People Never PAID 90% in Taxes (Economic Myths)

This is posted for adding to a conversation from FACEBOOK where I repeatedly noted no one ever paid 90% in taxes after it was brought up by my antagonist — hoping the operative word “PAID” would sink in — (conversation reproduced at the end of this post for clarity — JUMP.) Other Posts that discuss related issues:

90% MYTH

(From the video):

  • “economic historian Phil Magness, of the American Institute for Economic Research, says that progressives miss an important fact: The high tax rates that America had in the past actually didn’t bring in much revenue. When rates were at 70 percent, Magness tells John Stossel, ‘A millionaire on average would pay 41 percent’.”

Even “CheckYourFact” says this:

  • While the top marginal income tax rate was over 90 percent [92%] while Eisenhower was president, few people were subject to that rate due to deductions and other tax loopholes. Top income earners paid much lower average tax rates.

(MISES.ORG has an excellent article dealing with the 90% issue, as well as GREY ENLIGHTENMENT)

ALMOST CLASSICAL notes this in their “The 90% Tax Rate Myth” post:

So, let’s get more complicated. When there was a 94% top rate in 1944-45, there were so many deductions and exclusions that the taxable income was not comparable to someone’s entire income. First, the top rate started at $200,000, which today is equal to $2,413,059.90 — so the maximum EMTR would apply only to incomes of $2.5 million. But, that’s still taxable income, not earned income.

In 1944, you could deduct business meals, all business travel, all forms of interest payments, and much more. You could even deduct spousal travel expenses on a business trip! (Why travel alone?) Companies could also “loan” or “provide” almost anything to an employee, from an apartment to standard benefits. It was possible to shelter tens of thousands of dollars from taxable income. Three-martini lunches and expense accounts were important realities, skewing tax calculations.

As a result of deductions and exclusions, even the theoretical maximum Real Rate of taxation at 60% in 1944 overstates taxation dramatically. The reality? On earned income, the richest U.S. taxpayers paid close to 40 percent of their earned incomes in taxes in 1944. We simply didn’t count much of the compensation as taxable income.

Allow me to introduce you to Hauser’s Law. Published in 1993 by William Kurt Hauser, a San Francisco investment economist, Hauser’s Law suggests, “No matter what the tax rates have been, in postwar America tax revenues have remained at about 19.5% of GDP.” This theory was published in The Wall Street Journal, March 25, 1993. For a variety of reasons, we seem to balance tax collections within a narrow range.

Since 1945, U.S. federal tax receipts have been fairly constant in terms of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), with taxes ranging from 15 to 20 percent of GDP. The graph is as follows:

When people demand higher taxes on the rich, usually phrased as paying a “fair share,” they are ignoring how our tax system has functioned historically. We could create more brackets, to tax the top 1% at a higher rate once again, but the net increase in tax revenues wouldn’t be dramatic. Why not? Because government spending is near historical highs: we are spending at near-WWII levels. It would be nearly impossible to tax enough to pay the federal bills, and doing so would likely crush the economy….

CREATING MORE REVENUE

So, what did JFK’s “the rising tide lifts all the boats,” Reagan’s tax cuts and Bush’s tax cuts show? (See: John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan Proved Tax Cuts Work“) That lower taxes brings in more revenue.

  • Should tax rates be higher? It’s the million dollar question! Up? Down? No change? Where in the world should taxes go? In election years, the question of tax rates fills the airwaves. In non-election years, the question of tax rates, again, fills the airwaves. So what’s the answer? UCLA Professor of Economics Tim Groseclose explains his research on the topic. Basically, there’s a certain point at which higher tax rates actually reduce the amount of revenue the government collects. What’s that point? When are tax rates too high? Learn a valuable lesson in economics, and public policy.

Which is why either a national sales tax or a flat tax would help fuel our GDP engine more. Thomas Sowell further explains via an excerpt (my scan from my book) of the “conclusion” of Thomas Sowell’s “The World of Numbers.” You can listen to the entirety of chapter 4 read via MIKE READS: Chpt 4(a) | Chpt 4(b).

I will also emphasize AEI’s PARTIAL QUOTE from my expanded quote — it has changed a bit due to my having the revised edition (as usual I add the references for people to further follow the rabbit trail):

THOMAS SOWELL

  • Thomas Sowell, Discrimination and Disparities: Revised and Enlarged Edition (New York, NY: Basic Books, 2019), 110-114; (references), 255-257.

