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New Series at Government Bytes: And WE'RE Astroturf? Part I
You've no doubt heard liberal Members of Congress and other interest groups calling the Tea Party movement "astroturf," a play on the term grassroots. Like our good friend Nancy, for example...
Or the liberal pro-net neutrality group Free Press, which has an entire section on its site devoted to "outing" so-called Astroturf operations. This page includes a handy-dandy widget with a graphic of large corporations pulling the strings of Congress.
They claim that the whole movement is the invention of a bunch of Beltway insiders backed by piles of corporate cash. For them, it simply does not compute that ordinary Americans could be fed up with trillions of dollars in debt, tax hikes, and runaway spending. It MUST be the orchestrations of rich puppet-masters in DC, right? Instead of spending hours debunking those claims, I'll point to a post I made on our old blog after the massive 9/12 March on Washington that NTU helped to organize. Several hundred thousand people from all across the country do a better job of dismissing these silly claims than I could here. Instead, the "And WE'RE astroturf?!" series will focus on liberal activists employing exactly the kind of shady strategies that they accuse us of using.
So, that group I mentioned, Free Press? The ones that have a page on their site to expose "Astroturfing?" Last week, they were outed as being the true authors behind a letter supposedly written by Congressman Jay Inslee (D-WA). The letter is being passed around to various Congressional offices to solicit support for FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski's radical effort to thumb his nose at the limits of his regulatory authority. But the properties of the electronic file show that the real author of the letter was not Mr. Inslee or a member of his staff, but none other than Free Press Policy Director Ben Scott!
I've worked in government affairs for the National Taxpayers Union for nearly five years now. Never in my life have I ghost-written a letter for a Member of Congress, nor have I offered to or been asked to do so. It's just not a part of the discussions we have with Congressional offices.
So, Free Press, what say you? Are you pulling Jay Inslee's strings? What other seemingly spontaneous pro-net neutrality efforts have you coordinated? How many other letters or bills have you written behind closed doors without getting caught?2 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
Amazon & North Carolina Spar Over Customer Data
Interesting bit of back and forth between Amazon and the North Carolina Department of Revenue over what information Amazon must provide to the state of North Carolina. The heart of the issue? Fairness, of course. According to Kenneth R. Lay, the state's Revenue Secretary, "[Local] businesses are at a competitive disadvantage when they have to collect sales taxes that other businesses do not. The Department is committed to supporting North Carolina small business and facilitating the equitable collection of taxes from both individual and corporate taxpayers." The "problem" for equitable collection is always that wacky Quill decision and its nexus standards that protect taxpayers and prevent states from running roughshod over out-of-state businesses.0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
NTU to Connecticut: Don't Tax Broadband
"HB 5255 would raise property taxes on broadband service equipment, which is already subject to the highest property tax rate in Connecticut. Broadband providers would simply pass along the cost of this tax increase to their customers, who would in turn see higher prices for cable television, telephone service, and high-speed Internet service. Increasing taxes on struggling businesses and raising prices for consumers makes no economic sense."
"Connecticut residents already live under one of the highest state and local tax burdens in the nation. Meanwhile, the state’s total expenditures have grown by more than $3 billion over the last three years. This largesse could have closed the $371 million projected gap for the next fiscal year eight times over. The state must end its dependence upon the unhealthy prescription of higher taxes and government spending. Instead, targeted budget cuts are necessary to restore government to its proper, sustainable size, while taxes should be reformed and reduced to provide relief to overburdened Connecticut taxpayers and spur economic growth."
Let's hope that the Legislature takes this recommendation to heart, for the sake of all broadband users, small businesses, and Connecticut residents.0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
Some super-genius guy wrote a super-genius op-ed in today's Washington Times entitled, "Spare Us the Broadband Plan." In it, that super-genius guy (hint: that's me, and I'm joking. I'm just a regular genius) talks about the grand scheme released by Chairman Julius Genachowski of the Federal Communications Commission, known as the "National Broadband Plan."
I'll save you the excruciating task of reading all 376 pages of it and instead give you the Cliff's Notes here: Genachowski thinks the federal government needs to implement a wide range of regulations and tax infrastructure changes to subsidize the expansion of broadband internet services to people who can't get it currently.
"Hey, super-genius guy," I hear you saying, "wouldn't it be a good thing to spread high-speed internet access all across the country? Think of the benefits that would bring!" To which super-genius guy responds, "First of all, I already pointed out that I'm just a regular genius. And second, of course it would be good, but is it worth $56,000 per home to do it?" Here's part of the op-ed that discusses the true cost of extending broadband that last little bit...
"Even the hardest-to-serve Americans who live in remote areas can choose from several satellite providers that offer speeds of 1 megabit per second (18 times faster than dial-up) for $60 to $70 per month. That's not as fast as cable or telephone companies' broadband speeds, but it would seem to make more sense than spending $24 billion to build 4-megabit-per-second land lines out to those remote areas, as the FCC estimates it would cost.
Economist Jerry Ellig of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University points out just how costly it will be to do things the FCC's way: "That $24 billion 'funding gap' also deserves comment. That's the amount of subsidy the plan estimates will be required to make 4 Mbps broadband available to all Americans. If you read the plan carefully, you will also find that a whopping $14 billion of that is required to bring broadband to the highest-cost two-tenths of one percent of American housing units - 250,000 homes (see page 138 of the National Broadband Plan). That works out to $56,000 per housing unit!" Incredibly, $56,000 would be enough to buy satellite Internet service for each of those households over the next 66 years."
Silliness aside, there are real issues at stake with this broadband plan. In roughly a decade, we've gone from just 8 million people having broadband service to more than 200 million. The increase in internet speeds has been mind-boggling, even to those that follow the industry very closely. I can vividly remember logging on to the internet via a 9,600 bps modem not too long ago. When we finally upgraded to 56k, it seemed like a miracle, and we're already light-years past that.
Simply stated, broadband has expanded quite well without any centralized doctrine from Washington. While the goals of the National Broadband Plan are admirable, it's not at all unreasonable to think that the rapid advancement of technology would make its guidelines obsolete within just a few years. Combining the Plan with so-called "net neutrality" regulations would be a double-whammy for taxpayers to revolutionize an industry that's been revolutionizing itself without bureaucratic bungling.0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
Amazon Drops Affiliates in Colorado after "Amazon" Tax
ZDNet reports that Amazon has dropped its affiliates program in Colorado after Governor Bill Ritter signed an "Amazon" tax bill into law.0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts