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January 25, 2015

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Letter to the editor:

PBS education worth investment

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Gov. Mitt Romney took a big gamble with his statement that he would cut funding for PBS, home of Big Bird and other American public programs.

Sesame Street is watched by four out of five children younger than 5, according to PBS. It is currently watched in more than 120 countries. A survey this year said Americans consider PBS the most trusted public institution and the second-most valuable use of public funds behind only national defense.

With the yearly government funding of $430 million to PBS, it may seem like a lot of money to spend, but it is a tremendous bang for the buck with so many millions of viewers watching it every day, mainly young children. This is probably the best educational program in the world.

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  1. Agree completely, Sam. Good article.

    PBS has been a political hot potato for decades. Conservative Republicans don't like some of the documentary programs or opinions, so cut the funds. The flat earth society just can't allow freedom for people who disagree with them.

    Gee, sounds like the Taliban.

    We can't even have a beneficial public broadcasting system without politician's screwing it up for political gain. Romney did that in the debate.

    Add to that, Romney likes firing people. I guess that includes birds too.

  2. And all this time I thought Romney was for the birds!

  3. Big Bird is not the issue. It's whether taxpayers borrow 40 cents on every dollar to keep funding Big Bird. Then, pass that unpaid debt, with interest, along to future generations of Americans to pay off. That's the real issue Americans face, not Big Bird.

  4. A lot of new taxes for all Americans have to be added, a lot of government spending must be cut or we must do some of both to avoid a financial catastrophe.

    PBS could and most likely would survive without a government subsidy.

    What taxes (other than taxing the wealthy, which is not nearly enough to close the deficit or pay down the debt) do Pisces41 and Peacelily suggest? Other than cutting the military, which again doesn't provide near the revenue we need) what cuts do Pisces41 and Peacelily suggest?

    It's easy to criticize but much tougher to come up with real ideas?

    And Peacelily, if you really want to see the 'entire' context of Romney's remarks where he said he likes to be able to fire people, go to instead of reading the Daily Kos.

    You didn't like it when the President's remarks of 'you didn't build that' were taken out of context and you were justified in your outrage. When you turn around and accept the same with Ronmey, it damages credibility.


  5. Funding for PBS is a private matter. It is not a government function to provide for private entertainment. Romney was absolutely correct to point to PBS funding as something to cut out. It is symbolic of the way government expands beyond its limits. In fact the private community is prepared to fully fund PBS based on its popularity.
    If it is not, the outlet will by lack of popular support disappear. I seriously believe that the private donations would be forthcoming. Nonetheless,this is not a valid expenditure for tax payer support.

  6. PBS is not "entertainment," it is a vital educational resource for children and the public, and its funding is absolutely justified.

  7. Here's a non-partisan explanation of the real issue, minus the distractions of the details like Big Bird.

    Takes about 6 minutes. Worth the view. Enjoy.


  8. El Lobo,

    Bush and the R's did spend like drunken sailors. So has Obama and the D's. And they will continue to do so if re-elected. If Romney / Ryan are elected, they will spend like drunken sailors.

    It always amuses me when D supports are soooo afraid that R's will cut everything!

    Look at history! Do we really have a party that cuts government spending? No, we do not!


  9. The reason government's can't cut back on spending is that there is a never ending stream of people lining up for government benefits. Big Bird is wealthier than all of us put together. He doesn't need the help. The single mom that's pushing her broom at Walmart for eight bucks an hour does. Until there is more equitable wealth distribution around the world and much higher wages you will NEVER see significant spending cutbacks.

  10. El Lobo gets it right.

    The debt hysteria that has come over the modern GOP is unlike anything we have ever seen. It's a hysteria which got an entire class of tea party activists elected to the House.

    Unlike traditional republicans, tea party activists, who have hijacked the agenda of the GOP, will act on cuts to PBS, NPR, Planned Parenthood and the like because those entities are dog whistles to the GOP base.

