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:
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.”
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).