The recent canceling of White House tours in the name of sequester-related cuts understandably has disappointed children and families grousing.
Canceling tours of “the people’s house” saves taxpayers an estimated $18,000 a week, or $936,000 a year.
Putting that figure in perspective, the U.S. federal government has spent more on puppets and puppetry-related expenses than it would cost to fund an entire year’s worth of White House tours.
From 2009 to 2013, the U.S. government has spent $1,188,382 on puppetry-related expenses. Some of the expenses include puppet shows for kids on educational topics. Others include puppet-based research. In 2010, the taxpayer-funded National Science Foundation awarded the University of Central Florida a $199,754 research grant for “Efficient Control and Transmission of Digital Puppetry.”
The UCF website explains the project thusly:
The purpose of this project is to improve the quality of experiences that can be provided by the puppeteering paradigm (more varied behaviors, enhanced quality of service, reduced latency), while simultaneously reducing the barrier to entry (cost and complexity of set-up, cognitive load on puppeteer, need for extensive training).
In February 2013, the taxpayer-funded National Endowment for the Arts invested $25,000 into something called “In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask,” a Minneapolis project that will “support the development of a new work by puppetry artists in the Sampo Box Program.”
In 2009, tax dollars also funded research involving “puppet choreography and automated marionettes” at Northwestern University to the tune of $358,410, or roughly 19 weeks worth of White House visitor tours.
No one is pummeling puppets; to be sure, some of these expenses have produced positive outcomes. But when the White House website ominously informs citizens that “due to staffing reductions resulting from sequestration, we regret to inform you that White House tours will be canceled,” it’s time to get real and pull back the curtain on the political puppet show in Washington.
If the feds have to cut federal “puppet expenditures” to keep the people’s house open, so be it.