A Philosopher's Blog

Why Big Bird Matters

Posted in Business, Law, Philosophy, Politics by Michael LaBossiere on October 10, 2012
Public Broadcasting Service

Public Broadcasting Service (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After Romney’s remarks about eliminating federal support for PBS (despite liking Big Bird), the Obama campaign responded with an attack ad cashing in on America’s love of the giant yellow fellow.

Given that the Obama campaign has made this into a political issue, it is tempting to regard this matter as being mere politics without any substance behind it. However, I will endeavor to show why Big Bird matters. Or, to be more specific, why the issues raised by Romney are actually important.

Romney does present a reasonable general principle and one that I agree with: before we spend public money (perhaps by borrowing more from China) we should consider whether the spending is worthwhile or not. I try to follow a personal version of this principle when it comes to my own spending and it has served me well. As such, my dispute with Romney is not over this principle. Rather, my dispute is in regards to his claims about PBS.

Given Romney’s claims, he intends to cut federal support for PBS. His professed reason is that doing so will help reduce the deficit. While he does seem to indicate that he values PBS or at least likes it, he presumably does not think that PBS is worth the expenditure of public money.

When it comes to cutting spending to address a deficit, it is obviously irrational to simply cut without considering the value of what is cut relative to the impact of the cut. As such, the cutting of PBS should be properly assessed.

One rather important fact is that PBS received $420 million in 2011 and this is .00012% of the federal budget. As such, cutting PBS support would have a minuscule positive  effect on the deficit, even assuming that the cut had no negative impact (such as job loss leading to loss of tax revenue). As such, it seems rather odd that Romney would present cutting PBS as his example of how he will reduce the deficit. An obvious reply is that every bit counts (although Lou Dobbs attacked Obama for going after oil subsidies on the grounds that the percentage was very low). As such, eliminating PBS would (if all other things remained the same) reduce federal spending by .00012%. Romney would just need to cut a great deal more in order to have a meaningful impact and this raises the obvious question: what else would Romney cut?

It is also important to consider the value of what is being cut and the impact such a cut would have. To use an analogy, while I could save money by eliminating my food budget, the result would be rather negative (death by starvation). In the case of PBS, what must be considered is the value of the federal support.

Interestingly, while the for-profit schools that Mitt Romney praises get 86% of their income from federal money, about 15% of PBS’ budget comes from federal funding, although the percentage varies from station to station. Rural stations, for example, get 40-60% of their funding from federal sources. This means that most of the funding comes from other sources, such as from  corporations and individual donors. If Romney wants to cut the deficit by going after those who get subsidies from the state, he would need to expand his concern beyond PBS and assert that he will hold the for-profit colleges more accountable, cut subsidies for the oil industry, and even remove the tax exemption for religious institutions. The fact that Romney has gone after PBS would thus seem to indicate his values.

Returning to the matter of value, PBS certainly seems to give an excellent return on the investment. After all, Sesame Street alone has been very successful as a company (it is a job creator) and also provides education services at a very low cost to millions of Americans. Like most Americans, Sesame Street and other PBS kids shows were an important part of my education. As I grew older, shows like Nova also taught me a great deal.  Naturally, I also enjoyed Dr. Who and Monty Python. In terms of its education value alone, PBS certainly seems well worth the $430 million that the federal government provides.

It has been suggested that PBS should change its model and sell advertising in order to replace the $430 million that would be lost. Given the popularity of PBS, the stations in cities would probably be able to make up for the loss of federal funds. However, rural stations would probably have a considerably harder time, thus creating the possibility that these stations would go dark, which would certainly be detrimental to the people living in those areas.

There is, of course, the concern of the impact of going commercial. After all, what makes PBS unique is that it does not operate as a for-profit station and this has a significant impact on its programming and operations. For example, Sesame Street is not interrupted every few minutes with ads selling junk food and toys.  In general, this impact seems to be a positive one and PBS does provide a valuable alternative to the multitude of for-profit stations. As such, I would certainly favor keeping federal support for PBS in place-it is generally money well spent.

Perhaps the most compelling reason in favor of keeping the funding of PBS intact is the fate of The Learning Channel. It began life in 1972 as an actual learning channel supported by NASA and the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. It was privatized in 1980. In 2012 it began running Honey Boo Boo. I think that all sane, rational beings can agree that PBS should be protected from BooBooization.

