‘Puter read Nicholas Kristof’s column in yesterday’s New York Times. The column concerned Trump voters remaining loyal despite Trump’s acts which Mr. Kristof asserts harm his voters. The column is unobjectionable using ‘Puter’s standards for judging NYT columns.*
‘Puter did note this one particular portion with considerable consternation, however:
Payton suggested that if the government wants to cut budgets, it should target “Obama phones” provided to low-income Americans. (In fact, the program predates President Barack Obama and is financed by telecom companies rather than by taxpayers.)
Did you catch the “financed by telecom companies rather than by taxpayers” part? ‘Puter did.
Obama phones are, in fact, funded by American taxpayers, or at least by American phone rate payers through the Universal Service Fund. The USF is most certainly not funded by telecom providers out of the goodness of their shriveled, black, capitalist hearts. To claim otherwise is to be a tax denier, to borrow the language of our global warming cultist brethren.**
The USF originated to allow providers to offset the cost of providing telephone service in rural areas, where the number of users per line mile is low. If rural users were charged the cost of their service, they couldn’t afford phones. Hence the it-totally-is-a-tax, which distributes the burden widely, not just on the highest cost customers where it should properly lie. Think of it as Obamacare’s individual mandate, where the young and healthy subsidize the old and sick.
The FCC imposes a charge on all telecom providers “based on a percentage of their interstate and international end-user telecommunications revenues.” This charge varies on a quarter-by-quarter basis, depending on the USF’s need. From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs, ‘Puter guesses.
Did ‘Puter mention this alleged contribution is involuntary? Because it’s involuntary. Totally involuntary. Like an, um, what’s that word for the government takes money from you under threat of arrest? Oh, yeah. A FRIKKIN’ TAX.
The FCC, like Mr. Kristof, likes to pretend that telecom providers’ “contributions” totally aren’t taxes and totally don’t affect the end user consumer at all, except, you know, for the fact that telecom providers routinely (and properly) pass through the costs of the totally-not-a-tax to the consumers through a surcharge on their bills.
The FCC helpfully notes:
Some consumers may notice a “Universal Service” line item on their telephone bills. This line item appears when a company chooses to recover its USF contributions directly from its customers by billing them this charge. The FCC does not require this charge to be passed on to customers. Each company makes a business decision about whether and how to assess charges to recover its Universal Service costs. These charges usually appear as a percentage of the consumer’s phone bill. Companies that choose to collect Universal Service fees from their customers cannot collect an amount that exceeds their contribution to the USF. They also cannot collect any fees from a Lifeline program participant.
So, the federal government requires a subset of business to pay an involuntary “fee” based on a percentage of its revenues. And the “fee” is passed through to customers in a progressive manner, excluding those below a certain income level. But it’s totally not a tax, got it?
Leaving aside the wisdom behind expanding the USF to cell phones, it’s clear that Mr. Kristof’s statement is (1) an honest error, (2) a purposeful obfuscation, or (3) an outright lie.
Since this is Mr. Kristof, ‘Puter’s chalking it up to an honest error. If it were Paul Krugman or MoDo the PoMoHo, ‘Puter’d chalk it up to dishonest propagandizing from lying sacks of flaming poop.
The ObamaPhone paragraph’s really a throwaway in the column’s larger context, but the NYT really ought issue a correction.
* ‘Puter’s standard for objectionable NYT columns is whether he can read them without blowing out an aorta, projectile vomiting, or self-crapping. Most NYT columns meet ‘Puter’s standard, unfortunately for all involved.
** And sistren. Don’t get your hemp, free-bloodied granny panties in a wad, feminist jackwads.