While I was on my blogging hiatus, I did actually read and save articles I wanted to comment on later. Several of them were from Townhall.com, one of my favorite sites that sends me a daily digest of their offerings. One that caught my attention was on the Digital Homestead Act.
A family member worked for Circuit City for a time, selling in their television department. When I had occasion to buy a new TV a couple of years ago, she tried to tell me “well, you’re better off buying a digital TV right now, because Congress has passed legislation mandating that all TV signal be digital by 2006 [I think that’s the year she mentioned] and you won’t be able to use an analog TV.” As you can see from the article below, however, we know that’s not necessarily so. We switched to digital cable, but it’s not because we couldn’t get an analog signal on our TV … no, it was because there are so many more choices and channels … and because we get a break on our cable internet service if we get both through Comcast. I mean really…..who needs that many sports and home-and-garden channels anyway??? But if it’s going to keep me from having to buy yet another new TV set in the next several years (the last one was 20 years old before I got rid of it!!) I’ll stay with digital and block out what I don’t want to access. Besides, I might qualify for up to two $40 government vouchers if I don’t replace my TVs with digital [hence the gub'ment cheese reference] … who would know??? I would!!! Y'know ... everyone needs to remember, "Just 'cause you can doesn't mean you should!"
But for more information on this ridiculous piece of legislation, read the following Townhall.com piece:
The Digital Homestead Act
The government offers to subsidize your TV watching.
Friday, December 23, 2005 12:01 a.m.
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 will already 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 produce and some free-range chickens. And don't bother pointing out that Uncle Sam doesn't reimburse people when their TVs break, or when they must pay for 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 Times.
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 equal amount?
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.
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