Tech at Night: Harry Reid to push the Sales Tax bait and switch

Tech at Night

Harry Reid is going to put a bait and switch on the agenda in the lame duck session. This is important to watch, because it’s a substantial power grab that appeals big government, tax-and-spend Democrats, as well as squishy, cronyist Republicans. That’s exactly the kind of sour grapes coalition that could pass a bad sales tax bill after the November elections.


Watch your wallet.

Why do I call it a bait and switch? It’s because the so-called Marketplace Fairness Act purports to be one thing, but in fact is actually something else. You see, for the last 14 years, the states have been coming together to form an interstate compact, called the Streamlined Sales Tax. The idea was to create a way for the states to come together, simplify sales taxes, and make them manageable to be charged across state lines.

The SST is a voluntary effort that sales tax states can choose to join, submitting their tax codes to standardized rules. If the US Congress chose to work with that effort, and allowed states in the compact to reach into each other’s states to collect sales taxes, that would be a reasonable, relatively non-controversial endeavor. States could join or not join the compact, and everybody gets what they want. Federalism and Constitutionality prevail. 23 states are full, compliant members of the project.

MFA supporters want you to imagine that this is all it’s about: creating a level playing field where states can merely collect what’s coming to them, without letting anyone get an unfair advantage.

However the bill actually does much more than that. The MFA would allow sales tax states to reach into states that are not choosing to participate, as well as letting states with their own, incompatible rules to do the same. In fact, sellers in states without a sales tax would also be required to participate!


This is not about fairness. This is about expanding government, and punishing online sales, and particularly online sales in states that aren’t interested in joining any multi-state project. This is just more cronyist winners and losers picking.

Because ultimately, the MFA backers will tell you this is about closing a loophole to prevent unfair dodging of taxes. However the Constitution is not a loophole, and federalism is not a cheat.

Besides, the reasons big boxes are failing are higher pre-tax prices, poor service, limited selection, inconvenient hours, and the lack of cheap and easy home delivery. Raising taxes won’t fix any of that, any more than it would have saved Blockbuster or the buggy whip.

Firms like Google and Facebook like to cozy up to Republicans at times, but leaving ALEC as they are proves they’re not our friends, and they will obey orders from the extremist left first, and always.

I was part of the group John Thune spoke to about Local Choice. I agree with him that letting customers opt out of regulation-mandated Retransmission Consent fees is the ultimate free market approach. It lets broadcasters set their prices, it prevents cable companies from freeloading, but it allows the market to send price signals, in a way that regulations often inhibit. It’s a narrow fix that the public really would benefit from.

I guess Duck Duck Go has made it. The Chicoms are banning them.

Your phone calls are not secure and they never have been. Man in the middle attacks proliferate at this point. VoIP services are the way to go, not ordinary phone calls.


Bitcoin continues to flounder as scammers abound and one announcement after another shows firms are not adopting Bitcoin, but rather adopting third party Bitcoin payment processors. Nobody’s actually hooking into the Bitcoin blockchain system, but rather are using third party banks that defeat the purpose of Bitcoin.

This is huge: digital radio doesn’t get to free ride on old recordings the way terrestrial radio (AM and FM) do. We need to go further than this court did, and close that magical copyright exception, too.

There’s nothing neutral about Net Neutrality.

I complain about broadcasters a lot in this space, since they do get a lot of regulatory special deals, but it’s looking likely that FCC may have gone too far against them when it comes to bloc advertising agreements. I am torn though, since broadcasters are already insulated from most competition by tight regulations.

Monday Tech didn’t happen because of a cold, sorry.


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