He wasn’t on the stage and there were certainly bigger issues the candidates were trying, often ineffectively, to address. But the thing that people are most talking about after Mitt Romney and President Obama debated issues like health care, tax cuts and budget proposals was Romney’s inference that Big Bird is on the dole and that he’s going to put a stop to that!
I know we have to make tough choices when it comes to taxing and spending. And it’s always been easy for conservatives to say we should cut unnecessary expenses like the federal money that helps bring Big Bird and Elmo into our homes. But the truth is this — in dollars, the money that Uncle Sam provides to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting is a lot — in 2015, it’s budgeted to be over $400 million dollars. But in terms of the overall budget, that’s just 1/100 of 1 percent of federal spending.
Sending Big Bird packing won’t make one bit of difference in reducing the deficit.
If both Romney and Obama hadn’t gotten so in the weeds about policy we might be talking about other more important things today. Part of that was moderator Jim Lehrer’s fault — he was totally off his game when it came to enforcing the rules of the debate, and didn’t challenge either candidate on where their answers were on the Truth-O-Meter.
Here are a few of the debate moments we should be more focused on than whether Sesame Street gets the axe:
1. Education – Romney was supposed to be the one with the zingers last night, but President Obama got him on the line about kids just borrowing money from parents for college being the solution to bringing down federal student loans. But I continue to be unhappy with the discussion that the President and others are having about steering more kids to community colleges and job training programs. I know we need them, but I’d like to hear more about actually encouraging kids to get college educations and aim high. I don’t want us to give in to soft expectations. Maybe Will.i.am will take Obama aside and bring him up to speed on his ideas about STEM education instead of technical training.
2. What’s $5 trillion among friends? Romney has been talking for months about his plan to cut taxes — a plan that would mean a $5 trillion tax cut for the super-rich. When President Obama called him on that, Romney didn’t try to explain. He backed away. But according to independent fact checkers, that’s exactly what would happen under Romney’s plan unless he can explain how he would offset his plan to reduce taxes on the wealthy, which so far he has refused to do. Romney claims that he can offset those by closing a variety of tax loopholes, but apparently, the whole plan is too complicated to explain. At least that’s what Paul Ryan says. I say — try me. If you really have a plan, I think I’m smart enough to follow it.
3. Medicare. Why didn’t Obama fight back? Romney has been claiming that the President is going to cut over $7i6 billion from Medicare. While some experts claim that is technically accurate it isn’t technically true. What the President’s plan will do is produce $716 billion in cost savings moving forward. Is that “cutting” $716 billion from Medicare? Politifact gives that a “half true” on it’s rating system, but they’re being generous. Technically, if I buy store brands vs. name brands at the grocery store, I’ve saved money and, I suppose, cut money from my food budget. But what I really did was save money that I kept in my pocket.
Most fact checkers today are weighing in on the fact that much of what Romney said was untrue, yet are awarding him the win on style points. Even college kids watching the debate knew that much of what Romney was saying sounded good, but just didn’t add up. Not that the president didn’t have his moments, as well. Politicians sometimes can’t help themselves.
I could go on point by point, but better fact checkers than I have already done that. But this is what we should focus on going forward — substance over style. Romney clearly scored better than President Obama on that. And I know so many voters judge a candidate on their gut feelings on who seems better.
My solution for all this? Let Big Bird moderate the next debate. He’s an honest bird and I think he’d make the candidates ‘fess up to what they really want to do. Because that’s what happens on Sesame Street, right? Even when the people and Muppets who live there struggle, they always find the right thing to do or say in the end.
The only problem is that Big Bird doesn’t stay up as late as the debates are on. Maybe Elmo?
Read more from me at my place PunditMom and in my Amazon best-selling book, Mothers of Intention: How Women and Social Media are Revolutionizing Politics in America (A great pre-2012 election read!)
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