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Published Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The LangerCast:  Episode 19!

 

 

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Published Wednesday, July 23, 2014

IFL President Andrew Langer had a new piece in the Washington Examiner on the hidden taxes on new TVs!

http://washingtonexaminer.com/tv-consumers-shouldnt-be-forced-to-pay-for-options-they-dont-use/article/2551147

By Andrew Langer

Recently, for the first time in more than seven years, I had occasion to buy a new television.

I was astounded at the sheer number of options that were available to me: Roku-capable, Wifi-ready, multiple HDMI inputs, USB access, etc. And I thought long and hard about which options I really wanted or needed, or what I thought I might need a few years down the road. I priced the TVs accordingly, and could clearly differentiate the price levels given what I felt I would need or use, even within class of similarly-sized TVs. As you can imagine, options that I wanted to include would cost more than some, but without options that I didn’t want, those TVs would cost less, and I eventually settled on the right TV.

What I didn't know at the time was that I was paying for an option that I simply wouldn't use -- that we're all paying for an option that very few of us use. It's something called “ATSC” -- the “Advanced Television Systems Committee<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ATSC_Standards>” tuner, and it allows people to get broadcast digital signals. And we're not even really paying for the ATSC tuner, but for the licensing fee for the patent to that tuner.

Unlike all of the other options, this is mandatory in every TV sold in the United States. But very few of us use the option, and that number is shrinking every year.

It's very simple -- if you're like me, you use your TV essentially as a monitor to convey signals processed through some other piece of hardware. Most commonly, people use a cable box or satellite receiver, nowadays hooked up to one of your TV's HDMI ports, to get their TV stations. Of course, a growing number of people are eschewing traditional cable or satellite entirely, and are using broadband content services like Apple<http://washingtonexaminer.com/section/apple> TV, Netflix<http://washingtonexaminer.com/section/netflix> or Roku to get entertainment streamed to them. Still others use them, quite literally, like a computer monitor, hooking up their desktop or laptop to them in order to watch YouTube or any of the Internet-available cable programming (or the occasional old-school DVD).

Due to policies put in place during the “digital transition” in 2009, U.S. television equipment buyers are now paying what can essentially be considered a tax on every piece of equipment that contains a digital receiver, such as a modern cable box. This tax is basically the cost related to manufacturers paying the patent licensing fees that the Federal Communications Commission<http://washingtonexaminer.com/section/fcc>mandates. The costly yet required license in question is called ATSC -- licensed exclusively by the privately held, for-profit patent assertion entity known as MPEG LA.

The practice of including patent licenses in the cost of products is not unique. Research and development costs are almost always included in the price of consumer goods. What is unique about this case is that the FCC is requiring the licensing of this particular standard, one which MPEG LA is not exactly giving away for a reasonable price.

In fact, according to a petition filed with the FCC by the Coalition United to Terminate Financial Abuses of the Television Transition, the royalty rate is $5 per unit. That may not seem like a lot, but as the price of televisions continue to drop, this tax makes up a larger percentage of the overall product cost. Making matters worse, a quarter of the individual patents within the ATSC standard have already expired, yet the license fee charged by MPEG LA remains unchanged. Similar licensing fees in Europe<http://washingtonexaminer.com/section/europe> and Asia<http://washingtonexaminer.com/section/asia> cost around $1. Under normal circumstances, the laws of supply and demand would push manufacturers toward a competing standard. However in this case, there are no alternatives due to the FCC granting monopoly power to MPEG LA, solidifying their ATSC pool as the only option for digital receivers.

Now, $5 may not seem like a lot, but in the competitive marketplace of television sales, it actually can make the difference between two purchases that a consumer might make. I know from my own experience: We were looking at a handful of different TVs with slightly different options — for instance, choosing between a wifi-capable TV or one without it for a few dollars less (we chose the latter, since we can get streamed programming from either our Roku receiver or our Chromecast receiver). Had the next choice been between a TV with an ATSC tuner (and the commensurate $5 tax) and one without, I would have chosen the one without.

And that’s the most important thing, after all — the right of consumers to choose which options they feel they need. They certainly doesn’t need the federal government to make that choice for them, and have to pay $5 for the privilege.
Andrew Langer is president of The Institute for Liberty. Thinking of submitting an op-ed to the Washington Examiner? Be sure to read our guidelines on submissions for editorials, available at this link<http://washingtonexaminer.com/editorial-guidelines>.

