The Potential Conundrum of Regulating Pay-TVWritten by Terry Mitchell
In last week's column, I argued merits (or rather lack thereof) of extending decency regulations to cable and satellite TV. This week, I'll point out just how much of a quagmire this would actually be and how difficult it would be to implement, regardless of merits. Regulating cable and satellite TV would not be as clear-cut as it might seem on surface. Remember, we are talking about regulation of indecency which, unlike obscenity, is protected by First Amendment. The complexities of such an undertaking are quite formidable, to say least. There are several key issues that would have to be dealt with and overcome. Like they say, devil is in details. For one thing, Congress would need to determine scope of what is to be regulated. Would it be cable and satellite TV only or all forms of pay-TV? If Congress sets out to regulate all forms of pay-TV, term - "pay-TV" - would have to be legally defined. Besides satellite and cable, would it also include new IPTV technology in which TV channels, programs, and movies are delivered to TV set-top boxes from internet? Would internet video viewed on a computer also be included? Or would everything originating from internet be automatically exempt? Would wireless pay TV services also be included? Would videos, whether rented or purchased, also be defined as a form of pay-TV? One could make a case for them being included because videos, both VHS and DVD, are ultimately played on a TV. What about video delivered by cell phone? Couldn't that also be considered a form of pay-TV? Now, if Congress decides that new regulations will only apply to cable and satellite TV, there are still problems. Would all channels on every cable and satellite TV system be regulated or would regulations just apply to so-called "basic" channels. Would term, "all channels", include pay-per-view and video-on-demand (VOD) programs and movies? If so, how would safe-harbor hours be enforced with VOD, since subscriber determines when programs and movies play? If only basics are to be included, some definition would be have to be devised to determine difference between a basic and a premium channel. Would any channel that could be purchased as part of a package of channels be defined as a basic channel? If so, then most channels we currently think of as premiums would be included because they can be packaged together with similar channels. For example, HBO is sometimes packaged with channels like Cinemax, Showtime, Starz, or even other multiplexes of HBO. Or would basics be limited those channels available in first tier or two? Since this packaging varies from one cable and satellite system to next, how would anyone know which channels are real basics? Would premiums be limited to channels that could be subscribed to individually at an additional price? If that's case, would a multiplex channel like HBO Signature will treated like a basic, since it cannot be subscribed to individually? Also, channels that one can subscribe to individually vary slightly from one cable and satellite system to next, so how would anyone know which channels are real premiums? When things like that differ from one cable and satellite system to another, would rules be based on how majority of systems operate? Or would some other method be used to resolve this matter?
A National Sales Tax: The Time is NowWritten by Nader Ghali
"If you elect me, Senator Katherine Laforge, as your next president, my National Sales Tax will give you back true equity in share of taxes you pay. You will no longer be utilitarian taxpayer for elite." "Hulagu's Web - chapter 10"
The heroine in "Hulagu's Web" is a true believer in Frank Chodorov's compelling view that income tax is root of all evil. Why, under our current National Income Tax system, do billions in real income earned by criminal endeavors, underground economy and illegal aliens go totally untaxed? Why are complexities of our tax code so onerous that only wealthy can afford resources, knowledge and ability to truly access expert advice on how to legally minimize their taxes? The answer to these questions is that everyday wage earner with his passiveness, unquestioned acceptance, and fear of taxation process has become politically impotent. His na´ve trust in wisdom of his elective officials has made him elite's utilitarian taxpayer. It's time to move proposal to implement a National Sales Tax out of realm of political theatre and into reality. The idea bobs up and down during key election years but continues to meet stiff resistance inside corridors of power. Clearly a vast lobby of Washington's politicians, lawyers and accountants with special interests seem intent on declaring such a proposal "dead on arrival" before giving it a fair hearing. However, soon that may change. No less an authority than Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan has recently endorsed a National Sales Tax. While Mr. Greenspan has been known to easily roil financial markets by his cryptic oracles on state of economy, his stance on a National Sales Tax rings resoundingly clear. Speaking before President's Advisory Panel on Federal Tax Reform, Mr. Greenspan said he believed that a consumption tax—such as a National Sales Tax—could spur economic growth. One of his most important arguments was that a consumption tax could lead to increased savings. The reason for this is obvious. If, instead of taxing income, government taxes spending—then consumers will think twice about what they spend their money on. Greenspan made it clear that completely eliminating current income tax with a consumption tax would meet with tremendous opposition and involve a great deal of complex transitional issues. It's also clear that loopholes in current, convoluted tax system continue to benefit elite and industries.The proposal for a National Sales Tax is part of President's push for a complete overhaul of tax system, a pledge he made in his re-election campaign. It's clear that no idea is off table, and this one certainly has a long pedigree. Mr. Greenspan noted that National Sales Tax was considered back in 1986, but reformers instead chose more politically cautious approach of working to "overhaul" current system instead. So much for "overhauling"—the current tax code is substantially more complicated and confusing now than it was then. The National Retail Sales Tax Alliance, which supports complete abolition of our current income tax system, gives some key figures that illustrate how complex system has become. They point out that in year 2000, 1040 form alone was 70 lines long, with 117 pages of instructions. Americans spend nearly two hundred billion dollars a year in filing their taxes. The current push for an "overhaul" should do more than simply tiptoe around elephant in living room. It should strike a dagger into heart of this burdensome behemoth once and for all. The current tax system has made liars out of many otherwise decent, hard-working Americans, while providing endless shelters and loopholes for elite and wealthy. A National Sales Tax is a more equitable proposal, and would bring in greater revenue streams. Everyone who buys goods or services would pay taxes. Unlike current system where illegal aliens can dodge their taxes by carrying on business under table, nobody would be exempt from a National Sales Tax. This includes everyone from honest workers to hardened criminals or drug traffickers. With acceptance of a National Sales Tax, endless man-hours and millions of dollars otherwise spent in "audits" would be saved. The chance of property confiscation for improperly paying taxes or going to prison for tax fraud would be alleviated or at least greatly reduced. A National Sales Tax will bring many denizens back into our society as productive members and true citizens of our country.