One of America's leading authorities on technology and telecom policy, Motley is a writer, television and radio commentator, political and policy strategist, lecturer, debater, activist, and policy advisor to The Heartland Institute.
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Washington, D.C. is a dysfunctional mess. Just about nothing gets done unless it absolutely has to get done. And when things do get done – they are just about always horrible. Bigger and bigger government, over and over again, as far as the eye can see.
For instance, DC hasn’t passed an actual budget through the actual process since 2009 – the year of the $878 billion alleged “Stimulus.” DC has ever since set its spending via Continuing Resolutions (CRs) – which means with the alleged “Stimulus” built in to the baseline. Meaning we’ve now had an additional $5+ trillion in “Stimulus” thrown down the rat hole – above and beyond the original “Stimulus” and the already heinous 2009 pre-“Stimulus” budget level. Wonder why we have in that time added $8+-trillion-and-counting to the national debt – despite repeated record-setting tax takes? This is largely why.
This all-encompassing DC disarray is in part created by Democrat President Barack Obama. Who is a strident, nightmare Leftist – with no regard for the Constitution or its limits and processes. He doesn’t budge an inch. On anything. Ever. And his Democrats controlled the Senate all the way through until January. They are all big fans of the built-in-“Stimulus” CRs – so they for years helped blow up the budget process.
But that doesn’t explain this year. We the People delivered the Republicans the House majority in 2010 – and we delivered them the Senate last November. Why then are we yet again mere days away from the government running out of spending authority? Barring action, the government runs out of walking around money on October 1.
This futility budget brinksmanship is pathetic. And of course prevents any actual discussion of on what we’re spending – and possibly curtailing some of it. And when a $4-trillion-a-year federal government does this – a lot of important things are left twisting in the wind.
Like the Internet Tax Freedom Act (ITFA). Which: “Bars federal, state and local governments from taxing Internet access and from imposing discriminatory Internet-only taxes such as bit taxes, bandwidth taxes, and email taxes. The law also bars multiple taxes on electronic commerce.” That’s a lot of different taxes from a lot of different directions. Think governments of all levels aren’t licking their chops at the prospect of getting their money-grabbing mitts on the Web? Well, unless the Feds act before October 1 – they’ll all have their chance. That’s when the last brinksmanship-induced ITFA extension expires.
It wasn’t always thus. For over a decade, ITFA was easily extended for years at a time – in overwhelmingly bipartisan fashion. Then came the Age of Obama. Last year, it was on-the-brink extended on September 19 – to December 11. Then on-the-brink-extended again – until this Thursday.
To their credit, the Republican House in June passed the Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act (PITFA). Just as the Republican House did last year. Thus would we finally end this particular brand of cliffhanger governance. What has the Senate done with it? Enter Nevada Democrat Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV).
Senator Reid won’t allow PITFA up for a vote in the Senate. Unless he can tether it to a whole new Internet tax scheme – the woefully misnamed, incredibly destructive Marketplace Fairness Act (MFA). A bill that would require online retailers to collect tax on sales they make to out-of-jursidiction consumers. Get that? Under the MFA, uber-tax-happy places like California would no longer be confined to taxing into oblivion just Californians. They’d have access to the wallets of every business – every person – in all fifty states. Taxation without representation – on stilts. From every level of government – about a thousand different taxing jurisdictions nationwide. This is absolutely no bueno.
The horrendous MFA should be a discussion for another day – but Reid won’t allow that. His tethering it to PITFA is creating even more government brinksmanship. For no reason, other than government doesn’t want to give up one vein to bleed – unless it can open another.
So DC’s denizens this week address their latest self-inflicted “crises.” There’s not much we can do about yet another debt-exploding CR. But they absolutely should extend ITFA. And once this latest cliff is avoided, they should pass PITFA – free from ridiculous, unrelated new taxes attached thereto. This used to be a bipartisan simplicity. But nothing in DC is simple anymore.
DC’s imposed private sector uncertainty is now omni-directional and omni-present. PITFA is one chance to roll back a bit of the inanity.