The Government Co-Option of Newspapers Bill hits Congress

posted at 9:29 am on March 25, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

It didn’t take long for Democrats to try bailing out and co-opting an industry that they see as vital to their cause.  Senator Benjamin Cardin (D-MD) wants to have the federal government fund newspapers, providing the faltering industry with subsidies in exchange for control over their editorial decisions.  They would also become — I’m not kidding — charitable institutions (via Michelle, emphases mine):

With many U.S. newspapers struggling to survive, a Democratic senator on Tuesday introduced a bill to help them by allowing newspaper companies to restructure as nonprofits with a variety of tax breaks.

“This may not be the optimal choice for some major newspapers or corporate media chains but it should be an option for many newspapers that are struggling to stay afloat,” said Senator Benjamin Cardin.

A Cardin spokesman said the bill had yet to attract any co-sponsors, but had sparked plenty of interest within the media, which has seen plunging revenues and many journalist layoffs.

Cardin’s Newspaper Revitalization Act would allow newspapers to operate as nonprofits for educational purposes under the U.S. tax code, giving them a similar status to public broadcasting companies.

Under this arrangement, newspapers would still be free to report on all issues, including political campaigns. But they would be prohibited from making political endorsements.

Advertising and subscription revenue would be tax exempt, and contributions to support news coverage or operations could be tax deductible.

By the way, the Obama administration plans to limit tax deductions for charitable donations.  Maybe Cardin didn’t get that memo, but it would seem to undermine the direction of the newspaper bailout.  Who’s going to donate to newspapers when deductions to real charities — like foodshelves, shelters, churches, and the like — will get less shelter from the IRS?

That’s not the real problem with this plan, however.  This plan tries to place a failing delivery model into amber through government absorption.  The conversion to non-profit is a sick joke; they’re already non-profit, in fact if not in plan.  The solution isn’t to have government fund them, but for news outlets to find better delivery models that can make a profit and keep them in business.

More critically, government funding for news media completely obliterates the reason for having news media at all.  As I wrote in January:

The only reason — the only reason — that news media is vital to a democracy is its independence from government.  Think about this.  Is The National Enquirer vital to democracy?  Will the Republic fall if Entertainment Weekly suddenly closed its doors?  Not at all, not even if the entire paparazzi industry suddenly collapsed.

The need for a truly independent media is to make sure that the citizenry is fully informed of government activity and policy, and not just relying on the self-serving communications from elected officials.  Without independence, newspapers and other media have as much value as press releases from Congressional offices.

Now, what happens when government suddenly takes a stake in newspapers and other media?  Can they remain independent — or will they cater themselves to those politicians who support those subsidies and target politicians who don’t?  In fact, the very act of asking for those bailouts has destroyed their independence and credibility on political matters, the very core of what makes a free media necessary for a democracy.

A news media dependent on government funding and political protection becomes an organ of government, not an independent entity for informing a free people.  The Obama administration might just as well have Organizing for America distribute newsletters door to door with the Approved Information of the Day.  Once newspapers become dependent on government for their survival, they will do nothing to jeopardize their standing with that government, at the state or federal level.  They will form an Orwellian Ministry of Information for whichever party is in charge.

Real journalists would reject this idea.  Let’s see who signs on.

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This is getting pretty disgusting. Newspapers??? Funded by the government? If they r failing, its because NO ONE WANTS TO READ THEIR LIBERAL LIES AND NON COVERAGE OF THE NEWS!

Doesnt Congress see how stupid they are making themselves look? Unreal!

becki51758 on March 25, 2009 at 10:57 AM

Good grief. I wake today to find myself living in the middle of Mussolini’s Italy. I hope the trains will at least run on time.

IndyConserv on March 25, 2009 at 10:57 AM

When was the last time someone mentioned the Free Press “The Fourth Estate” ?????? just wonderin you know that is how newspeak works it gets rid of words and phrases especially the ones with “Free” in their title.

Dr Evil on March 25, 2009 at 10:58 AM

“Real” journalists would have prevented Dear Leader from being elected in the first place, if they had simply done their job.

Del Dolemonte on March 25, 2009 at 9:45 AM

Hey, can journalists help it when Obama makes them get all tingly below the waist?

18-1 on March 25, 2009 at 10:59 AM

Wjhy are PBS & NPR left-leaning? Because they’re the result of government-going-everything liberal philosophy, so they will do what they can to keep liberals in power.

jgapinoy on March 25, 2009 at 11:00 AM

I think it’s unConstitutional for the government to be involved in news or education.
It’s a clear conflict of interest.

jgapinoy on March 25, 2009 at 10:57 AM

The criminals in our government do not give a rat’s ass about what is and what isn’t Constitutional. That much should have been made clear to you by now. The Constitution is merely a historical document to these filthy power-whores.

King of the Britons on March 25, 2009 at 11:00 AM

The Dems MUST fund their propagand arm. Who would extol the virtues of the One, where would Kathleen Parker, David Brooks and others go to work? At AIG?

Herb on March 25, 2009 at 11:02 AM

King of the Britons on March 25, 2009 at 10:54 AM

Thanks Sir. It really boils down to what the boss thinks is necessary for the unit for the deployment. Compensation or not, the decision is whether or not it’s accurate that he “needs” me. I’ve experienced this before where you almost feel like you’re standing on the rail of the ship watching everyone else climbing down the nets and getting into the Higgins Boats and you ask yourself damn, do you have it in you to do it one more time.

Funny though about the thread. I hate the liberal newspaper world and yet we’ve been dealing with these guys almost every other week here lately with the move. It’s hard to sit there with these people and not ask the kind of questions that come up on these threads.

hawkdriver on March 25, 2009 at 11:07 AM

If this doesn’t wake up our collective selves, we are truly doomed.

bucknut on March 25, 2009 at 11:09 AM

On a more serious note, the level of betrayal we have seen from our elites in the last few decades or so is stunning.

Essentially, they could not force through their desired restructuring of society with our Constitution and republican traditions, so they have been tearing down our nation one structure after another.

And it seems this destruction is largely foisted upon the public with little or no thought as to the long term consequences.

18-1 on March 25, 2009 at 11:11 AM

Who’s that with the TOTUS on the pic by this thread?

The “Sieg Heil” pose is a nice photo. Like a Dr Strangelove “alien hand”.

connertown on March 25, 2009 at 11:12 AM

I hope the trains will at least run on time.

This is just a myth. Mussolini didn’t make the trains run on time and neither will the Empty Suit.

slug on March 25, 2009 at 11:14 AM

If this doesn’t wake up our nation, we are absolutely doomed.

bucknut on March 25, 2009 at 11:15 AM

Did you know that Hitler believed in pretty much the same things as modern day democrats believe in? The only difference was that he was pro-war and more overtly nationalistic, but other than that, their stances on political issues are virtually the same. Don’t let them fool you into believing Hitler was a capiitalist. The Nazis tossed pro-free market books into bonfires.

Libertarian Joseph on March 25, 2009 at 10:15 AM

Nothing drives a liberal crazier than reminding them Nazis were proud socialists. Unfortunately, the Left has been witlessly shouting down opponents by calling them Nazis for so long that discussions along these lines inevitably run into Godwin’s Law. Not only do liberals think calling someone a Nazi is a conversation-ending ultimate putdown, but the global Left never recovered from Hitler’s betrayal of Stalin – modern liberals are taught by tenured 60s radicals whose grandfathers spent thirty years fuming over the way Hitler stabbed Uncle Joe in the back. The Nazis were formally excommunicated from the church of socialism by its first pope in Russia.

It’s a pity the human race can’t learn the simple lesson of the 20th century: collectivism is always coercive. Free people will never agree to accept it, once it passes a certain point. It always looks good in principle, and makes seductive promises that appeal to emotions but cannot survive the application of reason. Taking from each according to his means, and giving to each according to his needs, always results in those with means trying to escape the system… and to keep them inside, you eventually, inevitably need guns, and people with the will to pull the triggers.

Fascism is an especially virulent form of collectivism because it tries to maintain something resembling private corporations, firmly under the boot heel of an intellectually and morally supreme government. Nazi Germany was not free-market or capitalist, and the Nazis burned free-market books as fast as they could, but they did have companies and corporations, which existed as slaves to the will of the state.

The fascists of the 30s would have nodded approvingly at Obama’s takeover of AIG, and the subsequent populist rage directed at those bonuses. Only high officials of the Party are allowed to have vast personal fortunes, because only membership in the Party confers the moral standing to enjoy such rewards. We see many examples of this in the new American fascism, where heavy donations to the Democrat Party, or approved liberal causes, provide insulation from manufactured “populist” rage. No one is agitating to tax the huge bonuses of Fannie Mae officials at 90%, or suggesting that Hollywood stars give up their lavish lifestyles to “save the environment”, or whipping up populist rage over the huge amounts of money George Soros has been making during the recent economic crisis. Indeed, no media outlet has expressed even the slightest interest in knowing how much money George Soros makes, or calling public attention to him at all.

Fascism requires total media control, because it relies upon an emotional populace that can be whipped into a frenzy against the Party’s enemies, and it cannot withstand competition in the arena of ideas. If a major media outlet had started running profiles of the hard-working traders receiving those bonuses at AIG, perhaps lingering on a family expecting a new child or caring for a disabled elderly parent, the populist outrage would have dissipated quickly – indeed, it would have turned against Obama. Therefore, the Party must control all major media outlets – they must have a monopoly on emotional appeals to the public, and completely suppress appeals to their sense of reason.

Unfortunately for us, controlling the public through the “soft” power of the media will only work for so long. The same kind of anger that erupted when gas was pushing four dollars a gallon could easily erupt again, when the results of Obamanomics begin to hit the middle class in the pocketbook. And if nothing else, when our children and grandchildren enter the work force and are told that sixty or seventy percent of their income will be confiscated to pay for the government, many of them will refuse to pay, and it will become necessary for Obama’s successors to shoot them.

Marx thought communism was the final evolution of society, but it was really the final step before de-evolution. Collectivism destroys the trust necessary for advanced economies to function, and wipes out the incentives necessary for achievement. Eventually this becomes so obvious that the population turns on the masters of the collective government, and thus far, it has always been necessary to remove them by their heels.

Doctor Zero on March 25, 2009 at 11:27 AM

Competing With Uncle Sam
Imagine a restaurant–call it “Joe’s Burgers”. How would “Joe” feel if the federal government decided to put a government-subsidized hamburger joint right next to his place? Joe’s tax dollars being spent to make his competitor’s food cheaper. That’s exactly what’s going on with PBS and NPR. These networks can broadcast with fewer ads because of the tax dollars sent to D.C. by NBC, CBS, Fox and every other network, as well as their stations and all employees. This is inherently unfair. It’s also unConstitutional because of the conflict of interest involved: PBS and NPR were birthed and are supported by liberal politicians, so PBS and NPR propagate liberalism.
The federal government ought to divest itself from many other realms. For example, why do the local Gold’s Gym and LA Fitness pay tax dollars to subsidize the YMCA? Why do employees of private schools pay taxes to support public schools? (Yes, I do want the school system to be privatized).
The founders of this country wrote the Constitution and the Bill of Rights to limit the power of Washington, D.C. They wanted the federal government to maintain the military, build roads, make laws, and very little else. Today, the government does everything under the sun, while the national debt is skyrocketing.

jgapinoy on March 25, 2009 at 11:29 AM

PRAVDA … Been done before.

tarpon on March 25, 2009 at 11:30 AM

You mean newspapers aren’t already owned by the (Obama) government? Who knew?

It’s kind of like getting married to a girl you got pregnant. Just because its not official doesn’t mean they haven’t been sleeping together.

Grayson on March 25, 2009 at 11:33 AM

So “newspapers” are now in that category of businesses to “BIG” to fail?

GarandFan on March 25, 2009 at 11:34 AM

Sorry if I am repeating a point that someone has already made I haven’t had a chance to read the posts. HELL NO! I do not want to pay for the publicity arm of the Democrat party. It’s not my fault that the vast majority of people that can read and want a paper are Republicans who, oddly enough, don’t want to PAY to be insulted in their own home. Let them close, they failed a long time ago.

Cindy Munford on March 25, 2009 at 11:35 AM

Every time that I pick up a paper or login for news, and see OBambi latest. I felt more and more like a character in John Ringo’s The Last Centurion

El Coqui on March 25, 2009 at 11:36 AM

Doctor Zero on March 25, 2009 at 11:27 AM

Nicely stated, as usual. :)

Keemo on March 25, 2009 at 11:45 AM

When the Truth is Found to be Lies, Don’t you want Somebody to Love? That is how Obama works….enough Americans out there just want Somebody to Love. The object of their affection he already has an object of his affection.

Dr Evil on March 25, 2009 at 11:55 AM

Real journalists would reject this idea. Let’s see who signs on.

About 90% of MSM will support this idea. But to say the remaining 10% are real journalists would be a stretch.

I’m convinced Obama-Reid-Pelosi will advance some form of MSM bailout, either a front-door bailout or a back-door bailout. If it’s not this preposterous tax designation, then it’ll be something else.

It bothers me I’m not hearing more people talking about challenging the legality/Constitutionality of many of the Obama-Reid-Pelosi totalitarian initiatives.

petefrt on March 25, 2009 at 11:55 AM

“Freedom of the Press” should mean just that – no Government intervention or help. Since when has the Government EVER given help without strings attached? The next thing, they would be telling the papers what they could or could not print. Since the newspaper industry is already in the back pocket of the DNC, let them fork over the bailout money….

DL13 on March 25, 2009 at 12:11 PM

Just like the 900 million Hillary promised to “rebuild” Palestinian territories… in return for illegal campaign contributions during the election…

This is simple payback…

The print media needs to feel appreciated, and this is Barrys way of not only saving them, but brining them back under control…

Remember, its the editorial boards and editors who really control the messege Papers put out…. and slant their coverage one way or another… having the Editors beholden to you for saving their Job? Priceless…

Romeo13 on March 25, 2009 at 12:12 PM

A bailout of the propaganda machine that got Obama elected. Pure and simple.

Let capitalism work! I thought most of these guys were in favor of teaching evolution only in schools! So what works for a scientific theory is rejected in their real lives… they need God to come in and protect the weak!

How is it that religous people have more faith in the survival of the fittest than atheists? (I am personally not offended by teaching my children evolution at school and letting me teach religion at home. I don’t find that much conflict that can’t be explained by waiting for science to catch up with reality.)

But in business… the most liberal newspapers fail. The most liberal news channels fail… people reject the message but the government should keep the rejected message alive past it’s sell date?

petunia on March 25, 2009 at 12:13 PM

Since the newspaper industry is already in the back pocket of the DNC, let them fork over the bailout money….

DL13 on March 25, 2009 at 12:11 PM

Absolutely! And it should come from donations made to the DNC not all tax payers!

It should clearly state front and center every single day:

“This paper’s content doesn’t appeal to enough people on it’s merit, therefore the Democratic National Committee is funding this paper to keep alive a dead liberal message in order to trick some people into voting for Democrats.”

petunia on March 25, 2009 at 12:18 PM

This is just a myth. Mussolini didn’t make the trains run on time and neither will the Empty Suit.

slug on March 25, 2009 at 11:14 AM

Last time I checked, AMTRAK was being run by Democrat Mike “Blizzard of ’78” Dukakis, who 10 years later was thrashed by Pappy Bush.

Del Dolemonte on March 25, 2009 at 12:39 PM

They’re floating every whacky-assed idea that ever crossed their totalitarian minds.

I was frightened of having Democrats in control of Washington, but they are turning out to be even worse than I imagined they would be.

Pray for our country.

capitalist piglet on March 25, 2009 at 2:50 PM

Is it not utterly frustrating to see individuals who honestly believe that there is no imbalance when the government is too involved in the lives and affairs of people? Whether it’s subsidizing what should be private enterprise, growing rates of government employees or generational dependency on welfare programs, where is the balance of power?

And we should be thankful to have an “intellectual” in office for a change? Yes, I heard this one right out of the mouth of a relative who voted for Obama.

pjean on March 25, 2009 at 3:14 PM

MSM to mean Mandatory Socialist Media under Ogabe.

Maquis on March 25, 2009 at 4:07 PM

It’s not what’s on the editorial page that’s propagandic.

Dr. ZhivBlago on March 25, 2009 at 5:27 PM

With many U.S. newspapers struggling to survive,

If only this congress had been in town when the buggy whip industry was struggling to survive.

JellyToast on March 25, 2009 at 7:08 PM

And, of course, the journalists salaries must be capped at a level comparable with part time, summer forest service employees.

No bonuses either.

Saltysam on March 25, 2009 at 8:40 PM

The adults are now in charge.

Del Dolemonte on March 25, 2009 at 10:12 PM

As soon as a few like the New York Times sign on to the plan, I bet we’ll see the price of the paper subsidized down to 5 cents per issue, and the Wall Street Journal taxed to five bucks a paper.

joe_doufu on March 25, 2009 at 11:08 PM

An idea so mind-numbingly stupid it could only come from a Dem.

SKYFOX on March 26, 2009 at 4:29 AM