    Will they cut overall spending? Probably not, as Mitt Romney's plan calls for a 4% of GDP floor for defense spending. That level entails a large leap increase in defense spending. Add to that their glee at sabre-rattling on Iran and Syria, and you've got a potent cocktail for years of deficit spending.

    In essence, the question becomes: if we're borrowing money, do we want to spend it on educational resources like PBS, critical healthcare for women at Planned Parenthood, or spend it on unending wars in the Middle East?

  11. "I have found it advisable not to give too much heed to what people say when I am trying to accomplish something of consequence. Invariably they proclaim it can't be done. I deem that the very best time to make the effort." Calvin Coolidge


  12. Kevin,

    I actually agree that the GOP is unlikely to cut spending, especially in defense. They would cut some programs you favor, if they could, but they'd never get the cuts through Congress.

    What worries me is the President Obama and the D's won't cut much either, except defense, and combined with their small tax increase of the wealthy, leaves us with huge deficits and increasing debt.

    I understand your criticism of R's but aren't you worried about the fact that neither party has shown a willingness to actually reduce the cost of government.


  13. RefNV:
    "Romney's plan calls for linking the Pentagon's base budget to Gross Domestic Product, and allowing the military to spend at least $4 dollars out of every $100 the American economy produces."

    "With the Pentagon's base budget -- which does not include war costs -- forecast to hit 3.5% of GDP in 2013, a jump to 4% would mean an increase of around $100 billion dollars in defense spending in 2013."

    "The additional spending really piles up in future years. Compared to the Pentagon's current budget, Romney's plan would lead to $2.1 trillion in additional spending over the next ten years, according to an analysis conducted for CNNMoney by Travis Sharp, a budget expert at the Center for a New American Security."

    "And that number assumes a gradual increase to 4% of GDP. The additional spending would hit $2.3 trillion over a decade if the Pentagon's budget were to immediately jump to 4% of GDP."

    "this is the third time I've questioned your stats this week"

    Yes, and this is the third time this week you've been wrong.

    "Also, do you or did you work for the Las Vegas Sun now or in the past?"

    And what if I had worked for the Sun in the past? That wouldn't change the fact that you're wrong and I'm right when it comes to projected spending by the Pentagon.

  14. From the LA Times fact check on the VP debate:

    "Ryan's own proposed budget would indeed halt the defense cuts, but Romney reiterated his plan in a foreign policy address on Monday to establish a budgetary floor for defense spending -- no less than 4% of gross domestic product."

    "Defense spending slipped below 4% of GDP in 2000, before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, but rose with the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the Council on Foreign Relations."

    "Obama is set to reduce the Pentagon's budget by $478 billion over the decade, as he seeks to push the rate back down to the pre-2001 era."

    "Excluding war costs, the base defense budget is set to hit 3.5% of GDP this fiscal year, according to a study conducted by the Center for a New American Security for CNN Money."

    "That study said Romney's promise of a 4% floor would add as much as $2.1 trillion to the Pentagon budget over the decade."

  15. RefNV, your spin is pretty funny.

    I notice you provided no factual basis for refuting the analysis by CNAS. You can attack the source as biased, but if you can't attack their analysis, then all you're left with is spin.

    Speaking of spin, you cite defense spending as a percentage of GDP during two wars, a period of time which is not representative of a future administration, unless you believe we will be entangled in two simultaneous wars during the Romney administration. Couple your misleading comparison with Romney's own words about the 4% floor for Pentagon spending, and the picture changes dramatically, doesn't it?

    As for "confusing" your statistics with the labor participation rate, go back and read what I wrote. I said your claim was misleading and cited Politifact and the Brookings Institution.

    "This exercise, though, assumes that the entire drop in the labor force participation rate from January 2009 to the present is a result of discouraged people giving up on looking for work. It ignores the fact that the baby boomers are hitting retirement age, meaning that demographics would probably bring down the labor force participation rate even if the economy were booming. Gary Burtless, an economist at the Brookings Institution, estimates that half of the decline in the labor force participation rate "can be traced to an aging population." The calculation above also ignores the fact that a higher share of young people are going to college, and are staying out of the work force temporarily while they improve their skills."

