Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Three Quick Fixes

December 9, 2008, 12:25 p.m.

Three Quick Fixes to Three Seemingly Intractable Problems
An Entry in FromDC2Iowa.blogspot.com
December 9, 2008

1. Question: What's the solution to the "'marriage' is between a man and a woman" vs. "gays' constitutional right to marriage" dilemma?

Answer: Civil unions for all.

Commentary: "Marriage" for heterosexuals and "civil unions" for homosexuals is not even "separate but equal." It's inherently unequal and unfair and a limitation on gays' civil rights. Moreover, it is state intrusion into something that ought to be left to the religious community: the "sanctity of marriage." One way to solve the problem is to grant gays the right to "marriage." That irritates some folks, many but not all of whom draw their objections from their religious beliefs (among other things). By having the state grant everyone only a "civil union" license (a) the inequality is removed, and (b) "marriage" is left to religious institutions, which would remain free to accept and exclude whomever they chose.

2. Question: What can be done to provide some relief for those about to be rendered homeless as a result of foreclosure without unjustly rewarding the improvident while in effect punishing those who've been paying their mortgages?

Answer: Four percent mortgages for all.

Commentary: The banks have demonstrated that they are reluctant to use the taxpayers' trillion-dollar generosity for the purposes for which it was intended. What's the Federal Reserve and inter-bank loan rate now, 0.5%, 1.0%? By lowering everyone's mortgage rate to 4% it would put money into the pockets of consumers -- the only meaningful (as well as humane) solution to our economic problems in an economy 70% of which is driven by consumer spending -- while still enabling the banks to make a reasonable return. Yes, those who couldn't even make a 4% mortgage loan payment would still lose their homes, so the truly improvident would not be bailed out, but for many this reduction would make the difference in their being able to continue paying the bank -- to the benefit of the bank as well as the homeowner. But it would give the same financial advantage to those who were wiser in their initial mortgage commitment.

3. Question: What's the answer for the failing newspaper industry in the age of the Internet?

Answer: An ASCAP-type arrangement for those who read the papers' content online.

Commentary: Newspapers are being hit from a number of directions at once. Like other public corporations, they are under pressure from Wall Street to not only make a profit, but an ever-increasing profit. The price of newsprint is up. The Tribune's $13 billion debt didn't help its prospects any. Advertising revenues are down, not only because of a failing economy generally, but because readership has been declining for some time. Part of the reason it's declining is because a number of folks are reading the content of the newspapers, for free, off of the Internet. Song writers get their compensation from a share of the license fees paid by broadcasters and others for the blanket licenses to play any of the thousands of songs licensed by ASCAP. The problem confronted by any single newspaper seeking to charge for its online content is that it will lose online readers to competitors who charge less, or nothing. By letting the newspapers enter into such an industry-wide agreement, all readers would have to pay something for the blanket license that would let us enter the Web sites of every American newspaper. The papers could then share those revenues in some proportion to the number of hits each paper's site gets -- not only increasing their income for every additional user (who, unlike hard copy subscribers, contributes virtually zero in incremental cost) but eliminating the costs associated with newsprint and delivery trucks.

That's three for today. Got any other problems you want solved?

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