10/5/2009 6:00 AM
It isn’t hard to find new ways to tax people. Politicians spend their entire lives trying to perfect the process primarily to keep their offices. The first step in arguing for any new tax is for the politician to declare that some service or product is missing from some group of people. That missing service or product could be healthcare, television, or in this example — broadband. In the eyes of elected officials, the only possible “solution” to such a perceived need is that money be taken from one group and redistributed to the other, in their opinion needy, group. Politicians are such caring people, aren’t they?
What caught my eye was a new redistributive tax and spend idea from California Democrat Doris Matsiu. On Sept. 24, she introduced a House of Representatives bill that would place a new tax on all broadband services. This new tax resembles the current universal service tax imposed on landline and cell phone bills. The last time I tallied the FCC’s universal service tax on my landline, it amounted to more than 20 percent of the total phone bill. By any measure, that’s an extraordinarily high percentage tax.
Calling her bill “The Broadband Affordability Act,” representative Matsui proposes all broadband services be taxed by the FCC and those funds then be redistributed to “lower-income” consumers.
Matsui packages her “assistance” program under the guise that it would help eliminate the digital divide, saying, “It is clear that millions of Americans cannot afford broadband services” and that it costs up to “$60 a month for broadband services.”
Representative Matsui’s cost claim stretches credulity. Some might even call her cost statement a Joe Wilson.
Here is a fact. AT&T quoted me a cost of $19.95 per month to provide DSL service to her Sacramento, CA, office address. So representative Matsui, don’t allege that broadband costs $60 per month, when your statement is misleading at best.
Such a disingenuous claim is, however, a convenient way to justify a higher tax on the broadband bills that others pay. That simply gives the politician more money to dole out. What’s next Matsui — free computers? Because we know that broadband doesn’t work without a computer, right?
If someone doesn’t have broadband at home, I acknowledge that is unfortunate. But, it’s not as though anyone is being denied total access to the Internet. Libraries provide free access in a safe and comfortable environment. Every school in America has high-speed Internet. And, if you really want DSL at home, you can get it for about $20 per month.
Media, just like everything else, has a real cost. Some people can afford to pay for digital services and some can’t. Fortunately for those who can’t, there are both low and zero-cost alternatives. Life isn’t fair, and all the taxes in the world won’t make it so — although politicians on both sides keep trying to tell us it will.
On the other hand, Matsui’s idea of making others pay for something I want (as opposed to need) might have merit. Maybe she and her fellow politicians (Democrat and Republican) could pass a tax on you so I could have some of your money to buy a new 55in plasma HDTV. My TV is now 11 years old, and I need a new one. Oh and I want, make that need, cable and HD in all my bedrooms too. After all, my local library doesn’t provide that kind of service and I need this.