Tax Television

By Gil Johnson of Dundee, Oregon. Gil describes himself as a "former newspaper editor and political hack." Previously, he contributed "Pondering Life's Persistent Questions".

In Oregon, smoking cigarettes is bad for your health, but good for the Oregon Health Plan. Of the $1.18 the state collects on the sale of each pack of smokes, a percentage is devoted to helping the poor get well.

It can be argued that not enough tax is collected nor enough of this tax goes to the health plan, but the basic concept is valid. Cigarettes make you sick, so a tax on them should go to health care.

Which brings me to television and funding education. Numerous studies have shown that watching television numbs the brain. It doesn't matter if you are watching 'Masterpiece Theatre,' 'Survivor' or the 'Smokey and the Bandit II' re-run on American Movie Classics. No matter what you watch, the tube turns off the critical thinking faculties of your left brain. Activity in the higher brain regions (such as the neo-cortex) is diminished, while activity in the lower brain regions (such as the limbic system) increases. The latter, commonly referred to as the reptile brain, is associated with more primitive mental functions, such as the "fight or flight" response.

If television makes you stupid, shouldn't we tax it and give the money to education?

If this sounds downright un-American, it is. Practically every other developed country in the world imposes a tax on owning a television. In Britain, it comes to about $200 a year for a color television, with the money going to the BBC. In other countries, the funds usually go into the general budget.

In Britain, vans equipped with monitoring equipment cruise the streets to seek out homes where untaxed tellies reside. This probably would not go over in the U.S. Besides, there is a better way, one that taxes consumption.

The vast majority of televisions are linked to either cable or satellite services. It should be relatively easy for these companies to install hardware in their junction boxes that measures when the television sets are turned on. For all I know, they already have this technology.

The tax would be collected through the cable or satellite company bills. The more you watch, the more you pay.

If television viewing were taxed at a dime an hour, Oregon could raise over $500 million for education every year, assuming Oregonians conform to the national average of seven hours a day in front of the tube. That would be an extra billion dollars per biennium, which could allow some healthy tax cuts elsewhere and still handsomely fund K-12 education.

But if the legislature continues to be dominated by the no-new-taxes-never-ever crowd, we could do it in Multnomah County. I figure that Portlanders may watch less television than average, but even at five hours per day per television, the tax should net $75 million. That's enough to make up the shortfall for all the school districts in the county, and maybe even a little more.

Oh, sure, some people will move over to Vancouver to escape paying that dime an hour for 'American Idol' and 'Desperate Housewives.' But if our schools recover'offering smaller class sizes, music, languages and P.E.--perhaps some families over there will move back.

This tax should not be traded for reductions in any other kind of tax. In fact, I think the cell phone tax should be added on, too. Oregon's schools'and particularly Portland's'need the kind of funding that will get them back to pre-Measure 5 times, when we could brag that they were the best public schools in the country. Our economic and civic fortunes will not improve unless we do that.

So let's get a tube tax going now. Just think, when you are watching three straight hours of 'Law & Order,' or every March Madness basketball game, you won't feel so guilty about it.

Comments

  • EJ (unverified)
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    I'm all for it, having no television nor cable service myself.

  • iggi (unverified)
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    i suggest we start taxing blogs - at least the ones that suggest adding (even more) ridiculous taxes...

    the real cause of stupidity is stupid people. we should be taxing people based on their IQs. if you're are too stupid, you should have to pay more for all the wasted resources society spends on you.

  • Jeff Bull (unverified)
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    Yes, yes, let's all decide on which behaviors are "non-productive" and tax them. Let's use the tax system as a system of social control...no, scratch that: let's make the tax system do more of that. Next, we can tax pop-literature, by such authors as John Grisham and Michael Crichton. I mean, who benefits from reading those? Am I right? Am I right? Soon, we'll have a tax-protected list of "beneficial" readings.

    Taxes on fast food and all varieties of meats can follow. Oh, and the beer tax isn't nearly high enough; let's get that up there. From there, we can mandate an environmentally-friendly temperature for home heating and attach a surcharge on those who heat above it.

    Oh man, I'm just getting warmed up....so many unproductive activities to tax...

  • LT (unverified)
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    So, the ordinary hard working person who just wants to watch the news or the sporting event or the entertaining show when they come home from a hard day's work (and who doesn't have cable) should be taxed per show? Did I read that correctly? And people say sales tax is regressive.

    I don't see how this gets passed without a referral to the ballot. I don't see how voters pass this, and if they did I don't see how it is implemented.

