Why PBS always wins

But poor timing isn’t the only factor that’s made it hard for Republicans to end the Sesame Street subsidy. It’s politically tricky, in part because of local boards that oversee PBS affiliates. Franc argues that since so many powerful appropriators have spouses on the boards, they feel pressure to keep the money flowing. Giving federal funds to causes that benefit the arts lets them enjoy the social advantages of philanthropists without contributing any of their own money. And supporting PBS is also fashionable, according to Hillyer, both for would-be philanthropists and for members of the media.

“This is hitting them right in not just their ideological wheelhouse but their cultural snobbish wheelhouse,” he says. “They like to think of themselves as intellectuals, and intellectuals support federal funding for these supposedly intellectual pursuits.”

In that sense, you can see funding for CPB as reverse class warfare, since it takes money from everyone to fund the pursuits of the wealthy. And CPB makes some people pretty wealthy, too.