A punchline for months, the Feds consider paying off the media as needed in the infrastructure bill.
When Biden’s highly touted and even more highly expensive Infrastructure spending bill, and his Build Back Better Act were initially floated the ridiculous breadth of them provoked gallows humor. Looking over the initial proposals generated numerous questions of what qualified in the bill, leading people to grimly declare items like season tickets, or their bar tab could be considered “infrastructure.” Looking over the Democrats’ social spending bill we see they continue to regard tax revenue as a no-limit debit card for their whims.
One item that is proposed to be funded appears almost innocuous while also a ridiculous inclusion. Dubbed as the Local Journalism Sustainability Act, looked at one way, this is an effort to deliver aid to an industry that has been suffering for a time already but became deeply impacted by the arrival of the pandemic. The Democrats would prefer it not be looked at for what it is — a payoff racket.
The structure of this segment is created to prop up an industry that has been beleaguered by the digital revolution, so the solution is a layered support system of handouts. What HR-3940 claims to do is “To provide tax incentives that support local newspapers and other local media, and for other purposes.” This sounds like a magnanimous deal to keep the lights on in the newsroom, but there is quite a bit more in play.
First, publishers will be granted a payroll deduction tax benefit of 50% of a reporter’s salary, up to $50,000 annually. Next, the government will grant a tax break of up to $5,000 for local businesses that advertise with the local paper. Third, there will also be incentives for all citizens, as they can write off up to $250 yearly for their subscriptions to local newspapers.
There is only one way to look at this proposal — it is a sweeping federal subsidy of an industry. The government is helping to fund payroll expenses, driving businesses to deal with papers, and even generating the audience base. This is a sweeping involvement of the government into a sector that is — by design — supposed to operate separately from federal involvement. The likelihood of this creating influence is beyond obvious.
Already the journalism industry is one that displays a political preference. How much more under the sway of a party will news outlets become once their fiscal survival is tied directly to the payments made by the government? The simple fact is there will either be a tendency to look (more) favorably at the entity granting you this largesse, or there could be a hesitancy to report too harshly for fear those in power could cut off the money flow.
This is the kind of arrangement you see in Mafia films, where a godfather delivers a thick passel of cash, which carries the implication that at some point down the road a favor could be called in as a result. It is the flip side of the same corrupt coin seen in third-world dictatorships. Where they use force to clamp down on opposition papers, here the privileged set is buying influence and creating sympathetic news outlets.
Just to show this is not a hyperbolic dose of hysteria, we have an operating example we can look at right now — PBS, and NPR. As the Public Broadcasting Service and National Public Radio have been subsisting on federal backing for generations they both have become consistent supporters of the left side of the political aisle. We have come to expect fawning coverage of the Democrats, critical assessments of the GOP, and we even saw its sympathies on display when NPR boldly touted it would not cover the Hunter Biden laptop news story ahead of the November election.
We even have a blueprint of the resulting relationship these public broadcasters with D.C., as many times Republicans have raised the specter of pulling the taxpayer support based on the slanted coverage on display. This alone tells of the precarious relationship of being dependent on the wallet of those you are covering.
The deflections offered up by PBS and NPR about their biases do not display a defense of their coverage. Whenever talk of cutting off the federal spigot is mentioned, they push the kids in front of the cameras — Republicans want to kill off Big Bird! Well, you eggheads can pipe down in this claim, because that dodge is no longer a valid threat. The Muppets are now owned by Disney, so your canary-colored mesomorph emu is not getting shipped to the Perdue Farms kill floor anytime soon.
These two outlets show the dysfunction that will spread in the media environment, as the feds are ready to become a beneficiary to the industry on par with what is seen with farm subsidies. Take some of the wisdom seen in paying farmers to not grow crops, or the government buying up production yields only to dump the product, in order to keep prices propped up, and apply that to the news landscape.
This is a mistake of grand order set to take place. An already suspect industry is primed to now be on the government payroll. Just when we thought they could not get any worse.
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