Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Disappointing Democrat

I helped elect Claire McCaskill in 2006 because I thought she would better represent Missourians. Now, I'm not so sure. Two recent actions are feeding my disappointment in the first-term senator.

McCaskill Urges Anheuser-Busch Board to Reject Offer in which the senator informs us she "sent [a] letter to the Anheuser-Busch board of directors urging them to reject InBev’s offer to purchase the company."

Anheuser-Busch is a big company and can easily make its own business decisions. A U.S. Senator has more important issues to tackle than whether a Belgium brewer is able to buy an American brewer.

Should the government really be involved in this at all?

Then there's this:

Senate passes Bill to educate public on the transition to digital televsion
McCaskill co-sponsors legislation to increase funding for consumer education efforts
With the end of the transition to digital television (DTV) less than eight months away, the United States Senate unanimously passed legislation to invest as much as $9 million on consumer education. The bill, co-sponsored by U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill, would ensure that more Missourians are prepared for the switch to DTV by providing funding for consumer education and assistance, as well as technological upgrades for smaller television stations.


The DTV Transition Assistance Act, which McCaskill co-sponsored, would allow the National Telecommunication and Information Agency (NTIA) to partner with, and provide grants to, non-profit organizations or public interests groups, for consumer education and technical assistance efforts that target vulnerable populations such as senior citizens, individuals residing in rural areas, and minorities. The legislation has been sent to the House of Representatives where McCaskill hopes it will be quickly approved and sent to the President for his signature. In 2006, Congress dedicated $5 million for consumer education about the DTV transition converter box coupon program.

(I'd love to provide a link, but McCaskill doesn't have this news release on her web site yet.)

Nine million dollars is a drop in the bucket of the U.S. budget. But this $9 million is a complete waste.

In February, Reuters reported:
Consumer awareness of the transition to digital television (DTV) grew 80 percent since 2006, according to new market research released today by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA(R)).

The event featured Commerce Secretary Carols M. Gutierrez, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Kevin Martin, and executives from CEA, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA), and Best Buy, each discussing their efforts to educate consumers about the transition.

"The digital television transition is on time, on track and consumers understand that it is coming next year," said Jason Oxman, vice president, communications and member relations, CEA. "Our survey results show the joint educational efforts of government and the private sector are working, and the digital television transition will be a success. CEA's research revealed that the top sources consumers are using to learn about the transition include television (72%), family and friends (39%) and the Internet (26%)."

Note the above group includes two government agencies, three industry trade groups, and a big box retailer, all saying consumer awareness of the digital transition is way up. So why does McCaskill want to spend another $9 million of taxpayer dollars to solve a problem two government agencies, three trade groups and a big box retailer all say doesn't exist?

The National Association of Broadcasters released its own survey results in January (pdf):
Consumer awareness of the federally-mandated transition to digital television (DTV) has grown substantially over the past year, reaching 79 percent according to a survey commissioned by the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB).

The survey, which was conducted in January 2008, includes a national sample of television households including those that rely solely on over-the-air television signals. Seventy-nine percent of respondents reported that they have “seen, read or heard something about the February 17, 2009 transition to digital television.”

Awareness was even greater among exclusively over-the-air households, where 83 percent of respondents reported they are aware of the transition. Overall, consumer awareness has more than doubled since January 2007 when an NAB survey asking the same question found that only 38 percent of consumers were aware of the transition.

At its annual convention, NAB's president said "every household in America would be hit with 642 messages on the digital TV transition and what it means, by the time Feb. 18 of next year arrives."

Broadcasters, cable operators, and consumer electronics retailers all have an incentive to make sure every television user is aware of the transition to digital television. Additional taxpayer funding isn't necessary, no matter how much or how little the amount.

With these two actions, Claire McCaskill has confirmed the stereotype conservatives like to place upon Democrats: they want to tax and spend, and have the government insert itself into everything.

Missouri, and America, deserves better.

[cross-posted at Watching Those We Chose]