Fox News got all het up about the Muppets being anti-Capitalist before coming to their senses. So it seems strange that conservatives would follow up that loser of a battle by criticizing Sesame Street’s campaign against child hunger by arguing that it’s “Brought to you by the letters ‘B’ and ‘G’… for Big Government.”
This is, of course, a depressing reflection on the state of the current conservative movement. It was a Republican, Sen. Bob Dole, who worked with Sen. George McGovern to make it easier for families to get food stamps and to expand school lunch programs (his commitment may originally have come from his agricultural constituents, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t help people get food assistance). It might be nice to believe that private charity can totally alleviate hunger, but that seems like an optimistic assumption even in the best of times. It doesn’t seem like a tragedy of bureaucratic overreach to suggest that in case of emergency, the government should provide its most vulnerable citizens with access to the minimum essentials they need to be able to work, or study—or live.
And more to the point, do we really want to teach children the value of independence and hard work by suggesting that it’s dishonorable for them to accept food assistance if they aren’t getting fed at home? Not every child’s parents are going to be able to provide everything they need. Not every child’s parents will know what help is available to them if they’re having trouble affording food or clothing if their English language skills are poor or if they’re not terribly plugged in to existing bureaucracies. If we can reach vulnerable parents through their children, that strikes me as a good thing. And if children suffer not just form poverty but from neglectful parents and Sesame Street programming gives them the information and inspiration to advocate for themselves and get themselves access to the resources that have already been made available for them, I have a hard time shaking my head over that. When kids are at a point where their food supply is secure, then might be the time to get all Ron Swanson on them about the problems with government programs.