It is, of course, worth noting that the Muppets and Sesame Street have been accused of having an anti-conservative bias. Sesame Street, for example, was attacked for its intentional use of gender neutral language. This suggests that Big Bird might have been singled out for his alleged left leaning show. Jon Stewart, not surprisingly, presented a humorous response to the accusation of left wing bias on Sesame Street.

When watching the Daily Show segment, I was struck by the fact that the lessons that we are supposed to teach children about being good people (such as sharing, not using violence against others,  and caring about people) tend to be vilified by certain conservatives when they are presented as how adults should behave towards one another. There is certainly an interesting disconnect between the values we are supposed to follow on the playground and the values presented by certain conservatives, especially those of the sort Ayn Rand argues for.

It might, of course, be said that there is a time to put away childish things. But is sharing, for example, a childish thing that we should set aside as we get older? As such, the matter of PBS would seem to matter in regards to the values of America. After all, there would presumably be no Sesame Street in the utopia of the ethical egoist.

In any case, I am fine with having my tax dollars go to PBS. Long live Big Bird!

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53 Responses

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  1. Dave said, on October 10, 2012 at 7:18 am

    Boobooization…..the horror….the horror…..

  2. T. J. Babson said, on October 10, 2012 at 7:31 am

    “While he does seem to indicate that he values PBS or at least likes it, he presumably does not think that PBS is worth the expenditure of public money.”

    What he said is whether it is worth borrowing money from China to pay for it.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on October 10, 2012 at 2:04 pm

      True-but does the state allocated funds directly from specific sources. That is, must PBS be funded from China? Also, the main point still stands regarding his assessment of the value of PBS.

  3. T. J. Babson said, on October 10, 2012 at 7:36 am

    “…the values presented by certain conservatives, especially those of the sort Ayn Rand argues for…”

    I think it would be news to Ayn Rand that she is regarded as a conservative, at least by people who have never read her books.

    • magus71 said, on October 10, 2012 at 9:06 am

      She tried to separate herself from the conservative movement, particularly after Whitaker Chambers, working for the National Review, wrote this scathing review of Atlas Shrugged:

      http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-religion/2705853/posts

      I believe she wanted badly to get in with the big guns of conservatism at the time, but couldn’t get past that most of the conservatives were Christians. She once remarked to WF Buckley at a party: “You’re too smart to believe in God.” From the point of the Atlas review on, she hated Buckley and Whitaker and never missed a chance to insult them. I have Rand’s book on writing non-fiction. She uses Buckley’s writing as an example of how now to write (big words).

      Rand had a brilliant mind. A phenomenal essayist, and more consistent in her thinking than most today, she was never the less absorbed by the thought of becoming famous. I’d sit down to dinner with Buckley before Rand, but I wouldn’t mind having conversations with Rand, either.

      Rand is one of the few women I can think of that exuded charisma.

      • T. J. Babson said, on October 10, 2012 at 9:25 am

        Perhaps Mike believes that all conservative women are atheistic alpha females?

        • magus71 said, on October 10, 2012 at 9:32 am

          He pretty much thinks of Rand and Coulter, so atheism isnt the key factor. It’s that they both have egos which challenge his own in the size department.

      • Michael LaBossiere said, on October 10, 2012 at 2:13 pm

        It is thus ironic that her moral views are embraced by some people who profess to be Christians. Rand was well aware that her view (ethical egoism) was directly opposed to the altruism of Christianity (what Nietzsche called “slave morality”).

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on October 10, 2012 at 2:05 pm

      Perhaps. She would certainly not approve of religious folks claiming her as one of them.

      Rand is, however, beloved by a reasonable number of conservatives, such as Paul Ryan.

  4. T. J. Babson said, on October 10, 2012 at 8:23 am

    The only reason Ayn Rand is now regarded as a “conservative” is that the light of individual and economic liberty has been snuffed out by progressives.

    Even the value of free speech is now being questioned by the left.

    • magus71 said, on October 10, 2012 at 8:49 am

      I’ve always said I’m a conservative, not because of conservatism, but because of liberals.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on October 10, 2012 at 2:06 pm

      Who? Do you mean all people left of X (whatever it is used to designate the political center)? A few individuals?

      • T. J. Babson said, on October 13, 2012 at 10:32 am

        Long article on demise of free speech in the Washington Post. We can debate to what extent the Left is responsible, but you shouldn’t deny it is happening.

