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Thursday, January 15, 1998

The FCC's secret tax increase

When you get your phone bill later this month, notice that it is higher than you expected.

No, you didn't necessarily make any more calls in January than you did in December. But, if you look closely, you will see a significant hike in the federal taxes.

Why? You mean you don't remember Congress passing a tax increase on your phone bill? I'm not surprised. Here's what happened.

Last year, Congress inserted some vague language into the 1996 Telecommunications Bill about helping America's schools get wired to the Internet. Taking that ball and running with it, the Federal Communications Commission decided that means taxing telephone customers as much as $5 billion a year, or about $50 a household.

Now, never mind the fact that more than two-thirds of the schools in America are already connected to the Internet without any federal government action whatsoever. There is no question that every school in the nation would follow suit in a few years without any federal tax dollars subsidizing such action.

Does it bother you that your phone bill will be increased to cover the cost of vast new government programs that you probably know nothing about and that Congress never imagined would be so huge? Don't you think that, under the Constitution, this is an issue that should be debated by our representatives in Congress and voted on -- one way or another -- so officials would be accountable to the people?

Worse yet, as Sarah Foster reported exclusively in WorldNetDaily last week, phone customers won't be told how much of their phone bill is going to the new tax program.

The long-distance companies specifically asked if they could itemize this new charge on bills and the FCC said no. The government didn't think you had the right to know. To put this in perspective, James Glassman of the Washington Post says, "We have a commission able to levy invisible charges on what amounts to an open-ended entitlement program which could go on for years."

But there's even more to this scam than meets the scrutinous eye. Who runs the FCC? Until very recently, it was a man named Reed Hundt, who is unofficially running Al Gore's campaign for president in the year 2000. The chief counsel for the agency during those years was Ira Fishman, who is now running a company called Schools and Libraries. I don't suppose I have to tell you what Fishman's company does.

"So the FCC took the vague language from the bill, decided that it meant a computer and modem in every classroom, figured out a very expensive way to accomplish that specific goal, and then devised a way to pay for it: by a 5 percent increase on an existing tax on long-distance telephone service," explains Gordon Jones of NET.

Isn't that clever? Even when people get angry about their phone bill going up, they won't know who's responsible. And some of those responsible for this hideous perversion of American government are actually materially benefiting from the action.

Your elected representatives in Washington are beginning to realize there's a limit to the amount of your property they can seize without political cost. They know they're very close to that point. So they are scheming about ways to create new hidden fees and usage taxes that you won't notice -- just so they can maintain their business-as-usual, let-them-eat-cake attitude toward governing.

This is the kind of action that the press is supposed to guard against. The news media's No. 1 job is to act as a watchdog on such abusive practices, such secrecy. And that's why WorldNetDaily chose, with its extremely limited reporting resources, to blow the lid off this story last week.

I only wish we could do more of this kind of reporting. And, in the future, as WorldNetDaily grows, we will. In the meantime, as we analyze the growing traffic on the WorldNetDaily site, it is apparent that thousands of people are reading this column every day and not visiting the front page of WorldNetDaily. If you are one of those folks, please take this opportunity to jump to the fastest-growing news site on the Internet. You won't be sorry about your discovery.

Joseph Farah is editor of the Internet newspaper and executive director of the Western Journalism Center, an independent group of investigative reporters.

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