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October 14, 2012

Column:Silly ‘Big Bird’ debate points to a serious problem

Good grief, says an Obama campaign struggling to regain its footing after a bad debate stumble, Mitt Romney said he wants to strip Big Bird of federal funding, and that would be awful. What could really be awful — a tipping-point calamity for this country of ours — would be a second Obama term in which the White House continues its politically convenient fiscal negligence.

It’s that prospect that was most dramatically exposed in Romney’s remarks and then underlined again in the trivializing response that a chubbily successful “Sesame Street” operation needed welfare.

The subject came up after Romney was asked what he would do about deficits. He said first off that the extent of our spending had been immoral. The government was adding $1 trillion a year to a debt that would be “passed on to the next generation,” he said, explaining that those victims would “be paying the interest and principal all their lives.”

The Republican presidential candidate said one way to address that issue was to get sufficiently serious about spending, to ask of any program whether it was “critical” enough to justify “borrowing money from China to pay for it.” As an example, he mentioned stopping subsidies to the Public Broadcasting Service, home of Big Bird, but first mentioned repealing something else, something much bigger, something that sums up Obama’s first term: “Obamacare,” introduced on formal occasions as the Affordable Care Act.

We’ll get back to Obamacare in a moment, but first let’s talk about the core issue here, a national debt of $16 trillion that may not even wait until the next generation to visit ruin upon us. Short of serious remedies, the debt will keep the economy in a slow-motion, scarce-jobs mode with the possibility of crises that would make our current struggles seem a mere “ouch” moment in comparison.

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