    Politifact concurs:

    "We also checked a jobs claim from conservative group the American Future Fund, that the United States now has the "lowest workforce since (President Jimmy) Carter." The ad includes a significant inconsistency about dates, and it uses the word "workforce" incorrectly. By a different measure -- the civilian labor force participation rate -- its claim is not far off. However, not all the blame for the low participation rates today has to do with the recession and slow recovery under Obama. Another significant cause is the aging of the Baby Boomer generation. We rated the claim Mostly False."

    You continue to cite a single statistic without referencing parallel statistics which tell a very different story. I'm filling in the gaps you're leaving out, so I understand why it flusters you when the whole picture is presented.

  16. Bob_Realist (Bob Realist),

    Unless and until Americans demand and force Congress to spend at least as much effort and time reviewing the effectiveness of what they put in place as they do putting new stuff in place, we have no chance of any reforms or reductions.

    Take the Libya fiasco. It Congress or either party wanted this stuff to stop, it's easy. You just enact legislation that says that when any government employee, all the way up to cabinet members is subpoenaed to appear before Congress, they must appear and testify under oath. If it is later determine they lied, the punishment would be a 1 million dollar fine and a year in jail.

    If that was done, underlings would stop doing the bidding of their bosses and the higher ups would be afraid to lie to a Congressional committee, something they do routinely now.


  17. Get PBS off the government payroll.It's private entertainment, and should be supported by private sector donations.Romney has the correct ssessment, and philosphy. Ksand99 will have to get out his checkbook although he'd rather be on the dole.I'm sure that rich millionaire and billionaire progressives, like George Soros, would support it. While the programing is terrific, that doesn't entitle it to federal funds Ksand99.

  18. Ref, your data on defense spending as a % of GDP includes two wars both of which were personnel, ammunition, equipment, and transport intensive. The valid criterion is not $s spent or % of GDP, but whether the particular Dollar spent returns the most benefits to us as a nation. The failure to discuss specifics becomes a real problem. Just because something can be put under the heading of "Defense" does not mean that it is either sacred or the best use of money.

  19. "Participation rate is different than the actual percentage of the population working. The participation rate includes those who are actively seeking employment but who aren't currently working. Two different things. Perhaps you just don't understand the difference Kevin and if that is the case then that's okay."

    Again, read what I wrote, Ref. You're taking a single statistic and weaving quite a tale from it. When one looks at more than just that single statistic, things look much different than how you portray them.

    "A 4% cap on defense spending is an attainable goal."

    You're missing the point, of course. Currently, under the baseline, non-war Pentagon spending will be 3.5% of GDP. If Romney holds to his word, he will increase this spending to 4% of GDP. That's where the large increase in defense spending under his proposed plan comes from... the increase that you can't disprove.

    What the GOP and tea party don't understand is that liberals and the left want a strong defense, but it shouldn't have an arbitrary floor. Our defense spending should adapt to the challenges we face. To dump that additional .5% of GDP into defense spending during peacetime will not make us more secure and will only increase the deficit and debt. If we're spending above 4% now while engaged so heavily around the world, doesn't the Romney proposal of a 4% floor seem too high to you?

    In fact, you inadvertently proved my point by citing military spending (as a percentage of GDP) under Obama, which has increased, not decreased. When you look at the data, your chicken little "The Sky is Falling" cries about defense spending don't add up.

  20. Mike: I've repeated this many, many times. To drastically cut government spending during a slow economic recovery is a recipe for a new recession.

    The sensible thing is to see the deficit as a mid-range issue, not a short-term issue. In the short term, the government should be fostering growth in every manner it can, which includes running a deficit and increasing the debt.

    When a stable rate of growth has been fostered, the focus can shift toward cutting the deficit and, in the long-term, reducing our debt obligations. Paying off our debt is a goal, but paying off debt does not create jobs in the short-term, which is and should be our focus.