IMPLICATIONS

The emphasis on complex statistical analysis in economics and other fields— however valuable, or even vital, such statistical analysis may be in many cases— can lead to overlooking simple but fundamental questions as to whether the numbers on which these complex analyses are based are in fact measuring what they seem to be measuring, or claim to be measuring. “Income” statistics which lump together annual salaries and multi-year capital gains are just one of many sets of statistics which could stand much closer scrutiny at this fundamental level— especially if laws and policies affecting millions of human beings are to be based on statistical conclusions.

What can be disconcerting, if not painful, are the simple and obvious fallacies that can pass muster in intellectual circles when these fallacies seem to advance the prevailing vision of what is called “social justice.” Among prominent current examples is French economist Thomas Piketty’s large international statistical study of income inequality, which was instantly acclaimed in many countries, despite such obvious and fundamental misstatements as one pointed out by Professor Steven Pinker of Harvard:

Thomas Piketty, whose 2014 bestseller Capital in the Twenty-First Century became a talisman in the uproar over inequality, wrote, “The poorer half of the population are as poor today as they were in the past, with barely 5 percent of total wealth in 2010, just as in 1910.” But total wealth today is vastly greater than it was in 1910, so if the poorer half own the same proportion, they are far richer, not “as poor.”66

In addition to speaking of percentages as if they represented a given amount of income or wealth over the course of a century, Professor Piketty also made such assertions as that, in income, “the upper decile is truly a world unto itself,”67 when in fact just over half of all Americans are in that upper decile at some point in their lives.68 When Piketty said that the top one percent sit atop the “hierarchy” and “structure of inequality,”69 he again verbally transformed a changing mix of people in particular income brackets into a fixed structure rather than a fluid process, in which most Americans do not remain in the same quintile from one decade to the next.

Such misstatements are different expressions of the same fundamental misconception. As an empirical study of the 400 richest Americans pointed out, Piketty “naively assumes that it’s the same people getting richer.”70 But the majority of the 400 richest Americans have earned their fortunes in their own lifetimes, rather than being heirs of the 400 largest fortunes of the past!71

Such misconceptions are not peculiar to Professor Piketty. Nor are these the only problems with his statistics. But that such simple and obvious misstatements can pass muster in intellectual circles is a problem and a danger that goes far beyond Thomas Piketty.

Whether income differences are measured before taxes or after taxes can change the degree of inequality. If inequalities are measured both after taxes and after government transfers, whether in money or in goods and services, that can reduce the inequality considerably, when high-income people pay higher taxes and low-income people receive most of the government transfers.

Statistics on tax rates themselves can be grossly misleading when changes in tax rates are described in such terms as “a $300 billion increase in taxes” or “a $300 billion decrease in taxes.In reality, all that the government can do is change the tax rate. How much tax revenue that will produce depends on how people react. There have been times when higher tax rates have produced lower tax revenues, and other times when lower tax rates have produced higher tax revenues,72 as well as times when tax rates and tax revenues moved in the same direction.

During the 1920s, for example, the tax rate on the highest income Americans was reduced from 73 percent to 24 percent— and the income tax revenue rose substantially73— especially income tax revenues received from people in the highest income brackets. Under the older and much higher tax rate, vast sums of money from wealthy investors were sheltered in tax-exempt securities, such as municipal bonds. The total amount of money invested in tax-free securities was estimated to be three times the size of the annual budget of the federal government, and more than half as large as the national debt.74

Such vast and legally untaxable sums of money caught the attention and aroused the ire of Secretary of the Treasury Andrew Mellon, who declared it “repugnant” in a democracy that there should be “a class in the community which cannot be reached for tax purposes.”75 Failing to get Congress to take steps toward ending tax exemptions for incomes from particular securities,76 Secretary Mellon sought instead to lower the tax rates to the point where it would in fact lead to collection of more tax revenues.

Tax-exempt securities tend not to pay as high a rate of return on investments as other securities, whose earnings are taxed. It made sense for wealthy investors to accept these lower rates of return from tax-exempt securities when the tax rate was 73 percent, but not after the tax rate was lowered to 24 percent. In terms of words on paper, the official tax rate on the highest incomes was cut from 73 percent to 24 percent in the 1920s. But, in terms of events in the real world, the tax rate actually paid— on staggering sums of money previously untouchable in tax shelters— rose from zero percent to 24 percent. This produced huge increases in tax revenues received from high-income people, both absolutely and as a percentage of all income taxes collected.77

This increase in income taxes collected from high-income taxpayers was a result of the plain fact that 24 percent of something is larger than 73 percent of nothing. Tax rate cuts in some later administrations also led to increases in tax revenues!78 For example, a front-page news story in the New York Times of July 9, 2006 said: “An unexpectedly steep rise in tax revenues from corporations and the wealthy is driving down the projected budget deficit this year.79

However unexpected this increase in tax revenues may have been to the New York Times and others decrying “tax cuts for the rich,” this was precisely the kind of outcome predicted and expected by others in various administrations over the years, who had urged that tax rates be cut, in order to get money disgorged from tax shelters and invested in the market economy. This included people in the Coolidge, Kennedy, Reagan and George W. Bush administrations, where there were similar outcomes.80 But the very possibility that tax rates and tax revenues can move in opposite directions is seldom mentioned in the media— a crucial error of omission.

