Sunday, February 15, 2009

Neither is it CNN's.

Digital TV conversion 'not finest hour'

That's the title of this report, and unfortunately, the report misses some critical points.

First, yes, it's not government's finest hour, but then, that was par for the course with the Bush Administration, which slow-rolled and postponed this time and again. What the Obama Administration is doing is correcting a mistake by the Bush Administration. But that costs money. Unfortunately, that's a point which the right-wing CAGW is unlikely to compromise on. They claim to be non-partisan, but they're more like Libertarian/ Republicans. They say "Citizens Against Government Waste has long argued that out-of-control spending, not tax cuts, is the root cause of deficit spending." If that sounds non-partisan to you, maybe you should follow the link and tell me why George Soros, Barbara Streisand, Michael Moore, and other darlings of the right are singled out for criticism.

The message always is "Guvment SpNd'n is teh sux0r!!111!1!", and "Tax cutz pwn!!11!1!!1!" with them. Also pork has considerably flexible definitions for those on the right.

They're missing some critical issues. I'm not going to go into the Stimulus package issues, but let's just get something straight here: government efficiency doesn't always go up when spending goes down, nor have, in the past few decades, the big tax cuts done anything but create large deficits.

What hindered the ability of the program in question to work, the coupon program for the recievers, was its insufficient funding. Let me repeat that: they couldn't pass out more coupons quickly enough because they didn't have the money to do so.

It pisses me off. I want to call these people morons and idiots, but to be kind to them, they're probably just particularly entranced with an idea they're in love with. The idea being that you can make anything more efficient by being cheap. That all extra spending is bad. That all government investment gets in the way of private investment. That government screws up as a matter of course.

The irony is, often enough, you get situations like with the SEC and Madoff, where you have both a culture of laissez faire permissiveness, and even protection of jackasses like Madoff (You know, because it would be evil for the government to interfere with the market.), and where the agency has too little funds and too little manpower to do its job. But hey, the SEC, according to people like that, is supposed to be capable of pulling magic rabbits out of its ass to grant wishes regarding enforcement. Vulgarity aside, these people want the impossible: something for nothing.

So lets be clear on this: sometimes you need to spend money to make money. That 650 billion is not a waste if it prevents further delays in reclaiming the spectrum. It also isn't a waste for all those broadcasters who are looking to dump the expense of having to keep their analog stations going at the same time they move to their digital stations. Do these people understand, either at CNN or these "watchdog" groups that without expediting this particular transition through such funding that the government is essentially going to end up costing taxpayers more?

We've got away from a sensibility in government that focuses on getting things done. Instead, we salute triumphs of the balance sheets, by beancounters extraordinary. Look, getting budgets balanced, taxes low as manageable, and preventing government waste are fine goals. But when government's priority should be doing its job first, with balanced budgets, sustainable tax rates, and preventing government waste as goals in service of that, not competition with it.

I mean, look at World War II. Was balancing the budget more important than winning the war? By deficit spending there, we succeeded in removing a threat to both our way of life, and our economy. We freed millions, and they enjoyed shared prosperity with us because we subsequently poured billions into propping up Europe's economy.

But we ran up debts in Vietnam, poured money into Iraq. What was the difference? Why did the first lead to success, and the second two wars precipitate their own little catastrophes? Well, lets put this plainly: in the latter two wars, practicality yielded to ideology. People wanted to win, sacrificed and sacrificed to win, but did not consider that the results of their failures could make the problem worse, and that they should get out of their own way.

Bush pushed the tax cuts, with the Republicans, even as the deficits skyrocketed. He raised government spending almost without limit. It's a point of irony that CAGW lambasted the Congress for raising the debt ceiling while refusing to acknowledge that tax cuts forced this to occur. The truth of the matter is, the Bush administration should have left taxes alone. Even doing nothing would have meant a lower increase in our debt burden, and brought fiscal sanity closer within arm's reach. But they didn't let practical realities get in the way of what they wanted. They thought they could ignore the signs that their policy might not work, or didn't work in the past, and just insisted on doing things their way, towards their goal.

It's not that certain Republican ideas don't make sense. It's just that it seems that those from the right have made up their minds as to what works, rather than looking at the world around them, studying how things actually work, and moving after their goals down those particular pathways, with those particular solutions. Yes, one can still be wrong, but if you take the right approach, with the right attitude, then you can learn from being wrong, and not just keep on trying to force your error to work as you desire it to.

Obama's trying to get this digital TV transition right, and all CNN and these "watchdogs" can do is sneer at him. Well, yes, sometimes (all too often, really) government screws things up. The question is, do the people in question try to make things right, do things right?

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