Thursday, January 06, 2005

Thievery, Chicanery and Idol Worship

I am the tax preparer in my home. I tend to think about the taxes all year long. What deductions are we going to have? Are we withholding the right amount so we won’t get whacked by a huge bill in April? Did the feds change the laws and how will that affect us? What about the state and the county, have they raised the rates? I figure between property, income, gas and sales tax we pay over one third of our income in taxes.

I don’t want to complain. I live in a nice community in Maryland where the roads are well maintained, the schools are well-funded and even the Section 8 housing looks like a middle class neighborhood.

But the truth is we could be doing better and maybe my taxes would be lower if the FCC and Congress would stop stealing money from local government.

It’s not only that local government is losing an estimated $500 million a year in uncollected cable modem fees, it’s the fact that amount will grow exponentially as the Bells are granted their free ride on Internet-protocol video and cable challenges the regulatory playing field.

It made my head spin to see how fast both parties were eager to give away the store. Reps. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) and Rich Boucher (D-Va.) weren’t even decent enough to wait a week into the new Congress to introduce their bill that gives the Bells a gigantic bear hug.

According to Multichannel News, “under Stearns-Boucher, neither the FCC nor the state would be permitted to regulate the entry or exit of ‘advanced Internet communications-service’ providers or to impose rates, terms and conditions on the services offered.”

Stearns said deregulation was needed to allow these technologies to “flourish.” Like they aren’t flourishing?

Like my brother in Missouri needs this legislation so he can finally once and for all get ESPN 400 through his ISP? As if he would care, he gets 50,000 satellite channels and he’s got 300 head of cattle to feed. Yet, Congress and the FCC treat the communications companies as if they were the “golden calf” that we should all worship in the desert. Huh?

Meanwhile, I think about taxes, fees, surcharges and the like that are imposed on me by the feds, the state and the local government and wonder about my own ability to “flourish.” I sure could use some de-reg and I am guessing most of my neighbors could too.

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Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Why Can't I Be Comcast?

When I was growing up I wanted to be an astronaut. Then I thought I might like being a journalist. I explored the possibility of artist, archeologist, beautician, lounge singer, Marine and theatrical director as I searched for that perfect thing that I should “be.”

Those were the fantastical aspirations of youth. Now, so many years later, I have realized my one true calling...I want to be Comcast.

I dream of having a bevy of high priced lawyers at my beck and call that can swoop into small towns at the drop of a hat and intimidate the locals. I want to develop the skill to talk out of both sides of my mouth with ease and grace. I long to host a national political convention just to remind the doubters which side their bread is buttered on. But more than anything else, I want freebies!

I want to have an ex-mayor now governor in my hip pocket so that when the going gets tough I can get over fifty million dollars in public subsidies and tax breaks to build a 57 story skyscraper tribute to myself in downtown Philly. But you can bet I won’t be a piggy about it, I’ll actually create 600 jobs. And everyone will be happy because those jobs only cost the Pennsylvania taxpayers ninety thousand dollars a piece to create!

Of course it won’t be a cake-walk being Comcast. Mayor John Street of Philadelphia has already warned that critics are “less than appropriately grateful,” for all I plan to do. I will need to remind the citizens what “appropriately grateful” looks like every month when I send them their bill.

So along with the glory, the muscle and gargantuan proportions of my being Comcast, there will be a frustration here and there. But I am confident, in my new life as Comcast, there won't be a challenge that a little back-slapping can’t resolve.

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