  • blizzak (unverified)
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    so... TV is unequivocally evil and school is unequivocally good, so we should tax TV to pay for more school? From what I remember of school, a lot of bad things happened there -- bells, brain-washing, social conformity, public humiliation, dumb teachers, etc. BTW, I'd argue that TV isn't any worse for the brain than pretentious indie films or crappy NPR reports.

    This is one of the dumbest ideas I have ever heard.

    Hey Kari, instead of blocking people you don't agree with, why don't you block people who post really dumb ideas?

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    It would never pass as a ballot measure. If the legislature tried to pass such legislation, there would be a public lynching.

  • theberle (unverified)
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    Unfortunately, I'm not so certain it would be that "easy for these companies to install hardware in their junction boxes that measures when the television sets are turned on.

    I'm no expert, but I know that when I had analog cable, the signal from the cable box always was on, going to my TV, whether the TV was actually was on or not.

    With dish (and probably with digital cable), they could potentially install it in my $200 "cable box"/DVR, and measure any time the output of the box is on. But again, often times my receiver is on, but my TV isn't. Or even, with the DVR, the output of the box is off, but it's recording a show from the input.

    This idea would take a massive infrastructure improvement by Cable/Dish, and as a taxpayer, I'm not willing to pay for that (since you know it's not passing with Cable/Dish paying for the improvements themselves).

    Then again, the Neilsens would probably jump in on the TV monitoring technology and ratings would be a lot more accurate...hopefully saving shows like Arrested Development.

  • Anony (unverified)
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    If this passes, I will totally go commando, move to Montana, and hold out in my little fortress with the other Freemen while we watch DVDs of 'Futurama' over and over again.

    Gil is right on one thing: our current tax system isn't getting enough money to education. But harming my glowing cube-shaped friend is not the answer. We need more fundamental tax reform, not a zillion little bandaid taxes. (Besides, the only thing more regressive than a TV tax is a stained tank-top tax.)

    But I'll consider this if the Portland crowd will consider additional taxes on: black turtleneck sweaters, any coffee product with cinnamon or nutmeg on it, Apple computers, knitting supplies, the Portland Mercury, political donations to any Portland-area House candidate, furniture that's not symmetrical, furniture that's oval-shaped, people who say the word 'paradigm', granola, tattoos of Asian letters, bicycles, and biscotti.

  • theanalyst (unverified)
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    How about we stop sending around 25 percent of school-related tax revenue out of the area in order to fund education in rural Oregon. Tnen people in the rural counties can figure out what taxes THEY want to increase in order to pay for the education of their own students.

  • EJ (unverified)
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    Hey, you're all right. We shouldn't tax television, which has contributed to our nation's obesity epidemic, skyrocketing health care costs, and the first generation who will die before their parents.

    We should tax work, instead, because watching television is so much better for society than working. Brilliant. Truly brilliant.

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    I've seen the light!

    It's a perfect opportunity to finally make people feel as though the government is both taxing and spying on every single thing they do.

  • Ross Williams (unverified)
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    We should tax work, instead, because watching television is so much better for society than working. Brilliant. Truly brilliant.

    It is a bit disturbing how upset people get about this idea. Given that they are taxed on the gas they use to drive to the video store and we have people running for governor on a sales tax.

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    Blizzak wrote, Hey Kari, instead of blocking people you don't agree with, why don't you block people who post really dumb ideas?

    I don't block people I disagree with. Rob Kremer and many other thoughtful righties post here all the damn time.

    As we've made clear before, BlueOregon is a commons. It only works if everyone is respectful of everyone else. Those commenters who dominate threads, who refuse to allow others to converse, will be barred. Put more scatalogically, if you shit in the pool, the lifeguard is throwing you out.

    I don't care whether you're left, right, agree with me personally, or not. I've barred plenty of lefties and plenty of righties. Probably a few more righties than lefties, but that's because the insane righties go a little more nuts here - arguing every post and every comment. The insane lefties only go nuts once in a while.

    OK, no more meta. Please discuss the post, not the imagined intentions of BlueOregon in posting the post.

    (Personally, I think it's stupid. But judging from the dozen comments in the first 20 minutes, it's clearly touched a nerve.)

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    Damn you, I just bought the "Good" Cable.

  • LT (unverified)
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    Given that they are taxed on the gas they use to drive to the video store and we have people running for governor on a sales tax. Ross! Did we catch you saying something positive about Westlund, co-sponsor of SB 382 which included a sales tax?

