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Will Big Bird be downsized?

By Dean Obeidallah, Special to CNN
October 4, 2012 -- Updated 2023 GMT (0423 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Mitt Romney said he would cut funding to PBS, mentioning Big Bird by name
  • Dean Obeidallah asks, will Big Bird be one of the 47% who believe they are victims?
  • Obeidallah says Cookie Monster is no doubt living paycheck to paycheck
  • He asks: Should public TV really be Romney's target when it really won't save much?

Editor's note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is a political comedian and frequent commentator on various TV networks including CNN. He is the editor of the politics blog "The Dean's Report" and co-director of the upcoming documentary "The Muslims Are Coming!" Follow him on Twitter: @deanofcomedy.

(CNN) -- What has Big Bird ever done to Mitt Romney?! Did a young Mitt try to meet Big Bird and Big Bird snubbed him? Did Big Bird in essence give Mitt "the bird'? Or was Romney just channeling his inner Oscar the Grouch?

For those who may have missed it, during last night's presidential debate, Mitt Romney said that if elected president he would cut funding to PBS. He even mentioned Big Bird by name. (This is even more shocking because Mitt offered very few specifics on how he would cut the deficit other than slashing support for PBS.)

So what happens to Big Bird if Romney has his way? Will Big Bird be laid off? What jobs are out there for an 8-foot-2-inch yellow bird who sings slightly off-key? Will Big Bird become part of the 47% that Romney talked about who believe they are victims and are entitled to government funding?

Big Bird is worried.
Big Bird is worried.

And what about the other Muppets? What will come of them? How will they survive in this tough economic climate?

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To be honest, out of all of them, I think Bert and Ernie and Guy Smiley (who reminds me of Romney) will probably fare the best. I always suspected they were financially astute. They probably have stocks, mutual funds and maybe even some off-shore investments in places like The Cayman Islands.

But what about the rest of the Muppets? Is there any doubt that Cookie Monster is living paycheck to paycheck? Will Cookie Monster turn to crime to support his habit?

Dean Obeidallah
Dean Obeidallah

Will we see The Count standing on the side of the road holding up a big sign that reads: "Will Count for Food"?

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I don't even want to think what will happen to Mr. Snuffleupagus. What hope does a slow moving, wooly brown mammoth have in Romney's America?

Can't Mitt sit with the Count and try to figure out a way to cut the deficit without cutting out Big Bird?

Maybe Mitt Romney and the rest us simply had a different childhood. To be brutally honest, when I was a child, my family couldn't afford day care and often TV was a substitute for that. The neighbor upstairs would be around for emergencies, but my sister and I would be plopped in front of the TV -- and particularly "Sesame Street."

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Big Bird and the Muppets were not just a TV show to us -- they were, on some level, our friends. And more important, they taught us things before we ever stepped foot in school. I'm pretty sure I learned about the letter "C" from Cookie Monster. And there was the classic "Three of These Things Belong Together," teaching us about organization. And of course, Big Bird sang about the alphabet so that we understood that the ABCs were individual letters and not one long word.

Apart from learning, Big Bird and his crew made us laugh -- from Ernie singing about his rubber ducky to Kermit the Frog singing about the struggles of being green.

But Mitt Romney -- like the Grinch -- would take that all away from the children of America. OK, to be fair, PBS could exist without federal funding which amounts to about 15% of its total budget. But funding has already been cut, and PBS has said this would eliminate programming in its smaller markets.

Romney is not just after Big Bird -- in addition to PBS, he wants to cut all federal funding for the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Cutting all funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which helps fund PBS, would save only $450 million -- not much in the face of trillions of dollars.

Is this really the place Mitt Romney should be targeting? Romney said last night he would not raise taxes, would cut corporate taxes, not cut Medicare, not cut the defense budget and still reduce the deficit. Even a Muppet would call this fuzzy math.

My hope is that Mitt will take a few minutes off the campaign trail and sit with children who are watching Big Bird, Bert and Ernie and the Cookie Monster. Watch the kids' eyes light up as they see their favorite Muppet on the screen. Hear them giggle to the jokes or sing along in learning about the alphabet. Perhaps then, Mitt Romney's heart will grow three sizes and he will give a reprieve to our 8-foot yellow friend.

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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dean Obeidallah.

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