 

 

 

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Published Thursday, July 17, 2014
CFPB Field Hearing Ignores Consumer Complaints Institute for Liberty condemns consumer bureau’s ignoring of its own complaints EL PASO, TEXAS — JULY 17, 2014 – Today the Institute for Liberty’s President Andrew Langer at the CFPB Field Hearing for consumer complaints in El Paso, TX, released the following statement in response to more»
Published Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Attorney General Eric Holder and his contempt with upholding the Rule of Law needs to stop. It is time to Impeach Holder.

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Published Friday, May 30, 2014

The LangerCast... Episode 12!

 

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Published Friday, May 30, 2014

ICYMI - IFL had a new piece on the Washington Times

LANGER: ‘O’ is for Obama’s overregulation

The educationists want to bury for-profit schools under paperwork

 

It has always the intention of the Obama administration to remake the American economy, and, in doing so, remake American society at large. Nowhere has this been more evident than in its use of executive branch power — through regulations, executive orders and task force operations — to target industries (and the segments of society that they serve) and bring them to heel to do what the administration wants.

President Obama only has a bit more than 2 years left to accomplish his most ambitious goals and much remains to be done. Among sectors targeted as ripe for transformation is education, especially secondary and post-secondary education. Despite their antimonopolistic sloganeering, liberals hate competition, especially when it comes to the struggle between traditional, state-run or nonprofit schools, and any other model of education, be it charter, parochial or for-profit. It is hard to conclude which model offends liberals more, but when it comes to secondary education, those who try to serve educational consumer needs by using a for-profit business model draw special ire. So much so that the Department of Education has, for years now, been trying to stifle the growth of profit-making educational institutions, regardless of their effectiveness.

To liberals, the very word “profit” is taboo, and they’ve been working hard to come up with ways to punish educators who believe the for-profit model might have some real advantages. To get at these institutions, the president’s folks are currently proposing what they call “gainful-employment rules.” Under these regulations, a litmus test would be applied to allow regulators to grade schools on the basis of how much debt their students accrue compared with how much they earn for the first few years after graduation, as well as how many students repay their federal loans. Ideally, those schools that don’t meet an arbitrary debt-to-income ratio or have too many delinquent student borrowers could be shut down.

They’ve tried a version of this approach, but a federal judge literally called their first attempt to overregulate the educational institutions “arbitrary and capricious.” This is their second attempt now, and it is interesting to note that the White House and Education Secretary Arne Duncan have made it clear that traditional public and nonprofit colleges and universities won’t have to meet the new standards. They are being exempted in part because few of them would get a passing grade under these tests, which are clearly directed not at them, but at the competition.

To make matters worse, many of the president’s supporters in the Senate want to go further, much further. Ignoring the administration’s losses on this issue in court, Senate Democrats such as Tom Harkin of Iowa, Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, Christopher Murphy of Connecticut and Brian Schatz of Hawaii are pushing the Department of Education to be even more aggressive in tamping down on for-profit colleges.

Their motives are clearly ideological and based on a hostility to the very concept of for-profit education, but these efforts have potentially serious consequences that should concern us all. The idea that it is possible to judge educational value with such arbitrary tests is problematic at best. Harvard President Drew Faust, no friend of for-profit institutions, maintains that a college graduate’s earnings in a first job are a “poor proxy” for measuring an educational institution’s value, a sentiment echoed by the chancellor of the University of California at Berkeley, Nicholas Dirks.

Moreover, the regulatory-impact analyses done by the Department of Education in this proposal are woefully inadequate. Though understating the cost of regulation is standard operating procedure for regulatory agencies, in this case the cost estimates are almost laughable. Education estimated, for instance, that annual regulatory costs would be $236 million, with a paperwork burden of nearly 7 million hours.

Nearly a decade ago, the National Federation of Independent Business did a seminal study on the cost of federal paperwork, concluding then that federal paperwork costs on average $50 per hour to work through and fill out. Now, even if one assumes that these costs haven’t risen over the years since the study was completed, paperwork costs alone would run $350 million, far above the $236 million that the Department of Education estimates. Putting the paperwork in an hourly context, 7 million hours is the equivalent of 3,500 man years. One man, working 2,000 hours a year for 3,500 years, or 3,500 people working for a solid year, just on Department of Education paperwork.

The inability of many schools to comply with these new regulations will drive many out of business. This may make liberals happy, but it will narrow rather than widen the educational options available to tomorrow’s students. This means that it will cost jobs — both careers for students and jobs for those within these institutions.

