Dan Gainor

A few years ago, the Securities and Exchange Commission looked at Bernie Madoff’s operation and said it was doing things just fine. Madoff then allegedly went on to scam $50 billion from unknowing investors. Congress instituted the Alternative Minimum Tax to go after a couple millionaires but forgot to adjust it for inflation. It now threatens as many as 24 million taxpayers each year.

Government brought us the Katrina fiasco, a broken immigration process and the Department of Motor Vehicles. So naturally, President-elect Barack Obama wants to expand government. And not by a little, either. We’re talking epic proportions. It’s as if producer Jerry Bruckheimer were doing a film about expanding government–- lots of crises, lots of special effects and lots of cost.

What’s ironic is that, at the very same time Obama is supporting the expansion of government, he’s pointing out what a miserable failure it can be. That’s right, Obama has come out and admitted that the government plan to force the new digital TV system on Americans is a failure and needs to be delayed.

Transition co-chair John D. Podesta asked for the February 17 deadline to be extended. “There is insufficient support for the problems consumers (particularly low income, rural and elderly Americans) will experience as a result of the analog signal cutoff,” he wrote.

He’s right. The program is a fiasco. This planned switch was approved by Congress in 1996. Thirteen years later, it’s still not ready for prime time. Here’s what The Los Angeles Times revealed on January 9:

“The unspecified delay would give the government time to fix a consumer-help program that ran out of money this week.”

According to The Times, the U.S. is making a profit off of inconveniencing millions of households:

“The government took in $19.6 billion last year by auctioning existing analog TV airwaves to telecommunications companies for new wireless services, but Congress allocated less than $2 billion to educate consumers about the transition and issue coupons to buy needed converter boxes” the paper wrote.

NBC’s Carol Costello elaborated on the problems in a Jan. 8 broadcast. “The National Association of Broadcasters estimates that more than 19 million households receive over-the-air signals exclusively in their homes, no cable, no satellite. Another 14.9 million have secondary TV sets that are also over the air.” Costello explained that “more than 24 million households have requested more than 46 million coupons” to buy the converter boxes.

Dan Gainor

Dan Gainor is The Boone Pickens Free Market Fellow and director of the Media Research Center’s Business & Media Institute.