Mona Charen

The Democrats have never seen a problem they didn't think could be fixed with a government program. And they sometimes discern crises crying out for government solutions where there are none.

Remember the "digital divide"? It was, we heard from Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., in 1998, "the next civil rights movement." The unconscionable gap in Internet access between whites and minorities required, of course, a new $2.25 billion annual tax (it was called the "E-rate") to be levied on telecommunications companies (who naturally passed it along to their customers). Congressman Bobby Rush, D-Ill., outlined the liberal understanding:

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"There are millions of youngsters who are struggling right now to become a part of American society, struggling to become productive in the American society, who are fighting without any of the technological advantages that are available to others. These individuals will soon be road kill on the information superhighway because they won't have access to the kind of technology, access to computers, access to the Internet. They won't be productive members of society. If in fact this E-rate is diminished, or if this E-rate effort, if it's derailed then we are really creating two different societies."

The Clinton administration picked up the cudgels, too. In 1998, speaking to graduates of MIT, President Clinton lamented that "... Today, affluent schools are almost three times as likely to have Internet access in the classroom; white students more than twice as likely as black students to have computers in their homes. ..." While acknowledging that "the digital divide has begun to narrow," he warned that "it will not disappear of its own accord."

Perish the thought. We can't have problems disappearing of their own accord. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (now there's an Orwellian name) produced several studies of the problem. A 1997 report on digital "haves and have nots" worried that America faced a "racial ravine." Though "all racial groups now own more computers than they did in 1994," the report continued, "Blacks and Hispanics now lag even further behind Whites in their levels of PC-ownership and on-line access." (Emphasis in original.)

Mona Charen

Mona Charen is a syndicated columnist, political analyst and author of Do-Gooders: How Liberals Hurt Those They Claim to Help .
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