Thursday, May 7, 2009

Congress and the Newspaper Tax

A couple of bills making the rounds of congress (notably the Senate bills of Ben Cardin of Maryland and John Kerry of Massachusetts) would grant newspapers the same tax-exempt status it grants churches (some find the comparison appropriate) with some of the same restrictions. The exemptions would only go to ink on paper publications, not Internet pubs or electronic media, and in their current forms, the bills could prohibit endorsement of political candidates.

The Constitution grants the news media certain tax exemptions already, built in so that the boys in the marble-columned buildings would resist the temptation to increase taxes on publications that wrote bad things about them. You might remember that that Virginia Republican genius Morgan Griffith of Salem threatened a few years ago to tax and regulate The Roanoke Times--and other papers--out of business because The Times implied that his level of intellect was deficient. The Griffith threat proved The Times right, if nothing else had.

There are a lot of people wringing their hands that the tax exemption would slow down the move toward new media by giving print an unfair advantage (which online outlets have enjoyed all along), but I'm not sure anything is going to slow technology. I mean, I'm 62 years old and just opened a Twitter account. I blog daily. I use viral marketing for our magazine.

It's here and it's going to get you!

Still, I don't quite know where to come down on the congressional proposals, but I do have absolute faith that whatever comes out of those astute bodies will be wrong, absolutely wrong for everybody.

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