing money from China to pay for things we don’t need.”

“Things we don’t need.” That simple statement is loaded with who Romney is and what kind of a leader he would be. He sees providing educational programs for children as unnecessary but another million in his pocket and that of fellow “one percenters” as absolute.

PBS’s CEO Paula Kerger called Romney’s threat “a stunning moment” during a CNN interview on Thursday. (Click on the video above for more).

I’m stunned by the sheer hypocrisy of this candidate and his party. They claimed that returning the tax code from George W. Bush days to the Clinton era, is raising taxes which millionaires and billionaires simply cannot afford because they are the “job creators.” Moreover, the GOP argument is discontinuing the tax breaks would not solve America’s huge deficit problem.

So let me see if I can wrap my head around the math or as President Obama likes to say “simple arithmetic.” Saving a couple trillion dollars in revenue through rescinding the Bush tax breaks for the super wealthy is not sufficient to make a dent in the U.S. enormous debt, but defunding PBS, which gets a couple hundred million, is an urgent solution?

Unemployment is at 8.1 percent, so the “job creators” have been pocketing tax breaks without delivering. That they continue to get away using that immoral argument is also stunning.

Having multi-millions at one’s disposal should not render anyone this obtuse, uncaring, unenlightened, selfish, or blind. Money should represent financial freedom, not be the sum total of all ones parts. I don’t think Romney sees anyone’s realities beyond his social boundaries. If he did, he would quickly realize that programs on PBS, especially those geared towards the education of our most precious resource-- our children—are an investment.

He would understand that many families do not have the financial resources to expose their children to much beyond their public school education, especially those who do not have the money for museum visits, science exhibits and the like. During the summer, numerous children spend the hot months in their inner city apartments or trailer parks, with not much to engage their minds.

If a poor family has three or four children, simply travelling during the summer or on weekends when kids free metro card for school is turned off, is a monumental feat. PBS bridges that gap for many and as astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson tweeted during the debate, “Cutting PBS support (0.012% of the budget) to help balance the federal budget is like deleting text files to make room on your 500Gig hard drive.” But I know this is a party who vilifies intellectuals and higher education (remember Rick Santorum’s “snob” comment in reference to Obama advocating college for every student?)

At the rate college tuition is escalating, I think they believe only the rich’s offspring should have access to higher learning. The sheer magnitude and ramifications of an entire class of youth, uneducated and unprepared for the competitiveness of our ever advancing world, is woefully lost on this crowd. Like Romney said in his secret video to wealthy donors, he’s not worrying about “those people.”

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