Friday, April 29, 2016

The Presidential campaign, Quemoy, and data caps - what's important?

The federal government is doing something significant that will significantly affect the lives of all our children and grandchildren. You won't hear a word about it in the Presidential campaign this year.

In fact, if you think about the multitude of debates held this year they have been pretty consistent with the lessons taught in 1960 and 1980 on how to fool most of the people at election time.

You probably discuss Quemoy and Matsu on a regular basis. What? You don't?

Or maybe you talk about the economy and your finances. Yes you do.

1960 - The First Televised Debate: Quemoy and Matsu

Quemoy and Matsu are a couple of islands off the coast of China that were the significant foreign policy issue discussed in the Kennedy-Nixon Debate, the first televised Presidential Election debate ever held. You didn't hear much about them after that debate.

That set the stage for future Presidential campaigns. If you are going to talk about something specific regarding foreign policy, make sure it really is insignificant because future foreign policy crises are something about which you can do little - it depends on what other people in other places choose to do.

Thus in the 2000 three Presidential debates and one Vice-Presidential debate, our military readiness and spending and important foreign policy issues were discussed. But the word "terrorist" nor the country "Afghanistan" were never mentioned by anyone. Of course on 9/11/2001 terrorists based in Afghanistan altered the future of the world by attacking the United States.

1980 - It's The Economy

Twenty years after the first televised debates, in 1980 another debate between Carter and Reagan in which in his conclusion Reagan said:
"Are you better off now than you were four years ago? Is it easier for you to go and buy things in the stores than it was four years ago? Is there more or less unemployment in the country than there was four years ago? Is America as respected throughout the world as it was? Do you feel that our security is as safe, that we're as strong as we were four years ago?
That set the theme for campaigns in the future, or in a more simplified version  "The economy, stupid" which James Carville coined as Bill Clinton's successful 1992 presidential campaign strategist.

Under the Constitutions, Presidents have no direct power over the federal budget. And, as we learned in late 2008 early 2009 as the economy crashed right before a Presidential Election, what policy choices they do have over the economy aren't determined by political party platforms.

In the three 2004 Presidential and one Vice-Presidential debates, the banking industry was not discussed, at all.

What we learned in 2008-09 is that we already have a system in place established by Congress that, for better or worse, forces the Executive Branch to select from undesirable choices to limit the harm resulting from an economic crash.

About Congress. While the Presidential debates discussed how to save the crashing economy, the voters expressed their will regarding the Congress, which was the branch of our government responsible for the undesirable choices. In the 2008 U.S. House of Representatives elections the Democratic Party expanded its control in 2008. That year was the largest Democratic Senate gain since 1986 expanding the Party's majority.

Subsequently the public blamed George Bush and/or Barack Obama. They sort of blamed Congress except, of course their own members of Congress. What they did not do is look in a mirror for the persons responsible.

On the other hand....

21st Century and Communication

Federal government agencies are working with communications companies - phone and internet service providers - to set the policies that will have completely replaced the electronic communications systems that existed in 1990 with a new system.

Essentially we are nearing the end phase of a long term policy realignment that began 20 years ago with the Telecommunications Act of 1996 adopted by Congress and signed into law by Bill Clinton.

The intent of the law as stated by Clinton was to increase competition. Bernie Sanders voted against the law. In fact the unintended consequence of the law was that competition decreased and in 2003 Senator Hillary Clinton and Congressman Bernie Sanders both supported the S J Res 17 / H.J.Res72 measure to try to stop the decrease in competition.

Right now the FCC is about to let the third-largest cable company in the United States, Charter Communications, buy the second-largest cable company, Time Warner Cable. Charter will become the second-largest broadband provider, behind Comcast, once its merger with Time Warner and a related purchase of Bright House Networks are complete. Together Comcast and New Charter will control 70% ± of the nation's high-speed broadband connections.

The competition issue may now be a non-issue. But there is so much more that will establish the environment in which Americans will communicate for several decades - technology changes notwithstanding. And despite the rhetoric, privacy is probably not going to be the first on everyone's list of "why did they do that?"

Issues such as data caps and universal access are being decided. For a better understanding don't pay any attention to the Presidential campaign - read articles like Take that, ISPs: FCC declares war on data caps and Comcast raises trial data caps to a terabyte but won't commit to nationwide rollout to learn more.

Regarding the Presidential campaign, what is important is the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) over the next five years will be making most of the significant long term decisions about electronic communications that will affect you for a long, long time. The FCC consists of five commissioners appointed by the President of the United States and confirmed by the United States Senate for five-year terms.

Who will your favorite Presidential candidate appoint to fill those seats? Good question. You won't hear it asked at any debate or discussed by any candidate. After all, unlike the economy or who is going to attack the U.S. next year, who sits in those FCC seats is something the next President can control.

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