    In this manner, Romney's plan itself just doesn't add up. He simultaneously claims he will cut all tax rates, including the corporate tax rate, but not reduce tax revenue. That means the same share of taxes will be removed from the economy. How does that create jobs?

    If GE pays $0 in taxes this year and $0 in taxes next year, there's no economic incentive to create jobs. Romney's employment plan is a myth.

  21. One thing about leftists - they are consistently inconsistent. They rail against "1 percenters," yet worship many of them. Osama Obama, Nancy Pelosi, John Kerry, Warren Buffet, etal, are but the tip of the iceberg. I guess it's not the "rich" they loath, just the "rich" who do not agree with their Marxist "Social Justice" agenda. Then there are guys like Kevin Sandoval who cite GE as a company that pays no taxes on much of its profits yet doesn't seem to have a clue as to the fact that Jeffery Immelt, its CEO, was picked by Osama Obama to head one of his many dopey committees. If GE is so bad, what made Osama Obama choose its CEO? Politics and a similar mind set, apparently. As for Public Broadcasting, it can stand on its own 2 feet. It needs no support from taxpayers unless its meant to enrich PBS' executives. The top dog makes a couple of million a year. I'd say that puts him high up on the "1 percenters" list. You watch Channel 10? You can keep it alive by sending in the 49 bucks they beg for.

  22. Ref, you've proven yourself to be quite the broken record. It's clear you cannot or will not look at or acknowledge any data that does not reinforce your preconceived notions.

    "I referenced the percent of the population actually working which is 58.7%."

    And, as I've repeated multiple times, that single statistic does not tell the full story. You must be able to look at the whole picture, not just the single ratio of working to non-working individuals. You intentionally push that single statistic and refuse to acknowledge anything that gives context.

    One data point does not shed enough light on the problem, no matter how much you repeat yourself.

    It's how I know you're misleading people, Ref.

  23. Discretionary non-essential costs unrelated to the enumerated powers are going, going, gone or we're like Greece real soon. Big Bird will do OK without government help. There will be a bidding war for the rights. An IPO would do well.

  24. Defense costs can be decimated with a little effort. For example, "contractors" are sent overseas into battle zones at GREAT EXPENSE just so politicians can say we've pulled all our troops out. 30,000 contractors in Iraq at $300,000 each. When will someone figure out that Generals and Admirals cannot figure out when to leave but want to stay forever and ever--whether nation building or training, or retraining or finding a new threat another chance that terrorists are being born there.

  25. Great letter Mr.Pizzo. I remember when television first started and most thought it was a great tool to be used for education and informative news, PBS is just that.

    Those millions used to fund PBS can't compare to the corporate welfare billions given to companies making huge profits, who also outsource American jobs.

    Obviously some on the far right prefer to watch Looney Toons than PBS ... tha! tha! tha! ... that's all folks!

  26. These two sentences directly contradict each other:

    "What you fail to communicate is other then a true cut in Defense spending by Obama all other spending is reduction in the rate of growth of all of the other programs."

    "Spending in 2012 is $3.8 trillion yet the 10 year budget is $47 trillion. Or an average of $4.7 trillion per year."

    In one sentence you demean a reduction in the rate of growth, and in the next you cite figures which take that rate of growth into account. Try to stay consistent, Future.

    But Future: I'm glad you've figured out how to do averages. It's a neat trick most people learn in 4th grade. But you intentionally leave out a ton of context.

    Yes, government spending increases in the 10 year window... as a dollar amount.

    What else increases in the 10 year window? GDP. Guess what lowers as a percentage in the 10 year window? Spending as a percentage of GDP.

    First, some corrections to the figures you threw out there without citing a source. CBO estimates released in August have outlays for FY2012 at 3.56 trillion, not 3.8 trillion. Further, the 10 year window is estimated at 43 trillion, not 47 trillion.