  • Bert (unverified)
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    I find commercials very taxing; I lived in a European country (not England though) for a few years. The regional government used TV fees and income taxes to finance programming. Commercials were only between shows. The news was actually informative and provided historical context (as in > 20 years) about issues. It was way, way, way, way less propogandistic than the blather we have on the networks and cable. There was no bleeding on leeding stories.

    When I came back to the US, it took me a long while to get used to the barrage of loud commercials. I noticed the absolute freaky weirdness fake background "laughter" in sitcoms. Wierd.

    My grandfather, who lived there, was an arch conservative. Ronald Reagan and Maggy Thatcher were his cup of tea. But, based on his visits to the US, he concluded that TV was best left in the hands of the (democratic) State.

    TV is so scalable that it would not take much taxation (I'd prefer progressive income taxes) to produce quality programming. And, for now, let's please loose the telefundraising on OPB.

  • Ted Gleichman (unverified)
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    Maybe we could turn taxes into product placements in TV shows, so that the more you watch, the more you want to pay taxes.

    Maybe you wouldn't even know you were paying taxes: TV Addict to 7-11 Clerk: "Oh, and along with my smokes, gimme a couple of them new Education Truffles that Earl didn't want to share with his brother Randy until he remembered that education was on his bad-karma list."

    American TV product placements hit an all-time high in 2005, with over 107,000, a 32% increase from 2004. Now there's Progress in Democracy!

    Product placements are heavily concentrated in the so-called reality shows. Tragically, these shows are about as real as a government so dysfunctional that it leads otherwise sensible citizens to the desperation of considering something as irrational as a TV consumption tax.

    Until we're willing to do the hard work with the general public to make it clear that the ultra-rich and the multinationals are not paying their fair share of our citizenship dues, we will never be able to break out of these kinds of silly discussions.

    Taxes are about three things: wealth, income, and the consumption of goods and services. Although the most parsing occurs on consumption taxes (e.g., hidden "sin taxes" on alcohol being more palatable than a pure sales tax), a TV consumption tax that also requires additional electronic surveillance by government is just wrong. And not going to happen.

    But since product placements result in an increase in product sales, there ought to be a sales tax in place to take advantage of that. Our mutual government should share in the benefits reaped by the purveyors of products over the airwaves owned by the public.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)
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    ...when they pry the remote from my cold, dead fingers.

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    like Bert, i lived in a European country for 5 years (England), and there were 2 BBCs at the time -- paid for by license fees (which were strictly monitored by vehicles with spy gear, i kid you not) -- and one commercial network. as Bert said, the BBC had excellent news and programming (same for the 4 radio stations). during the Olympics, the Beeb would show, for example, the entirety of a 15 km race. it was great. no first lap/slo-mo yanni-musicked crapola bio of Yank runner with brave story yet doomed to finish second-to-last cuz s/he ain't world class, sorry/last lap with 3 milliseconds on Olympic champ before switching to hapless American 47 seconds back. there's a reason PBS uses so much BBC and why the BBC America channel has better versions of shows like The Office (which i hate) and Coupling (the BBC's version is one of the best comedies ever) and so on -- they don't have to pander to the lowest common denominator.

    the best tv in this country, the stuff that engages and makes you think and has true artistic qualities, is that that doesn't worry about making lots of bucks. Spongebob, for example, or Iron Chef, or early Trading Spaces. or "Gilmore girls" on WB -- who watched the WB? no one watches the WB, so they can write what is perhaps the best-written show since Buffy went off the air -- oddly, also a show not on mainstream. "Farscape" was the best sf show ever (this coming from a guy who saw the original Star Treks) but then scifi channel decided they wanted to draw a more profitable demographic. bye bye Farscape.

    it's not tv that's at fault; it's the bad writing. same as movies, same as music, same as books. bad writing is bringing down the "civil" part of civilization, and it's affecting every part of society. read any Supreme Court rulings lately? compare them to, say Oliver Wendall Holmes; you'll know what i mean about writing. the Declaration of Independence has stood the test of time because it was written by a great writer; today, it would be an outline, boring and as forgotten and impotent as the "Contract on America".

    "Gilmore girls" is great writing and great tv. most of the rest is, to use Kari's vile language, shit. shit writers -> shit writings -> shit tv -> shit-headed audiences. tv is just a tool. use it well, and you'll have a great time. and not have to worry about being stupid.

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    Todd and I agree on a lot of things today.