        Shut up and play nice: How the Western world is limiting free speech

        By Jonathan Turley, Published: October 12

        Free speech is dying in the Western world. While most people still enjoy considerable freedom of expression, this right, once a near-absolute, has become less defined and less dependable for those espousing controversial social, political or religious views. The decline of free speech has come not from any single blow but rather from thousands of paper cuts of well-intentioned exceptions designed to maintain social harmony.

        http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-four-arguments-the-western-world-uses-to-limit-free-speech/2012/10/12/e0573bd4-116d-11e2-a16b-2c110031514a_story.html

  5. T. J. Babson said, on October 10, 2012 at 8:50 am

    WSJ:

    The United States may be on a fiscal path to Greece, and working-class guys in Toledo may have stagnant incomes, but Mr. Obama says their tax dollars must continue to flow to one of the most successful TV properties of all time. Middle-aged readers may think that Big Bird’s popularity peaked in the 1970s, but his earnings power remains strong.

    According to financial statements for the year ended June 30, 2011, Sesame Workshop and its nonprofit and for-profit subsidiaries had total operating revenue of more than $134 million. They receive about $8 million a year in direct government grants and more indirectly via PBS subsidies. Big Bird and friends also receive corporate and foundation support, and donations amount to about a third of revenue. Distribution fees and royalties comprise another third and licensing revenue makes up the rest.

    At the end of fiscal 2011, Sesame Workshop and its subsidiaries had total assets of $289 million. About $29 million was held in cash and “cash equivalents,” mainly money-market mutual funds. Another $121 million on the balance sheet was held in “investments.” According to the accompanying notes, these investments included stakes in hedge funds and private-equity funds. It’s unclear from the financial statements if Big Bird has ever invested in funds run by Bain Capital, founded by Mitt Romney, but no doubt Sesame would be welcomed as a client by many investment managers.

    So Big Bird likes to maximize revenues and investment gains as much as the next muppet. And now the President has made this adorable critter the symbol of federal programs that allegedly require eternal taxpayer aid, even if it has to be put on the future tax bill of today’s pre-schoolers. Is that funny?

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390443982904578046671220961776.html?mod=rss_opinion_main

    • T. J. Babson said, on October 10, 2012 at 8:52 am

      What do you know? Looks like Big Bird is worth more than Mitt Romney!

      • WTP said, on October 10, 2012 at 2:39 pm

        Here’s a thought…It’s not like CTW got there on its own. They didn’t build that. CTW owes much of its success to PBS. The budget for PBS is $445 million. CTW made about $130 million. Suppose we implement a 50% tax on all the money made by those who have made so much off of PBS through the years. Ken Burns’ films, Dr. Who, Monty Python, etc. After all, are they not profiting from taxpayers’ investment in PBS? It may not cover everything, but perhaps it would leave the taxpayers out of the equation.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on October 10, 2012 at 2:10 pm

      It looks like Sesame Street is operating like any corporation. An interesting question is whether or not Mitt will cut of the much larger subsidies to other corporation and those received by churches. After all, PBS’s $430 million is minuscule compared to what religious organization enjoy in tax exemptions and support. Given your view of religion, I would anticipate you supporting an end to tax exemption and subsidies for religion.

      • WTP said, on October 10, 2012 at 2:21 pm

        Not that I don’t support the elimination of certain tax exemptions for religious organizations, but do you notice how Mike mixes up tax exemptions with direct funding? When a “conservative” cause is under consideration, the broad brush comes out, but when considering lefty issues, he’ll argue differences down to the definition and meaning of words. And if he can’t win that way, he redefines the words, dictionary be damned.

      • T. J. Babson said, on October 10, 2012 at 6:17 pm

        “Given your view of religion, I would anticipate you supporting an end to tax exemption and subsidies for religion.”

        Absolutely. Why should I be forced to subsidize religion?

        • magus71 said, on October 10, 2012 at 6:36 pm

          I would support that, too.

        • Michael LaBossiere said, on October 11, 2012 at 10:08 am

          Quite right. While I do support the idea of the state assisting religious groups engaging in charity (after all, properly done that can be a resource multiplier), churches do not seem to need the subsidy.

          Naturally, this would free them to fully engage in politics if they want. While I do prefer to keep some distance between church and state, free speech rights do not end at the church door. At least as long as the church isn’t getting subsidized by the state-in which case, the speech is not free…the rest of us are paying for it.

