Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Hey FCC: USA Not Yet Ready to be the New F'!#?! USSR

With a headline like that, you might think that I moonlight as a writer for The Onion. No...not yet anyway. The FCC says they want internet content to remain open but what they mean is that THEY want their fingers on the control button, not the broadband providers under our current free market system. What!?! The last time I checked, this was America.

I think We the People should have our finger on the FCC button to shut their regulating bums down when we feel like it. But then, I am a known anti-federal government extremist with ties to nefarious characters like our founding fathers.

Anyway, I'm with KayBay on this one. Regulating the internet is outside the bounds of common sense, not to mention good old-fashioned American values. Have we really lost both of those? Are we really having this conversation? I suppose we are, for I just received the following press release:

Regulation would only hamper the Web

By Mitch McConnell and Kay Bailey Hutchison

Philadelphia Inquirer

November 9, 2012

The Internet has flourished for two decades without burdensome federal regulations. In its early days, a hands-off approach helped it grow and evolve rapidly. The Federal Communications Commission adopted a sensible noninterference policy in 1998, and hundreds of billions of dollars of investment in high-speed broadband infrastructure followed.

Without broadband, do-it-all smartphones and two-way video calls would still be the stuff of science fiction. Broadband has created nearly a million jobs and become an essential part of daily American life. Broadband networks have powered the information and communications industries, which in 2009 accounted for more than 3.5 million high-salary jobs and about $1 trillion in economic activity.

Despite all this, the FCC is about to reverse course and begin regulating the Internet. Unless the Senate acts on a measure under consideration this week, Internet service providers will be subject to the commission's new "Net neutrality" rules.

Under these mandates, broadband companies would lose control over the traffic and technology flowing through their infrastructure. Government bureaucrats would tell companies what is and is not a "reasonable" way to operate their systems. These regulatory burdens would discourage Internet service providers from innovating and investing, inject uncertainty into a thriving sector of our economy, and jeopardize the information industry's vast potential for growth.

More regulation would diminish broadband providers' expected returns on their capital. Lower returns mean less investment, which means fewer jobs created. Smaller companies would suffer the most, as they operate on thinner margins. With unemployment over 9 percent, do we really need this kind of regulatory overreach?

The government's primary rationale for these new rules is that broadband providers must be prevented from blocking certain online content and services. On the surface, this is an admirable goal. We, too, believe in an open Internet free of unreasonable discrimination. But market forces have and will continue to prevent such discrimination. A company attempting to block certain content would create frustrated customers who would simply switch Internet providers.

Indeed, despite a decade of Net neutrality advocates' doomsday warnings that rampant discrimination is imminent, the Internet remains open. The few instances of bad behavior have been dealt with swiftly by the free market or by the FCC using the tools it already has. In short, Net neutrality is a big-government solution in search of a problem.

Moreover, this FCC power grab is unprecedented and, in our estimation, unlawful. Congress has never given the commission the authority to regulate Internet providers' management of their networks.

Furthermore, the American people have shown their disdain for government interference, particularly when it comes to how private companies manage and maintain their investments.

In 1999, former Democratic FCC Chairman William Kennard said, "The fertile fields of innovation across the communications sector and around the country are blooming because from the get-go, we have taken a deregulatory, competitive approach to our communications structure - especially the Internet." In that spirit, we are urging our fellow senators to vote to repeal the FCC's unwarranted broadband regulations. We must preserve the open Internet as a platform for innovation and economic growth.

Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky, is the Senate Republican leader. Kay Bailey Hutchison, of Texas, is the ranking Republican on the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

California is Crazy. But then, I repeat myself.

The voter-approved "First 5 LA Program" spends $200 million of taxpayers' money without oversight. I know. Shocking.

It isn't. But it should be.

As the Los Angeles Times reports, a recent independent audit of the First 5 LA Commission revealed massive problems with the agency, including lack of accountability, spending oversight or competitive bidding. Perhaps the members of the Commission should get more than a slap on the wrist. Again, PatriotWriter calls for the return of the public Tar and Feather.

It sounds like an evening news program, but First 5 LA is actually part of a statewide program created in 1998 by Prop 10, a measure which was supposed to use funds from a tobacco tax (boo!) to promote health and education of young children. I was living in California at the time of its passage--Propositions for tax increases always magically pass in California. Please refer to the title of this post to find out why.

According to the independent audit, the Commission is not exactly fulfilling its mission. From the Times: An audit by Harvey M. Rose of San Francisco found First 5 LA's Commission was unable to monitor money that was being spent "since monthly programmatic expenditures are not presented relative to a budget." Try using that kind of fuzzy math in your budget at home.

Auditors also concluded the agency was overstaffed while under-spending on programs for children. Note: if a new tax is sold as "for the children" you can translate that into "employment for adults at the expense of the children" virtually every time. So, First 5 LA is spending too much on public employees and not enough on kids? You don't say. I love the government...it's so consistent.

Furthermore, First 5 LA doles out $200 million without a competitive bidding process and operates with such a lack of oversight that there’s no way to determine if the agency has signed agreements "for inappropriate purposes or with unqualified vendors or grantees”. Cronyism? Probably. Tax fraud? You betcha--taxpayers getting hosed again. Sounds like standard operating procedure in California, which has seen similar accountability and oversight problems with other initiative-created agencies as well. Heck--it sounds like standard operating procedure for the government in general. I agree with Ron Swanson of Parks and Recreation, "My idea of a perfect government is one guy who sits in a small room at a desk, and the only thing he's allowed to decide is who to nuke."

And yet Don Perata, a career politician, is pushing another measure – the so-called California Cancer Research Act – to create yet another unaccountable bureaucracy with six political appointees that can spend nearly a billion each year, including millions on staff salaries and pensions and overhead. With huge budget problems and public pension costs spiraling out of control, the last thing California needs is another big-spending bureaucracy with no oversight or accountability. The measure is slated for the June 2012 ballot in California.

You can stop government waste on the local level if you are doggedly persistent, on the state level if you pull the gloves off, and on the federal level if you protest and riot long enough. But then, perhaps I am overly optimistic. I am not entirely sure how any government waste, fraud and abuse has been stopped in the history of time. All I can say is, "Hey California--stop voting YES on every proposed tax on the ballot. You're never going to get what you pay for if you trust Gubmint to do it for you."

I am so glad I evacuated California six years ago. It's enough to make me go postal. Oh wait--they're bankrupt due to mismanagement and fuzzy accounting, too.

Partial commentary provided by Stephen Kruiser.