    I've watched Coupling through On Demand on my cable tv and it absolutely cracks me up. I'm also one of those people who watch the WB quite a lot. Gilmore Girls is a favorite. I even got my husband interested in it. At first he was willing to watch it because Lorelai was good looking. Then he realized it was a good show.

    Farscape was one of the best (and funniest!) sci-fi shows ever. I loved how they spun so much humor into the show. Our first cat was named Crichton and the new one is D'Argo. It was too bad that Sci-Fi took it off. They realized their error somewhat, and rebuilt all the sets in order to make the Peacekeeper Wars. I hear that it may end up becoming a movie-- they were waiting to see how Serenity did, and it didn't do too bad. It's one of a long line of shows that Sci-Fi killed (Babylon 5, Lexx, The Invisible Man, etc.). Many were afraid they'd do the same to Stargate when they bought it.

    I do agree there's too much shit on tv, which is why I love my On Demand digital cable, even though I really dislike Comcast.

    I now have many more channels to pick from that have interesting and non "boob tube" shows. I can't tell you how much my family has learned from some of these shows-- many get us into some really good discussions. And they help show my almost four year-old how important the ABCs, numbers, etc. are.

    If nothing's on, I switch it over to On Demand where I have Discovery Times (they did a great series following soldiers from the time they went to Iraq until they came home), BBC America, History, History International, and more. It's really interesting to watch as historical "facts" we've believed for so long are debunked (such as Custard's Last Stand) as well as long held myths (5 second rule, a small hole in an airplane can suck you out, etc.).

    I think it is possible to watch tv and it not be "bad" or somehow dumbing down the brain. Survivor, Masterpiece Theatre and Smokey are all different levels of the same thing-- stories. However, if you watch programs that show you how to do/build things, teach you about something, etc. it is a whole different thing. It's like a multi-media presentation of a lecture in school-- entertaining, but still stimulates your mind into thinking.

    Unlike some parents, we don't ban Abby from the TV, yet we don't use it as a babysitter all the time either. We've encouraged her like of educational kids shows from when she was a baby. Those shows help to reinforce how fun and important the things we are teaching her (ABCs, 123s, colors, shapes, words, etc.) are and gives her even more exposure to them. Needless to say, PBS Sprout has been a wonderful thing-- especially for a family that isn't on a "traditional" schedule and is often up later than the norm (my husband works evenings and by altering our schedule we're able to spend more time together).

  • Gil Johnson (unverified)
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    So I came up with a way to fund schools that essentially costs people a dime an hour to watch television. You got a better way of getting that money? Is it going to bankrupt the poor and working class? At a dime an hour, you could watch 100 hours a month and pay 10 bucks.

    Someone suggested Portland should get back the tax revenue it sends out to the rest of the state. If you think taxing TV is a tough sell, you're gonna see a flock of pigs overhead before the rest of the state agrees to give back the equalization money.

    Should we tax behavior? We already do. There are heavy taxes on alcohol and cigarettes. I'd be all for an onerous tax on blogs, as they seem to serve no real social good.

    Some of you have gotten sidetracked into the quality of TV programming. My point is not that the content of TV makes you stupid (though much of it does). It's the act of watching TV itself.

    Here's a reference:

    http://www.cyc-net.org/today2001/today010907.html

    Or if you really want to get into it: http://72.14.203.104/search?q=cache:TuBCS4w7kGkJ:www.aap.org/advocacy/releases/tvapril.pdf+cognitive+television&hl=en&gl=us&ct=clnk&cd=9

    And this one also does a good job of explaining why TV makes you stupid: http://www.thelizlibrary.org/liz/johnson.html

    I have a beer or a glass of wine just about every evening and I don't mind paying a tax on what I'm consuming. And I also veg out for an hour or two in front of the tube just about every night. I wouldn't mind paying a small tax on that, as well.

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    It's not as if we're not already paying taxes and fees to the government for our cable. Mine were more than 5% on my last bill. In months where I don't have late charges and such the taxes/fees make up a higher percentage of the total bill.

    For many people it would be more than 100 hours a month-- that is just over 3 hours per day for all members of the household. Just watching a half hour of news before work and the 6:00 news will put you halfway there.

    Many, such as myself, have sleeping problems. We have the tv on in the evening to relax us as we try to fall asleep. I also like it on behind me while I'm working on the computer. I'm not watching, but I like to listen.

    There's also the fact that I like different shows than my husband. I watch my shows in the livingroom and record his shows in the bedroom (he works evenings). This means the two hours of shows in the evening becomes four.

