A few theaters and auditoriums were tenser than others. In places such as Springdale High School auditorium, in the Arkansas Ozarks, that unrelenting America erupted like a white-hot Yellowstone geyser. There, on Wednesday, Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton (R) fielded questions from concerned citizens.
Although the anecdotal nature of town halls made it impossible to determine whether the anger on display was artificially inflated, a few spoke with clear passion. One woman told Cotton that, were it not for the Affordable Care Act, three members of her family would be dead.
“I am an angry constituent,” the woman said. “You work for us.” She implored the senator to meet with her family to hear her story.
If there was a citizen in the Springdale crowd who received more applause, it was the last person to hold the microphone. Toby Smith — age 7 “but almost 8″ — told Cotton that he found President Trump’s comments about Mexico concerning.
“Donald Trump makes Mexicans not important to people who are in Arkansas who like Mexicans,” Toby said, pointing out that those Arkansans include himself and his grandma. Crucially for Toby, too, Trump’s proposed border wall with Mexico posed a threat to PBS Kids and the national parks.
“He is deleting all the parks and PBS Kids just to make a wall,” Toby said, “and he shouldn’t do that. He shouldn’t do all that stuff just for the wall.”
Under a possible Trump administration plan to shrink federal spending, reported in January, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting would be privatized. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting allocates funds to nonprofit television and radio stations through NPR and the Public Broadcasting Service; this includes PBS Kids, which boasts long-running shows such as “Arthur” and the newer “Dinosaur Train.” The National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities, according to the reported plan, would be eliminated completely.
Cotton thanked Toby for coming and said, “We are a melting pot. We are all one people.”
“We want Mexico to be a healthy, strong partner,” said the senator, adding that he wanted to see the United States help Mexico with its crime and drug cartel problems. “But we also have to protect our own citizens, and that’s where the wall comes in.”
The proposed wall along the Mexico border was recently estimated to cost $21.6 billion over more than three years. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting received $445 million in federal funding in 2016, or about 0.02 percent of the federal budget. Were that budget applied to the proposed wall, those funds would cover 2 percent of the nearly 2,000-mile-long wall.
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