    Secondly, if you only look at spending, rather than the ratio between spending and GDP, then you're intentionally misleading our fellow commenters. Let's look at both:

    Estimated GDP: 15.5 trillion
    Estimated Outlays: 3.56 trillion
    Outlay as % of GDP: 22.9%

    Estimated GDP: 24.7 trillion
    Estimated Outlays: 5.5 trillion
    Outlay as % of GDP: 22.3%

    Estimated GDP: 201.6 trillion
    Estimated Outlays: 43.8 trillion
    Outlay as % of GDP: 21.7%

    Over the entire 10 year window, estimated outlays average 21.7% of GDP. That's a savings of over 3 trillion dollars in that 10 year window, just in the baseline... from the "reduction in growth" that you disdain.

    Yes, goverment spending as a dollar amount increases... but what you don't mention is that GDP is estimated to rise faster than spending. That's how you get out of an economic hole. We're estimated to be spending a smaller amount of our total economic output on government in 2022.

    That the truth you and your buddies in the GOP won't admit. Even if we do nothing, government spending as a share of GDP will be less in 2022 than it is today.

    Cuts in the rate of spending growth have real, measurable affects when you look at 10 year windows, especially when you factor in the growth of the economy as a whole.

  27. "That does add up because the tax loopholes and deduction for the rich will be closed to be neutral in revenue"

    Future, if companies pay as much in taxes today as they will tomorrow, that will not encourage hiring.

    "The efficient tax system means business will make decisions based on business expansion and NOT tax avoidance. For small business that can not take advantage of the loopholes they will directly benefit from the rate reduction"

    Another fantasy. There's no effective rate reduction if the change is "neutral in revenue." They will pay the same as they do now, according to your own words.

    "- the zero taxes come from all the GE loophole and deductions so if they are closed GE will pay its fair share - while other small business will get the benefit of a lower rate."

    Again: you cannot simultaneously argue that businesses will benefit from a lower rate while arguing that the change is revenue neutral. They will have the same tax bill at the end of the year, according to Romney.

  28. From a report published on April 14, 2010 by Sima J. Gandhi, a senior economic policy analyst with the Center for American Progress:

    "Subsidies for oil and gas companies make up 88 percent of all federal subsidies."

    "the total government savings from eliminating these subsidies is projected to be $45 billion over 10 years."

    The question is, can the taxpayer afford to borrow money to subsidize the oil & gas industry, one of the most profitable in the country, at $4.5 billion/year?

    This subsidy increases directly the dividends and options paid to the owners, not job creation or exploration.

  29. Future, if your fantasy plan worked, you would be able to explain how it worked with a few sentences, and your plan would stand up to scrutiny.

    Instead, you're spinning your wheels.

    The Romney plan has not been tried in recent history. It's unique, and the economy has changed dramatically since anything like the Romney plan was tried. In fact, one could argue that every attempt in the past to simplify deductions while reducing rates has failed.

    Recent history shows us that when the GOP takes control of government, they reduce tax revenue while increasing spending. They did it in the 80's under Reagan. They did it in the 90's under Newt. And they did it most recently under Bush and Boehner/McConnell.

    Vice President Biden shamed the GOP candidate, Congressman Ryan, by reminding everyone that Paul Ryan voted to debt-finance two wars, a massive tax cut and a massive Medicaid entitlement expansion. Those are facts that you cannot dispute.

    Romney's tax plan is rhetoric that you're finding difficult to explain and defend. Either you don't understand it, or it won't work. Either way, I'm wasting my time with you.

  30. Many things are good things to have around but that is NO REASON that government should pay the freight. Good things that are appreciated stay around because people buy the things and pay for the services. If it's not good enough for you to pay for, government should NOT pay for it--except the enumerated powers such as securing our borders from invasion, securing our nation from cybercrime, overseeing the courts....enforcing our laws.

  31. Kevin,

    Nobody, to my knowledge is talking about drastic cuts when the economy is growing at 1.3 %. My concern is that the people we elect, R or D never seem to find a 'good' time to reduce government spending. Does that concern you?