    While we have adjusted our schedules so we can spend time with my husband, we still get up and go to bed earlier than he does. This means the tv is on for a few hours after we go to bed as my husband watches shows he likes.

    And apparently you've never had to feed your family with very little money-- or it's been quite some time. For those who are regularly living off about $20/week on groceries, $10 is a lot of money. That was our family not that long ago.

    TV is a cheap form of entertainment for poor people. For the cost of a few movie tickets you can buy a tv. For those living in apartments, basic cable is often times included, so they're not paying for that. They don't go to the movies, or the opera, or the ballet, the theatre, sporting events, etc. They watch tv.

  • Ross Williams (unverified)
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    TV is a cheap form of entertainment for poor people.

    Is it? Poor people pay for the advertising on "free" TV like everybody else and if they buy cable it is anything but cheap. Especially when compared to a book from the library or conversation with friends or a walk in the park.

    Most people are addicted to TV and are in denial.

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    Ross--

    I wasn't talking about commercials. I'm talking about the fact you don't have to pay for all thes shows you're watching. But if you want to go to the movies, theatre, a sporting event, etc. you have to pay per event/show.

    TV you can watch all day, every day and it's free. Yes, there are commercials. But there are commercials on just about everything anymore. That's why I like Noggin-- it doesn't have any commercials. And PBS Sprout has either none or very, very few. Those are the two channels my daughter watches the most.

    And if you notice, I said above that many apartments give basic cable for free. And of course apartments is where many poor people live. Yes, you're paying for it in your rent. But even when complexes drop it as something that comes with your apt (as mine did), they don't lower your rent. They just keep more profit.

  • djk (unverified)
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    I couldn't support any tax that monitors people's viewing habits. Even you aren't tracking what shows they're watching, the government would be tracking how many hours they're watching and when they're watching, and that's just too much invasion of privacy for my tastes.

    On the other hand, I have no problem whatsoever with a local excise tax on cable and satellite TV. That's a clear luxury and easy to tax. Pay 5% or 10% of whatever you pay for the service. Earmark the money for schools, or maybe school art and music programs.

    If you really really really don't want to pay the tax, don't get cable. Restrict yourself to "free" video entertainment -- in Portland, that's eight or nine broadcast channels (counting UHF stations), plus you can check out all kinds of TV shows on DVD from the library.

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    before we tax tv, could we please tax the rich and the multinational corporations fairly? is that too much to ask?

  • EJ (unverified)
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    We measure and charge people's consumption of phone, water and electricity, why not television? It's not an invasion of privacy.

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    EJ--

    Whoever provides your water, electricity, or phone all charge you according to how much you use. However, the government does not tax you according to how much you've used. There are often times fees/taxes on the total amount of your bill, though.

    This is different than the government knowing how many hours you watch tv each month and then taxing you according to that.

    And no, many people don't have access to the "free" channels unless they have cable. When our apartments cut our cable, we couldn't get any channels in. We even bought rabbit ears to help bring in the signal, but could still only get in KGW really badly and no other channels. That's why there is the extremely basic cable-- gives you all the local channels and a handful of others (typically something like Discovery, CSPAN, and CNN). This way you can get the local channels.

  • Gil Johnson (unverified)
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    t.a. wrote: before we tax tv, could we please tax the rich and the multinational corporations fairly? is that too much to ask?

    You know, your idea makes much more sense. But since the rich and the multinational corporations control the political process, how are we going to do that?

    I've come to think of the tax dollars we pay so corporations and the wealthy can have tax breaks and subsidies as something akin to the protection money small businesses in ethnic communities pay to the local mobsters. It's an extra cost of living, it's unfair but it is also an unavoidable fact of life. But that's a subject for another column.

  • Ross Williams (unverified)
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    TV you can watch all day, every day and it's free.

    No, its not free. You just pay when you go to buy the stuff advertised, not when you watch. And people buy lots of stuff they don't need and wouldn't buy if it weren't advertised on television. So "free" TV is an illusion, like everything else on TV.

    The only reason people have to pay for cable is the broadcast industry has managed to get legislation that forces the cable companies to give them free access to their customers. If we let the cable companies charge for providing an audience, the way we allow broadcast stations to charge for use of the public airwaves to advertise, then cable would be "free" too.

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    TV is free. You don't have to buy any of the stuff that is advertised-- you can choose to, but it's not in any way required.

    When our income was low and we were on food stamps, we didn't buy things unless we absolutely needed them. It didn't matter how good it looked on tv. And we're definitely not the only ones who do this.