The gainful-employment rule is a bad idea. At least it’s bad for those who will lose an educational option and for teachers who might provide them the education they seek. It may be good, however, for public and nonprofit institutions loath to compete with educational innovators as they continue to raise tuition to students while pursuing educational politically correct agendas that too often have little to do with training or educating students for the real world after graduation.

Andrew Langer is president of the Institute for Liberty.



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Published Wednesday, May 14, 2014

As published in National Review

The Case for Ground Forces in Ukraine

As in South Korea, U.S. troops don’t need to engage to protect the borders of a sovereign state.

By Andrew Langer
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Published Wednesday, May 14, 2014

As printed in the Daily Caller:

Obama’s Operation Choke Point And The New American Legal System

Posted By Andrew Langer On 5:06 PM 05/13/2014 

Recently social media was ablaze with the news that adult entertainer, Teagan Presley, had received word from Chase Bank that they were closing her account.  Presley had just become the latest law-abiding citizen to be swept up in “Operation Choke Point,” an joint effort by the Departments of Justice, Treasury and a handful of other agencies to effectively shut-down industries that the federal government doesn’t like.  Here’s the catch – they have no legal authority to shutter them and most of the victims of this overreach are losing their banking relationships even though they’ve done nothing wrong.

Targeting the adult entertainment industry may have been a gross tactical error on the part of the federal government. Until now, Operation Choke Point had been focusing on easy targets: short-term lenders, check cashing businesses, and online ammunition sales. All of those are legal industries, but the attacks garnered little public attention and therefore even less sympathy. Not so when it comes to the adult entertainment industry.

Regardless of where you are on the ideological spectrum, Operation Choke Point should greatly disturb you. You may not like payday lenders, pornography, or guns and ammunition, but it should worry anyone that the power of the federal government could operate in a manner that circumvents due process and is exercised with almost no accountability.

Operation Choke Point works like this: the inter-agency group selects an industry target, let’s say, an at-home business that sells cosmetics. Agents working on Operation Choke Point then contact the financial institutions where these entrepreneurs both have their bank accounts and process their payments, informing them that the federal government considers this industry “risky” and potentially  “fraudulent.” The government then “encourages” these financial institutions to cease doing business with individuals within that industry, which are mostly independent small business owners. If the financial institution does not cease doing business with them, then the full weight of federal regulatory power (DOJ, Treasury, FDIC, CFPB) will be brought to bear on the bank or payment processor.

Not wanting to be buried under red tape, these financial institutions then close bank accounts and refuse to process credit card payments for the business even if no impropriety has ever been alleged by any agency or legal entity. The end result is that the flow of cash to and from these businesses is “choked off” and the business dies. Whole industries can be destroyed using this method.

This is the new American judicial system. No need for cumbersome new legislation or regulations. No need for a public debate on the merits, or an accounting of the impact of this operation through the normal regulatory processes. The federal government merely pushes a button and these businesses are destroyed.

This is especially troubling when the industries at issue have had their right to exist debated in both legislative and judicial arenas—and their rights have been upheld by the courts.

Whether it is the First Amendment and pornography or the Second Amendment and firearms and ammunition, Operation Choke Point circumvents the Constitution’s protections. But perhaps you don’t care about porn, guns, payday lenders, or any of the current targets of Operation Choke Point. In that case, what ought to be of deep and abiding concern is the lasting legacy — the precedent that creates a new reality for all of us.

If Operation Choke Point is allowed to grow unchallenged, then no industry is safe from an administration, Republican or Democrat, that has decided to support that industry’s destruction but doesn’t want to go to the trouble of the legal or legislative process.

So you may not like short-term lenders, but perhaps you are in favor of marijuana legalization. If Operation Choke Point stands, there is nothing to prevent the targeting of legal dispensaries and growing operations having their bank accounts canceled or payment processing shut down.

Should this extra-legal process go unabated, there is nothing that would prevent, for instance, the targeting of businesses that provide materials for home school education. There is no reason why an administration with this power would hesitate to use it to promote a particular ideology or special interests in the financial services or energy sectors. In fact, it’s already happening.

Liberty is derived from the diffusion of sovereign power — power that must be balanced and checked and limited. Operation Choke Point is vast and unbridled power, hurting real people and their ability to make a living. No matter where you stand, progressive or conservative, you should be deeply concerned about the legacy of Operation Choke Point, and should be calling for its cessation immediately.

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