Two Bad Ideas

The world of politics and posturing brings us two bad ideas today. Both have been mentioned earlier, but both deserve to be highlighted.

First, we have The Governator’s proposal to pump up California tax revenues by installing satellite trackers in every car in the state, and using the Global Poisitioning System to tax Californians for every mile that they drive. Why, you ask? Because Governor Schwarzenegger is worried that increasing fuel efficiency means that California will no longer receive enough money to maintain its sprawling road system. The idea is flawed on nearly every level. From a civil liberties standpoint, the idea of granting the government unrestricted rights to track your every movement is simply unthinkable, particularly when justified only be the need of the state to raise a little extra cash. From a conservation standpoint, while a mileage tax might be beneficial in addition to a gas tax, a mile tax replacing a gas tax essentially gives a price break to drivers of gas-guzzling vehicles (like the Governor’s Hummer). Economically, California is already an often over-regulated, over-taxed state; businesses can and will go elsewhere if California continues to add taxes and additional equipment requirements to every car operating in the state. Finally, as many have pointed out, much of the driving done on California’s clogged streets is done by workers who can’t afford to live anywhere near where they work because of high housing costs.

Legislators are right that there is a crisis in funding transportation initiatives in California. But frankly, I can’t think of anything that there isn’t a funding crisis for in California. The gas tax, which supporters of the mileage tax are claiming is inadequate to fund transportation, is already being diverted to fund other programs- despite legislation passed in 2001 that says that the gas tax must be used to fund road projects. California needs broader tax reform – a revisit of the property tax situation, for one – and tighter control over spending, not a new tax that eases the burden of Hummer ownership.

Behind door #2, we have Alaska Senator Ted Stevens’ crusade to apply broadcast decency standards to cable and satellite media. Observe the Senator’s nuanced understanding of the topic:

“Cable is a much greater violator in the indecency area,” the Alaska Republican told the National Association of Broadcasters, which represents most local television and radio affiliates. “I think we have the same power to deal with cable as over-the-air” broadcasters.

Stevens said he disagreed “violently” with assertions by the cable industry that Congress does not have the authority to impose limits on its content.

“If that’s the issue they want to take on, we’ll take it on and let the Supreme Court decide,” he said.

A quiz for you, Senator Stevens:
The power of the federal government to regulate broadcast standards is based on:
a) Warm affection for mom, apple pie, the 1950’s, and J. Edgar Hoover.
b) The power of Congress to decide what is and isn’t covered by the First Amendment – recorded only in a secret memo written by George Washington, and revealed in the movie “National Treasure”.
c) The fact that broadcast frequencies are a ‘shared resource’ that belongs to the United States as a whole, rather than any single party or entity, and, because it freely crosses state lines, is subject to the authority of the federal government to administer it in such a way as to provide maximum benefit to the nation as a whole.

With me so far? Now, the bonus question:
The broadcast medium employed by cable television is:
a) The property of the cable company.
b) The property of the U.S. Congress.
c) The property of the estate and heirs of Edwin Meese.

It’s a trick question, of course. Edwin Meese is still alive and well.

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