          • WTP said, on October 11, 2012 at 10:28 am

            Subsidies to religious organizations are prohibited under current law. What Mike calls subsidies are simply tax deductions available to any other charitable organization. While there is religious-specific language in IRS instructions, etc. this is only to assist the lay-person/clergy in deciphering what they can or cannot deduct, based on similar options available secular organizations as well. Now one could argue that those secular organizations outside of religious groups are few, they exist none the less. There is no taking of money from taxpayers and giving it to religious organizations (subsidies) simply because they are religious organizations. Mike wouldn’t let conservatives get away with such lies, why should we let Mike?

            And in the interest of proactivty:

            Definition of SUBSIDY
            a : a grant or gift of money: as a : a sum of money formerly granted by the British Parliament to the crown and raised by special taxation
            b : money granted by one state to another
            c : a grant by a government to a private person or company to assist an enterprise deemed advantageous to the public

            • T. J. Babson said, on October 11, 2012 at 11:16 am

              I think a tax exemption can be fairly counted as a subsidy. Look at the mortgage interest deduction, for example–does it not subsidize home ownership?

              And to the extent that gifts to religious organizations really go to charity I have less of a problem with. But why should the government support priests, monks, nuns, or the construction of churches?

            • Michael LaBossiere said, on October 11, 2012 at 4:16 pm

              I agree. Being tax exempt for X dollars has the same impact as being given X dollars by the state. As Ben said, “a penny saved is a penny earned.”

              You are quite right about the mortgage deduction-it does subsidize home ownership. It also gives more to those who have more expensive mortgaged homes. In my case, my allowed mortgage deduction is well under the standard deduction and hence I do not get the subsidy. If I had a more expensive home, the taxpayers would be helping me pay for it. That would be rather unfair.

              Perhaps some break for home ownership could be justified on certain utilitarian grounds for people who are less well off. However, subsidizing the well off seems like something we could do without.

              People do like the deduction and I doubt it will be touched.

              If I were President, I would re-examine all the subsidies, starting with the most costly and I would be willing to make the cuts that would make me a one term President. LaBossiere 2012: Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures.

            • WTP said, on October 11, 2012 at 12:11 pm

              Et tu…Now I see how you could have voted for Kerry. There are still quite a few things you’re not understanding here. If we were talking about tax credits I would agree. A tax deduction (and I think it would be much clearer if we started referring to these as AGI deductions) has the same revenue impact if the money is given to the Sisters of Charity or the Salvation Army as it would for Habitat for Humanity or the VFW. The government is not determining who gets the money, the taxpayer is. The mortgage deduction (which I don’t like either) is targeted for a specific purpose, thus it is more of a subsidy. It is for the direct benefit of the taxpayer filing the return.

              If we want to remove the part of tax deductions that are applied to purposes such as salaries for priests, nuns, or constructing church buildings, fine. But such a law would also target VFW buildings, HfH construction materials, blood bank administrator salaries, etc.

            • T. J. Babson said, on October 12, 2012 at 9:16 am

              WTP. Say you give $1000 to your church and your marginal tax rate is 30%. Since your AGI has dropped by $1000 your tax will fall by $300 so at the end of the day you have only parted with $700. Since the church received $1000, the other $300 was provided by the government. I would call this a subsidy.

            • WTP said, on October 12, 2012 at 10:14 am

              TJ, this is where my Kerry comment comes in. The government never had that $300, nor did the government decide who would get that $300. Now if you believe, like most leftists, that the government owns all the wealth and we citizens are only entitled to what they allow us to keep, ok. But that’s not how wealth is created and certainly not a classical liberal/libertarian/conservative position. Think about “tax deductions” as the “AGI deductions” that they truly are and the fundamentals become much clearer.

              If I give $1000 to a charity, that’s essentially $1000 that I never got $1000 worth of value from. It’s not “profiting” me. Now we can argue about the intangible good-feeling value from such a donation or if we received anything of value in kind. However, even the latter is something you are supposed to deduct from your $1000 claim, but such things are often hard to nail down to a specific value.

              As I said, there are many subjects around this issue we could have an interesting discussion about, but not if Mike-o-mass continues to conflate and obfuscate the fundamentals.

            • T. J. Babson said, on October 12, 2012 at 10:59 am

              WTP. Would you agree that the intent of AGI deductions as well as tax credits is to encourage some behaviors and discourage others? For example, the $7500 tax credit for buying an electric vehicle is to encourage people to buy electric vehicles?

              If you agree, I am happy to use a different word for this encouragement other than subsidy.

