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Quote of the Day: Taxpayer Privacy and IRS Abuse

At CFIF, the issue of improving taxpayer privacy and protection against persistent abuse by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) remains among our most important missions.  Among the abuses that we've chronicled is the case of convicted criminal Charles Littlejohn, who rejoined the IRS in 2017 with the specific purpose of illegally breaching and leaking the private tax returns of Donald Trump and other Americans to radical left-wing organizations like ProPublica.

In The Wall Street Journal this week, one of those victims speaks out on his own experience and the need for greater taxpayer protection against this recurring problem that should terrify all Americans of every political persuasion.  Ira Stoll, whose tax information was passed to ProPublica, even helpfully details how…[more]

May 29, 2024 • 11:28 AM

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One Year Later, the Internet Somehow Survived Repeal of Obama FCC Regulations Print
By Timothy H. Lee
Wednesday, January 02 2019
It stands to reason, of course, that internet service has improved rather than deteriorated following repeal of the Obama FCC's ill-advised entry into heavy-handed internet regulation.

Remember when repealing Obama-era internet regulations meant death for the internet, and many of us along with it? 

One needn't travel far back in time.  It was one year ago that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) under Chairman Ajit Pai oversaw that welcome repeal. 

The histrionic reactions were farcical and immediate. 

In The New York Times, columnist Farhad Manjoo penned a piece entitled "The Internet Is Dying.  Repealing Net Neutrality Hastens That Death": 

The internet is dying.  Sure, technically, the internet still works.  Pull up Facebook on your phone and you will still see your second cousin's baby pictures.  But that isn't really the internet.  It's not the open, anyone-can-build-it network of the 1990s and early 2000s, the product of technologies created over decades through government funding and academic research, the network that helped undo Microsoft's stranglehold on the tech business and gave us upstarts like Amazon, Google, Facebook and Netflix. 

Nope, that freewheeling internet has been dying a slow death  and a vote next month by the Federal Communications Commission to undo net neutrality would be the final pillow in its face. 

Columnist Benjamin Sledge was no more measured, writing in a Medium commentary entitled "The Repeal of Net Neutrality Will Cripple Mental Health" that it was a matter of "life and death": 

Let's say you need to chat with the Suicide Prevention Lifeline, but can't afford the supercharged internet package, so you're stuck with lagging service.  As stated, every second counts when you're contemplating suicide...  The ramifications are further reaching than just having to deal with buffering on Hulu.  The very fight for the heart of mental health could land squarely on our ability to access the resources we need to grow stronger and healthier.  With every shooting that happens, celebrity suicide, or high school kid who goes home and drowns the world out with headphones to numb his depression and dark thoughts, we know mental health is a massive issue.  The question is now whether we care enough to protect the fight for mental health. 

Leftist politicians, late-night comedians and the usual social justice warriors struck similar chords.  It was almost as if they needed a respite from their own ongoing climate alarmist cacophony. 

Between tax cuts, the confirmations of Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court and repeal of Obama Administration internet regulations, it's amazing that any of us remain alive. 

Levity aside, the reality is that the Obama FCC regulations themselves were what threatened internet service.  And repeal has resulted in demonstrable and remarkable improvement, not catastrophe. 

Specifically, a Recode headline one week ago announced "U.S. Internet Speeds Rose Nearly 40 Percent This Year": 

Finally some good news:  The internet is getting faster, especially fixed broadband internet.  Broadband download speeds in the U.S. rose 35.8 percent and upload speeds are up 22 percent from last year, according to internet speed-test company Ookla in its latest U.S. broadband report.  The growth in speed is important as the internet undergirds more of our daily lives and the wider economy.  As internet service providers continue building out fiber networks around the country, expect speeds to increase, though speeds vary widely by region depending on infrastructure and whether or not an area has fiber. 

It stands to reason, of course, that internet service has improved rather than deteriorated following repeal of the Obama FCC's ill-advised entry into heavy-handed internet regulation. 

Indeed, the Obama Administration regulations were what posed a grave danger to internet service. 

Specifically, when the Obama FCC decided in 2015 to suddenly begin regulating the internet as a "public utility" under statutes enacted in the 1930s to govern copper-wire telephone service, the amount of money invested in network infrastructure by internet service providers declined for the very first time in history outside of a recession. 

Between 2010 and 2013, even amid a sluggish cyclical economic "recovery," investment in wireless alone had increased from $25 billion to $33 billion - almost 33%.  But in the first year after the Obama FCC decided it had to "fix" an internet that wasn't broken, investment declined by $5.6 billion.  Thus, in just one year under Obama FCC rules, investment declined by almost the entire amount that it had increased between 2010 and 2013. 

From the 1990s until 2015, the internet had flourished like no other innovation in human history under both Democratic (Clinton) and Republican (Bush) administrations for a simple reason:  Federal policy employed a "light touch" regulatory approach to the internet. 

So it was the Obama Administration, not the Trump Administration, that was disrupting the status quo by reversing two decades of federal internet regulatory policy.  And the negative consequences were obvious and immediate. 

The FCC under the more responsible leadership of Chairman Pai has simply restored internet regulations to the light touch approach that prevailed from 1996 to 2015, when the internet flourished just fine. 

One year later, the results are already in.  The death of the internet didn't occur.  Quite the opposite.  And for that, Chairman Pai is to be applauded. 

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