(Guest post by Greg Forster)
Items in the news this week:
1) The president signals he’s open to a government takeover of the newspaper industry. No word on whether government-supported papers will be required to change their names to PRAVDA.
If you’ve been told that the bill in question doesn’t set up direct government funding for newspapers, you’ve been misled. It doesn’t set up federal funding for newspapers, but it does everything possible to grease the skids for state and local government funding – and who’s prepared to bet that won’t happen once the opportunity is available?
As I wrote back in April:
Since the law already allows nonprofits to publish and distribute their own newspapers if they want to, the only possible rationale for Sen. Cardin’s proposal is that it allows newspapers to continue charging money to cover their costs while also recieving tax-free subsidies. And who would be doing the subsidizing? Even if government (at the state and local level) doesn’t do it directly, it’ll do it indirectly. Politicians have lots of wealthy friends who would love to have their own pet newspapers.
In fact, Cardin’s proposal is actually worse than a direct government subsidy. At least a direct subsidy would be on the books and subject to disclosure, oversight, and some level of accountability.
Cardin invokes the old Jeffersonian saw that it would be better to have newspapers without government rather than government without newspapers. Yes – but either of those would be better than having government newspapers.
I also wrote that “the proposal is obviously going to go nowhere because it fails the laugh test.” But the laugh test is one exam that’s been pretty radically dumbed down over the past six months; these days anyone can pass it.
2) Meanwhile, the latest development in the health care debate: The U.S. government is now openly using the criminal law to censor core political speech solely because the speech in question advocates a position the government opposes.
When I say “censor” I don’t mean they’re regulating donations and spending levels or imposing restrictions on the when, where and how. I mean they’re threatening to impose criminal sanctions for having said a certain thing, simply because it’s something they don’t want said.
And, of course, once the threat is made there’s no real need to prosecute. The threat itself is sufficient to censor all future speech on the subject.
I’ve written before that health care reform is a knife at the throat of our freedom. I had no idea the enslavement process would move so quickly. Care to place bets on which clause of the Bill of Rights will be the next to go?