            • Michael LaBossiere said, on October 12, 2012 at 11:31 am

              The tax credits are, as you note aimed at encouraging/discouraging. It worked on me: when my a/c blew up, I went with the more efficient model in part because the tax credits subsidized my purchase. I felt a little dirty taking the money, but not dirty enough to refuse it.

            • WTP said, on October 12, 2012 at 11:26 am

              TJ, while I agree that the intent is the same, that doesn’t make them both subsidies. Also, the behaviours of charitable giving are so broad that one would be very hard pressed to even try to shoe-horn it into that definition. Not that the Mike-o-mass world would not do so. And again, the money has been earned by the individual and then given to the charity of the taxpayer’s choice. The government only concerns itself with the fact (or falsity) of the charity’s legitimacy. It is simply making a definition not giving a direction.

              You can’t conflate tax credits,/i> with AGI deductions. A $7500 tax credit is specfically targeted to a specific person (the tax payer) for a specific industry or industry group (electric car makers, electricity producers, etc. etc.). It is literally giving back to the tax payer money that the taxpayer has already spent on his/her/its self.

  6. magus71 said, on October 10, 2012 at 8:52 am

    I read the Sesame Street raised money on it’s own and very little comes from PBS.

  7. magus71 said, on October 10, 2012 at 8:54 am

    “tend to be vilified by certain conservatives when they are presented as how adults should behave towards one another.”

    You’re out of touch, Mike. Go to church and find out what conservatives are talking about. Seriously, Go and take a look. If you can pack your pompous attitude away for an hour on Sunday.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on October 10, 2012 at 2:12 pm

      Do you mean the “love thy neighbor as thyself?” This seems to be a sharp contrast with the Ryan budget plan (which was condemned by American religious leaders).

      Also, I am best accused of arrogance and not pomposity. I’m not fancy enough to be pompous.

  8. T. J. Babson said, on October 10, 2012 at 9:38 am

    • magus71 said, on October 10, 2012 at 6:34 pm

      Brilliant interview, on both sides. “This country was not made robber barons”.

  9. T. J. Babson said, on October 10, 2012 at 9:54 am

    Question: what do Mike Huckabee and Ayn Rand have in common?

    Answer: Mike L. thinks they are both conservatives.

    Seriously, Mike does not seem to have a consistent definition of a conservative. Basically, anything he does not like he labels “conservative.”

  10. T. J. Babson said, on October 10, 2012 at 12:46 pm

    The Pinocchio Test

    How did “I love Big Bird” turn into “kill Big Bird”? Only through a spin machine going on hyper drive.

    Romney may have been off base in suggesting PBS funding has much to do with the deficit, but that’s no excuse for the Obama campaign to declare that means the demise of a popular children’s character. According to the financials of Sesame Workshop, Big Bird should do just fine, with or without public funding.

    Four Pinocchios

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/fact-checker/post/does-mitt-romney-want-to-kill-big-bird/2012/10/09/336f9172-127c-11e2-ba83-a7a396e6b2a7_blog.html

    • Anonymous said, on October 10, 2012 at 1:00 pm

      We only count “conservative” “lies” here…not to mention that the so-called fact checker implies Romney was even seriously suggesting that BB had much to do with the deficit. He was merely giving one example of a sacred cow. Doesn’t mean he sees no value in cows.

      • Anonymous said, on October 10, 2012 at 1:01 pm

        Ah, that’s me .. WTP

    • biomass2 said, on October 10, 2012 at 7:23 pm

      You omit one possibility: Romney may have been claiming a deep affection for the large yelllow bird merely for the sake of his argument. Like other pols, he’s not immune to twisting or shredding the truth.

    • biomass2 said, on October 13, 2012 at 10:44 pm

      The Post Pinocchio test omits some important factors. An article from the Time by James Poniewozik “Big Bird is a Republican” ,October 22, p. 58 clarifies some possible misundertandings about the relationship between government, PBS, and Big Bird . First he describes how public broadcasting and its use of federal funding works.

      He then goes on to points out why “‘defunding PBS’ wouldn’t defund PBS. It’s stations in poorer rural areas that would be devastated, maybe killed. Coastal elites like the Romneys and Obamas will still have Downton Abbey; Cookie Monster will not want for chocolate chips. But good luck finding a channel on which to watch him—and literacy programs#* and other services—in the low-population heartland regions that reliably turn GOP red every four years. As with interstate highways, it’s one more way the same states that vote for small government get back more in federal spending than they contribute in taxes.
      ‘There’s the irony in all this: lots of Republicans rely on Big Bird. And Big Bird is in many ways a Republican. that is, in its finances and ideals, public broadcasting is about as little-c conservative a government as you can find.
      “For starters, it’s frugal. . . . . . It’s also decentralized . . . . . .
      “. . . . .public TV is proudly, dorkily family-values-friendly. . . . . . cultural conservatives love that their kids can watch free TV without being bombed with ads and inappropriate content.
      “. . . . .it’s amazing we’re fighting over one federal program that manages to be cheap and bipartisanly popular. . . . . .PBS is the definition of educational TV.”

