We've often highlighted how federal and state regulators who target short-term lenders only end up hurting…
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Federal Regulators Again Target Short-Term Lending, Hurting Struggling Americans They Claim to Help

We've often highlighted how federal and state regulators who target short-term lenders only end up hurting the struggling Americans they claim to be helping.

That dynamic is even more pronounced in times of increasing economic uncertainty like today.

According to a 2018 study from the federal government itself, nearly 40% of American families don’t possess sufficient savings to cover even a $400 emergency expense, including 51% of military service members living paycheck-to-paycheck.   For such people, credit cards aren’t always a viable option and traditional bank loans aren't feasible because of the small amounts involved.

They can, however, access desperately-needed money for the short-term via consumer finance loans.   Unfortunately, the Biden Administration, the Pelosi…[more]

July 05, 2022 • 07:23 PM

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Biden’s Broadband Boondoggle Print
By Timothy H. Lee
Thursday, April 15 2021
The federal government should partner with our flourishing private broadband sector, not suffocate it.

By now you’re likely familiar with Joe Biden’s muddled and cynically expansive definition of “infrastructure,” in his transparent effort to cram an endless variety of left-wing wish list items into a $2 trillion spending package to be paid by American taxpayers.  

For her part, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D – New York) helpfully instructed us how, “Paid Leave is infrastructure.  Child care is infrastructure.  Caregiving is infrastructure.”  

It doesn’t help their case that administration officials like Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg got caught red-handed inflating projected “jobs created” from 2.7 million to 19 million, or that Biden wants to return the United States to the unenviable position of imposing the highest corporate tax rate in the developed world.  

Even beyond semantic and definitional debates, however, some items within Biden’s wish list that indisputably constitute “infrastructure” are nevertheless potentially destructive proposals that Americans and our elected leaders should flatly reject.  

Foremost among those terrible ideas:  Biden’s $100 billion broadband blowout spending proposal.  

The first and most destructive flaw in Biden’s broadband proposal is that it would undermine private broadband investment, which provided one of the few success stories of the coronavirus pandemic.  In 2020, believe it or not, U.S. broadband speeds increased 91%.  Most people probably would’ve expected internet speeds to decline as American workers and students crowded onto the internet due to societal quarantines, but instead speeds nearly doubled.  In contrast, European regulators were relegated to begging content providers like Netflix to downshift because of internet service bottlenecks and overload.  As another illustration among many, U.S. internet providers built over 46,000 new cell sites in 2019, up from 708 in 2016.  

That’s a testament to the value of private U.S. broadband investment.  

Biden’s broadband plan, however, disproportionately favors government-owned networks, which by their nature enjoy tax and regulatory advantages over private providers.  

Specifically, his plan "prioritizes support for broadband networks owned, operated by, or affiliated with local governments, non-profits, and co-operatives."  That discourages private investment and network expansion – along with the job creation that brings – because private investors are less likely to risk precious capital when they must compete directly against the government, which can create regulations to its advantage and leverage taxpayer dollars to cover failures and suffocate private competition.  That’s both unfair and harmful for consumers, who end up with fewer choices and inferior performance where nobody is accountable for failures.  And when those government networks fail, guess who invariably gets stuck paying the cost:  the same taxpayers whose internet service was negatively impacted by government entry into the broadband market in the first place.  

In that vein, that record of public broadband failure remains nearly unbroken, as Beverly McKittrick of FreedomWorks neatly summarizes:  

Across the country, taxpayers have witnessed well-meaning, city-built Internet networks crash and burn.  In Sen. Bernie Sanders’ backyard of Burlington, Vermont, “The city tried to build its own broadband network and was unable to service the debt for the project.”  In Provo, Utah, “When the city ran the network, subscriptions were not enough to cover the debt, and the city had to infuse up to $2 million a year from the city’s Energy Department surplus funds.”  In Philadelphia, Chicago, Portland, Orlando and others, the experiment with government-sponsored broadband is a panoply of recklessness and waste, with losses totaling in the billions.  

Another glaring flaw in the Biden broadband proposal is that it defines underserved areas in a bizarre manner that helps ensure more government intrusion into near-perpetuity.  

Specifically, the proposal targets what it calls “asymmetrical speeds” – internet service where download speed exceeds upload speed.  That’s an inherently meritless metric for government regulators to pursue, since downstream internet traffic outstrips upstream traffic by a lopsided 16-to-1 ratio.   What that arbitrary new metric does serve, however, is the Biden Administration’s desire to intervene further into private broadband markets.  Because if even places like Manhattan and Beverly Hills possess asymmetrical download/upload speed ratios, then by the Biden Administration’s new definition those areas are “underserved” and merit federal taxpayer dollars and bureaucratic intervention.  

That irrational “symmetry” metric also sacrifices rural areas that really do need broadband buildout while places like New York City or Los Angeles that already have it get more federal subsidies and focus.   That doesn’t eliminate what remains of the digital divide in America, it exacerbates and perpetuates it by shifting focus away from truly underserved rural areas.  

Here’s another problem with Biden’s broadband boondoggle:  The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) already sits atop tens of billions of unspent dollars, as FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr reminds us:  

Just last year, the FCC committed $9.2 billion to support the buildout of high-speed service to millions of unserved families over the next ten years.  At the same time, the agency budgeted up to $11.2 billion to extend broadband to even more Americans through a second phase of that initiative.  Earlier this year, the FCC stood up a new $3.2 billion program to subsidize Internet service for low-income Americans.  And just last month, Congress provided the FCC with an additional $7.1 billion to support Internet connections for students.  The FCC will also distribute up to $9 billion over the next ten years to bring 5G to rural America plus an additional $1.9 billion for carriers to upgrade their insecure infrastructure. So how much of this funding has gone out the door?  None.  Not one penny from this $40 billion tranche has been spent.  

Think about that.  During the 2020 campaign, President Biden pledged a moon shot $20 billion for rural broadband.  We now have double that amount waiting to be distributed.  Yet Democrats are poised to pour a hundred billion dollars on top of those billions upon billions of unspent dollars.  But wait, there’s more!  Congress just sent $360 billion to the Treasury Department and $190 billion to the Department of Education for a variety of projects, including broadband.  Nearly all of those funds remain unspent as well.  Despite this, the Democrats’ proposal has made no effort to determine how far these existing funds will go or to tailor the size of their legislation to any needs that might remain.  Measure never, cut checks often appears to be Washington’s new proverb.  

Accordingly, the Biden Administration’s broadband proposal creates a real and present danger for America’s thriving private broadband sector, which as we noted earlier significantly outperformed Europe’s throughout the pandemic.  The plan threatens to crowd out private investment and innovation, in favor of government broadband efforts that invariably end in costly failure.  Moreover, Biden’s plan wastes billions of dollars at a moment when the FCC already sits atop tens of billions of unspent funds.  

The better option would be to allow the FCC to spend available dollars, while reducing bureaucratic red tape and allowing the private sector to continue doing what it does best:  expanding, innovating and improving our lives amid global upheaval.  The federal government should partner with our flourishing private broadband sector, not suffocate it.  

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—Margot Cleveland, Senior Legal Correspondent at The Federalist
— Margot Cleveland, Senior Legal Correspondent at The Federalist
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