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Double-speakiness

Of the 42,825 words in the "Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012," 111 are devoted to "middle-class tax relief." The rest are devoted to "other purposes," such as auctioning off TV spectrum to pay for government programs.

Auctioning off TV spectrum to pay for stuff is kind of a Congressional hobby. Lawmakers put $26.3 billion on the TV spectrum credit card 10 years ago. They came up $7.6 billion short on 108 MHz of prime spectrum. One 10 MHz swath—the D block—failed to attract the minimum reserve bid of $1.3 billion because businesses had no interest in sharing spectrum with public safety officials. The Shell Game Act of 2012 quietly hands that spectrum over to first responders for a public safety network that could have been in place 20 years ago through the application of communications standards. Instead, several billion tax dollars are likely to flow into the coffers of wireless providers tapped to lease infrastructure for a new public safety network that renders a landfill of perfectly good radios obsolete. Innovative, indeed, but I don't think in a good way.

The Sleight of Hand Act of 2012 derives at least $2 billion for the public safety network from the proceeds of TV spectrum auctions. Another $3 billion goes toward moving radio astronomy folks out of one channel, while broadcasters get $1.75 billion to clear out of 20—presuming they do. The spectrum auctions are expected to raise a total of $20 billion based on who knows what since no one has any idea how many broadcasters will voluntarily give up their spectrum. But the Hey Don't Blink Act of 2012 has that covered. If the government throws an auction and no one comes, it'll just pretend the whole thing never happened. Until the next time it needs to seem to pay for something.