September 29, 2021
Several weeks ago, I wrote an article asking why the media in general, and Politico in particular, refuse to cover the irregularities in Joe Biden’s taxes. Turns out they have a lot of reasons not to do so. Approximately 1,269,000,000 reasons, in fact.
A relatively unheralded program in the $3.5 trillion Democrat spending spree would provide well more than $1 billion in bailout funds to media organizations. You read that right: With our nation more than $28 trillion in debt, Democrats want to raise taxes to spend more money on their political allies in corporate media.
It’s enough to prompt the inevitable chicken-and-egg question: Did Democrats propose this bailout because corporate media bury scandals like Joe Biden’s taxes and Hunter Biden’s e-mails, or did the media bury those scandals in the hopes of receiving a bailout?
Welfare for Writers?
Buried at the back of the 2,465-page spending behemoth is the program by which Democrats in Congress want the federal government to subsidize journalism. Beginning on page 2,326, Section 138517 of the bill provides a payroll tax credit for “compensation of local news journalists.”
The program would provide a credit of up to $50,000 annually for each “local news journalist” on staff, subsidizing half of wages in the first year and 30 percent for four years thereafter. The bill defines “local news journalist” as someone who works “at least 100 hours” each quarter, “during which time such individual regularly gathers, collects, photographs, records, writes, or reports news or information that concerns local events or other matters of local public interest.”
That language implies the credits will go primarily towards small-town reporters. Requiring eligible journalists to work only 100 hours per quarter—less than 10 hours per week—suggests lawmakers want to support publications with part-time or freelance correspondents.
Large Media Corporations Eligible
Consider also which publications classify as a “local newspaper.” Under the bill, an establishment would qualify if:
“(A) the primary content of such publication is original content derived from primary sources and relating to news and current events,
“(B) such publication primarily serves the needs of a regional or local community,
“(C) the publisher of such publication employs at least one local news journalist who resides in such regional or local community, and
“(D) the publisher of such publication employs no more than 750 employees during the calendar quarter with respect to which a credit is allowed under this section.
This definition contains a lot of wiggle room—not least because the bill doesn’t define a “regional or local community” for purposes of determining news coverage. Would a Washington-based publication, geared towards super-rich Beltway insiders, that focused all of its coverage on Capitol Hill and K Street be classified as “primarily serv[ing] the needs of a regional or local community?” Quite possibly.
The definition also means that a newspaper with the maximum 750 employees—not exactly a small enterprise, by any stretch—could receive $37,500,000 per year from the federal government. These publications would have strong financial incentives to turn every employee—even the people who work on the printing presses—into “local news journalists” for at least 100 hours every quarter, so they can receive a federal bailout of up to $50,000 per worker per year.
While a Wall Street Journal editorial and a few other stories have highlighted this atrocious bailout, thus far no one has appeared to highlight its cost. According to a cost estimate issued by the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT), this proposal would cost federal taxpayers $1.269 billion over the coming decade.
Even this number understates the proposal’s real fiscal impact, as the credit would expire after five years. If Democrats extend this proposal—which of course they will try to do—its true ten-year cost would exceed $2.5 billion.
Another Democrat Attempt at Censorship
This tax credit program represents but the latest attempt from Democrats seeking to dominate the news media. From the Obama administration encouraging people to snitch on their neighbors for spreading “disinformation” during the Obamacare debate, to congressional lawmakers seeking additional censorship by Big Tech giants, the left wants to ensure that all media promote one message, and one message only: more government everywhere.
This program would follow in the exact same vein, leveraging the ambiguities in the law to silence critical voices in the media. With the Treasury Department left to make critical decisions about how to interpret this proposal—decisions that could make or break the future of news publications—how likely do you think the average reporter, or publisher, would be to cover that same Treasury Department aggressively on an issue like Biden’s taxes, and whether the IRS will audit his questionable returns? The question practically answers itself, and speaks to the pernicious effects of this type of proposal.
Republican lawmakers should expose this crony capitalism by asking JCT just how many establishments, and how many reporters, would receive this new federal bailout. And when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi asks rhetorically what programs people seeking a smaller spending bill would cut, conservatives should point to this example of crass political corruption as Exhibit A.