[opendtv] Re: OpinionJournal Article: The Digital Homestead Act

  • From: Cliff Benham <cbenham@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: opendtv@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Fri, 23 Dec 2005 14:51:43 -0500

Free Cheese? I never got any free cheese!

John Willkie via OpinionJournal.com wrote:

> OpinionJournal
>Your friend John Willkie thought you might be interested in this article[3]
>from OpinionJournal[4] and forwarded it to you. 
>The Digital Homestead Act
>The government offers to subsidize your TV watching.
>America's mandated conversion to all-digital television broadcasting drew a
>step closer Wednesday, when the Senate agreed with the House on how and when
>to do it. According to plan, the transition will take effect on Feb. 17,
>2009. That's when TV stations that now transmit analog signals--around since
>the 1940s--must switch to digital broadcasting.
>But wait, there's more! What we like to call the Digital Homestead Act will
>also launch the most mockable government handout program since the cheese
>giveaways of the Reagan era. Of course, things have changed since the street
>distribution of surplus cheddar (caused by dairy subsidies) a
>quarter-century ago. The reasoning behind the latest scheme is a lot dumber.
>Essentially, Congress proposes to spend up to $1.5 billion handing out $40
>vouchers to millions of Americans who don't need the money--so that they can
>keep using obsolete technology.
>But let's back up a bit. Most people won't notice a change in 2009. They
>willalready have digital TVs (all new sets sold after mid-2007 must be
>digital), or they will still be subscribing to cable or satellite services
>that can send digital signals even to analog TVs.
>Yet Congress has latched onto the factoid that some 15% of households don't
>have cable or satellite. They still receive signals on analog TVs the old
>free-to-air way, using an antenna to get local network stations that
>broadcast in analog. This setup won't work when all broadcasts go digital.
>Here's where the absurdities start piling up. The bipartisan party line is
>that many of these antenna folks are elderly ladies in nursing homes or
>people too poor to pay for digital TVs or basic cable. And since they need
>television in order to keep abreast of their democratic rights, e.g., to see
>political ads, Congress says that they must be given financial aid so they
>can rush out and buy a set-top converter box that will let them see the
>newfangled signals like the real digital homesteads do.
>Never mind that an estimated price of a converter box by 2009--$50--is the
>cost of a few cigarette packs in New York or perhaps a bag of organic
>produceand some free-range chickens. And don't bother pointing out that
>UncleSam doesn't reimburse people when their TVs break, or when they must
>payfor cable because they can't receive a clear local signal. This is
>different, subsidy advocates insist. "This is the government making your TV
>go black and then paying only part of the costs for some of the people to
>make it work again," Gene Kimmelman of Consumers Union told the New York
>Fancy that: The government taking something away and not giving it all back.
>Ever heard of taxes? Another canard is the notion, put forth by at least one
>gushing editorialist, that the vouchers are "free money," since they will be
>financed through an auction of old analog frequencies. Sounds like
>taxpayer-financed "free" medical care. Or, to look at the voucher program
>another way, if the government threw $1.5 billion from helicopters instead,
>does anyone doubt that it would eventually find reasons to claw back an
>One universally acknowledged truth--even in Congress--is that the people who
>gobble up many of those vouchers will not be needy. Millions of households
>with satellite dishes and new big-screen TVs also have at least one old
>analog set lying around, and each family is entitled to two $40 vouchers.
>As we learned when many of the non-poor joined long queues for Reagan
>cheese,Americans would stand in line for marmoset pelts if they were labeled
>"free." To encourage such grabbiness in 2009, Congress has earmarked $5
>million for voucher advertising. Mark your calendars.
>--- Links ---
>   1 http://www.wsj.com/?jopinemaowsj
>   2 http://opinionjournal.com/
>   3 http://www.opinionjournal.com/taste/?id=110007715
>   4 http://opinionjournal.com
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