    It obvious that Romney cannot increase the defense budget, cut taxes (even with reducing loopholes) and balance the budget and cut the deficit at the same time, unless he can stimulate the economy far more than seems reasonable.

    That said, the President and his Vice President seem awfully short on details as to how they are going to 'grow' the economy. Absent those details, I would guess that another stimulus is in the cards, which will entail more borrowing and more printing. I realize the economy was in bad shape when the last stimulus was done, and that R's kept it from being much larger, but even with all that money spend, the economy did not do anything close to what the Obama administration projected. We got continued high unemployment and really weak economic growth. What makes you believe the next stimulus will do any better.. even if its cost is partially offset by higher taxes on the wealthy?

    I'll tell you this Kevin, if this world worked like the world of Pinocchio worked, all 4 of these candidates noses would be 20 feet long just based on the number of times they said the following statement: I will not not raise taxes on the middle class.........BALONEY!


  32. RefNV, your entire talking point revolves around a single statistic about the employment-population ratio. I don't know how to put this delicately, but if you focus on a single statistic and ignore others, you're not capable of comprehending reality. There are several factors behind the employment-population ratio... several factors you are ignorant of, or refuse to admit.

    Future: exactly the toothless, rambling response I expected. Thanks!

    Mike: Nobody's talking about drastic cuts? You've been on a broken-record crusade for the past year harping about how we need to reduce our deficit. So since you don't seem to have a consistent position, taking a cue from Romney, I'll ask you directly: at what point should we focus on deficit reduction? Within the next year? Two years? Five years? Why don't you nail down your thoughts, get specific, and let us know.

    Stop trying to distract with fantasy talk about a second stimulus. Name three Democratic leaders talking about it. They aren't. It's a red herring.

  33. Government, Federal, state and local, spends far more than $430 million annually in support of professional sports stadiums and teams. Get rid of that funding and I'll consider your heartfelt requests to pluck Big Birds feathers.

  34. Sesame Street...A friend of mine's 5 year old would yell "4..2" at adults..
    He learned that on Sesame Street..
    And for all the money his fond parents paid into the bloated education system..the kid can't read today
    Give Big Bird the bird..and a tin cup..Let him beg on the street..instead of in the Halls of Congress!

  35. M Malone, either your friend needs to spend time working with the child in follow up to Big Bird, or take the kid for some medical or psychological testing. There is a problem with either the parents or the child.

    Big Bird isn't a babysitter, he is one part of a partnership with the parents.

  36. "Adventurers swarmed out of the North, as much the enemies of one race as of the other, to cozen, beguile and use the negroes. The white men were aroused by a mere instinct of self-preservation -- until at last there sprung into existence a great Kuklux Klan, a veritable empire of the South, to protect the Southern country. "

    Woodrow Wilson [your hero]


  37. Sam, if you like PBS STOP NETWORKING and donate your time and money to PBS. If it's not worth your time and money, don't tell me what charities to favor. I have plenty of places to send my money without your help.

  38. Be truthfull and rename it to PRAVDA USSA. Much more realistic.

  39. PBS gets state money. I've seen them come to the Legislature to round out their budget--but I haven't seen much media coverage of it. It seems that they go through the motions of raising money to end their fiscal year in the black, out of the red. But when they don't get enough, they run to the Legislature who GIVES THEM OUR MONEY. There were no representations, nor requests, that they scale back expenditures--perhaps drop the Spanish-language broadcasts.

  40. By Roslenda,
    I don't recall telling you to do anything.

  41. Sam, that would be my tax dollars you're spending on PBS.

  42. Wouldn't it be nice if we taxpayers could designate where we wanted our tax dollars to go.

    I wonder how that would change the budget priorities?

  43. "Carmine...

    Thank you for the Wilson quote. I have NEVER said that Wilson didn't have racist views."

    This is the FIRST time you said he did.