    I can watch tv all day and never have to buy a single thing I see. No one ever checks to make sure I buy a certain amount of those items. I have no quota I have to meet in order to watch tv. I can watch it all I want and never pay a thing (as long as I can actually get a signal, that is). The only things that are required is that I have a tv and electricity.

  • Ross Williams (unverified)
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    TV is free. You don't have to buy any of the stuff that is advertised-- you can choose to, but it's not in any way required.

    Of course that is true in one sense, but it presumes a level of control that isn't really there. TV bypasses rational thought and addresses you emotionally. That means, while its possible to resist buying some specific things, you will be induced to buy other things if you watch TV.

    I can watch tv all day and never have to buy a single thing I see.

    Every addict thinks they are unaffected by their addiction. W You may believe you are in control, but it is doubtful you really are. A lot of money is spent to figure out how to bypass any reasoned defenses you might use to maintain control. They don't always work of course, but they do work some of the time.

    What have you ever bought that you have never seen on TV?

    When our income was low and we were on food stamps, we didn't buy things unless we absolutely needed them.

    Need is an interesting term. I don't think anyone in the United States who is watching television consumes only what they "need". Afterall, do you "need" to watch television? Well, you might. But that is my point.

  • Ross Williams (unverified)
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    Well, that was clear as mud.

    Let me put it simply. You buy things you want but you want them because TV manipulates you to want them. And if you didn't watch TV you wouldn't think you needed them and you wouldn't buy them. So watching TV is not free - you will spend money as a direct result.

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    Need? That's electricity, basic food, basic toiletries, phone, and an internet provider since we brought in some of our money via work we did on the web. We tried free providers, but could never get a reliable connection.

    Believe me, when you're trying to feed two adults and a baby on $20K per year, you either get only what you need or you go hungry.

    During that time, our entertainment came from a few sources-- reading a book, playing the few board games we had, and tv. We did a mix of all three. Since we already had the tv before I lost my job (the tv was more than 15 years old when it finally died last year), the tv cost us nothing but the electricity it used.

    I don't get how you can assume that just because people are watching tv that they're out buying what they don't need because they saw commercials on tv.

    What have I bought that I've never seen on tv? Plenty of items. I do it all the time. TV doesn't choose what I buy and don't buy-- I make those decisions for myself based on price, how well an item works, recommendations from others, etc. Personally, I pay very little attention to commercials.

    And no, I don't "need" television. I can often go weeks without ever watching tv. We went almost a year with a tv signal that got us one channel-- KGW. Most of what we watched on the tv was movies we already owned or that we borrowed from others.

    If I get a new collection of books, I'll spend weeks reading, as opposed to watching tv. I love books and have a large collection, as does my husband and daughter.

    When I watch tv, it's during my relaxation time. It's not something I sit around doing all day-- it's typically in the evening when I'm trying to wind down and get ready for bed. Or it's when I can't sleep, but I don't want to get my mind going by getting up and doing work and don't have any new books to read.

  • John May (unverified)
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    Any one who doesn't think watching television is inherently detrimental to human beings should read "Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television" by Jerry Mander. It will open your eyes. It's about 30 years old but could have been written yesterday. Television affects your brain in ways you can't imagine. Sure it would be "un-American" to tax TV. That assumes that "American" always equals "best" or "correct". I don't happen to agree.

  • betts (unverified)
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    AMEN John! I think this is a brilliant idea. And I think, Gil, despite Portland's reputation, you would find a higher tv consumption per capita in PDX than anywhere else in the state. Why are Americans so concerned with the government invading our privacy? Its like the nation has a collective guilt complex, damn those Puritanical roots!

    <h2>Now, seriously, I do value my right to privacy. But I do not see in any way how letting the government know how much or how little TV I watch can in any way be detrimental to myself. And if this encouraged people to watch less TV, what a wonderful thing! It would improve health, strengthen families, get people more active in their communities and encourage more productive liesure activities. Plus, it would help education. Which is a moral good, even if sometimes perceived "bads" happen there as Blizzak argues. And if you don't like the word moral substitute ethical. Better education produces better citizens which help to reform a better community and state. I think this discussion needs to keep all aspects of the proposal in mind. We aren't just talking about taxing a luxury (that's right, tv is a luxury, not a RIGHT), we are looking at ways to create more revenue for our failing education system. Gil's proposal seems perfectly rational, responsible and beneficial for everyone, IMO.</h2>
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