      Generalizations about Big Bird’s likely longevity or imminent demise ignore the facts of funding PBS in rural areas versus funding the system in urban coastal areas.

      #*I have my own suspicions why the weakening or demise of PBS programming in heartland regions would hearten the party that has historically dominated electoral politics in those areas. Encourage a class of people who must depend for their political insights on something other than their own logical powers, something other than their own ability to go to the source and critically evaluate what they read, and you have taken a major step toward harnessing a powerful political force.

  11. urbannight said, on October 10, 2012 at 2:10 pm

    Reblogged this on Urbannight's Blog and commented:
    I grew up on PBS and it has great value. I learned about Shakespeare while still in gradeshool. I was exposed to a lot of culture, a lot of history, a lot of general information. It gave me a broader education than school did. The result was that I spent a great deal of time in Jr. High and High School researching the things that really interested me at the library. This is worth reblogging everywhere.

  12. magus71 said, on October 10, 2012 at 7:41 pm

  13. magus71 said, on October 10, 2012 at 7:47 pm

    Between the debate and the Libyan cover-up, this administration is now in free-fall. Romney will be president.

  14. T. J. Babson said, on October 11, 2012 at 8:35 am

    Brilliant. It is so simple, really. Yes, Obama will make the rich poorer, but he will also make the poor poorer.

    • T. J. Babson said, on October 11, 2012 at 9:17 am

      His comment about forgetting history is also apt. Mike, biomass, et al. always forget that the type of society they are trying to create has already been tried and has failed utterly.

      • Michael LaBossiere said, on October 11, 2012 at 10:05 am

        What sort of society is this?

        I’ve consistently supported classic rights (life, liberty and property), democracy, government that exists for the good of the people, a just society, a free and fair market, a minimal state, and so on.

        I do agree that this sort of society has been tried-specifically the United States. I do not, however, think that we have failed.

        • WTP said, on October 11, 2012 at 10:44 am

          I’ve consistently supported classic rights (life, liberty and property),
          contrast with below:
          I am struggling to understand the fear and rage of the upper classes and their allies

          And why is Obama constantly cast as a socialist?

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on October 11, 2012 at 10:00 am

      Looking at the record profits of corporations, the low tax rates, the wealth of the 1% and so on, I am struggling to understand the fear and rage of the upper classes and their allies.

      While Obama is bizarrely cast as a socialist who will enslave us all to the state, he is a moderate-liberal and quite comfortable with much of the status quo.

      Back in the Bush days, people pointed to Bush derangement syndrome. The same thing seems to be in effect now, only the derangement involves Obama.

      It would be refreshing to see a political debate in which actual facts were required and lies, straw men, hyperbole and other such intellectual ills were not allowed.

      • T. J. Babson said, on October 11, 2012 at 11:04 am

        Obama said “we are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America.”

        You seemed to think Obama didn’t mean what he said. I take him at his word, and I don’t want the U.S. to be fundamentally transformed.

        • Michael LaBossiere said, on October 11, 2012 at 4:08 pm

          But what did he mean?

          Mitt Romney says “Americans deserve more jobs and more take home pay.” That could be taken as the talk of liberal union leader…or a communist!

        • T. J. Babson said, on October 11, 2012 at 9:06 pm

          I think he wants to turn us into a Euro-style welfare state–a big Sweden.

          You say he is “a moderate-liberal and quite comfortable with much of the status quo.” If so, why would he want to “fundamentally transform” America?

          • Michael LaBossiere said, on October 12, 2012 at 5:40 am

            1. One should always consider that such sweeping claims are political rhetoric. Consider, if you will, all the slogans that politicians use. For example, people talk about “taking back America” and the “real America.” Does that mean that some of us are not real Americans and that these folks have stolen America?
            2. But why take “fundamentally transform” to mean “change into a socialist state”? While Obama is marginally left of Debate Romney, he is hardly a socialist. That term has been distorted to the point where it has almost no useful meaning in American politics.


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