Commentary Magazine


Paranoids Can Have Enemies

Every now and then, my mind takes a conspiratorial turn and I’m left wondering if I’m simply being paranoid. Current events are — well, conspiring — to make it happen again.

First up, we have the Fairness Doctrine. During the campaign, conservatives accused Barack Obama of stealthily favoring the return of the measure, which would cripple the one part of the media where conservatism thrives — talk radio. (And, coincidentally, the one segment of the radio business that’s actually doing pretty well financially. ) Obama denied any such plans.

Well, since the election, more and more Democrats have been talking about bringing back the plan. Tom Harkin has called for it, as has  Representative Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), who is — by an astonishing coincidence — married to a top executive at Air America, the perennially struggling liberal talk radio network. And President Obama’s spokesman has backed off the words off Candidate Obama, deferring any comment at all on the Fairness Doctrine.

This would, in all likelihood, be the death knell of talk radio. Radio stations put on conservatives because they get ratings and make money. A radio station that is compelled to carry unpopular programming in the interest of “fairness” would end up having to heavily subsidize unpopular programs, and very well might decide that it simply isn’t worth all the hassle of trying to maintain “balance.” At that point, the talk radio market would probably go the way of much of the rest of the radio business — right down the drain.

And then there’s the Census. It might seem petty to some, but it was serious enough to convince Judd Gregg to  withdraw his nomination as Commerce Secretary.

The Obama administration’s plan is to make the Director of the Census report not just to the Secretary of Commerce, but to the White House Chief of Staff as well.

This raises legal and Constitutional issues. In compliance with a Constitutional mandate, Congress has passed laws placing the Bureau of the Census within the Department of Commerce.

The primary purpose of the Census is Congressional reapportionment. After the Census is taken, the seats in the House of Representatives are redistributed among the several states to preserve roughly equal representation. States with more people get more Representatives, and those with fewer people lose seats.

In the 2010 Census, the current projections  show several “blue” states poised to lose seats, and several “red” states about to pick them up. For example, Texas could gain four seats, while Massachusetts could lose one. If the Obama administration gets its way, a career partisan and political operative will have too much involvement in this critical process.

Like I said, sometimes I wonder if I’m being paranoid.

Other times, I wonder if I’m being paranoid enough.