These are not simply arguments about history. Among the consequences in our own time is that proposals to reduce income tax rates are automatically met with objections to reducing income tax revenues. In the Wall Street Journal of January 31, 2018, for example, economist Alan Blinder objected to tax rate cuts on grounds that “the deficit is already too large!”81

This is in defiance of what the New York Times reported about the unexpected reduction of the deficit by increased tax revenues during the administration of President George W. Bush. It is also in defiance of a record-breaking budget surplus after tax rates were reduced in the 1920s— a surplus large enough to allow about one-fourth of the national debt to be paid off.82 Like many others, Professor Blinder proceeded as if it were axiomatic that tax rate reductions mean tax revenue reductions.

There is, of course, no guarantee of what any given tax rate reduction will lead to in a given set of circumstances. But Professor Blinder’s assertion was not based on any argument that a tax rate reduction under particular current circumstances would lead to a reduction in tax revenues. There was in fact no argument whatever on that point, nor apparently any sense of need to make such an argument. Similarly, a twenty-first century book on President Calvin Coolidge likewise asserted that, as a result of the tax rate cuts during his administration, “the bounty that the rich enjoyed sapped the U.S. Treasury of funds it might have used for other ends.”83 Thus a record-breaking budget surplus under President Coolidge was verbally transmuted into a deprivation of funds, with the turn of a phrase.

All the voluminous and detailed statistics on tax rates and tax revenues published by the Internal Revenue Service, going back more than a hundred years, might as well not exist, as far as many of those with the prevailing social vision are concerned. This is ultimately not a question about history, but about what such heedlessness implies for the present and still more so for the future.

REFERENCES

66 Steven Pinker, Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress (New York: Viking, 2018), p. 99.

67 Thomas Piketty, Capital in the Twenty-First Century (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2014), p. 252.

68 Thomas A. Hirschl and Mark R. Rank, “The Life Course Dynamics of Affluence,” PLoS ONE, January 28, 2015, p. 5.

69 Thomas Piketty, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, p. 278.

70 Robert Arnott, William Bernstein, and Lillian Wu, “The Myth of Dynastic Wealth: The Rich Get Poorer,” Cato Journal, Fall 2015, p. 461.

71 “Spare a Dime,” a special report on the rich, The Economist, April 4, 2009, p. 4.

72 See, for example, Phil Gramm and John F. Early, “The Myth of American Inequality,” Wall Street Journal, August 10, 2018, p. A15. See also Thomas Sowell, Basic Economics: A Common Sense Guide to the Economy, fifth edition (New York: Basic Books, 2015), pp. 426-427, 428.

73 Gene Smiley and Richard Keehn, “Federal Personal Income Tax Policy in the 1920s,” Journal ofEconomic History, Vol. 55, No. 2 (June 1995), p. 286; Benjamin G. Rader, “Federal Taxation in the 1920s,” The Historian, Vol. 33, No. 3 (May 1971), p. 432; Burton W. Fulsom, Jr., The Myth of the Robber Barons: A New Look at the Rise of Big Business in America, sixth edition (Herndon, Virginia: Young America’s Foundation, 2010), pp. 108, 115, 116.

74 Burton W. Fulsom, Jr., The Myth of the Robber Barons, sixth edition, p. 109.

75 Andrew W. Mellon, Taxation: The People’s Business (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1924), p. 170.

76 Gene Smiley and Richard Keehn, “Federal Personal Income Tax Policy in the 1920s,” Journal of Economic History, Vol. 55, No. 2 (June 1995), p. 289.

77 Burton W. Fulsom, Jr., The Myth of the Robber Barons, sixth edition, p. 116. The share of income tax revenues paid by people with incomes up to $50,000 a year fell, and the share of income tax revenues paid by people with incomes of $100,000 and up increased. At the extremes, taxpayers in the lowest income bracket paid 13 percent of all income tax revenues in 1921, but less than half of one percent of all income taxes in 1929, while taxpayers with incomes of a million dollars a year and up saw their share of income taxes paid rise from less than 5 percent to just over 19 percent. Gene Smiley and Richard Keehn, “Federal Personal Income Tax Policy in the 1920s,”Journal ofEconomic Histoy, Vol. 55, No. 2 (June 1995), p. 295; Benjamin G. Rader, “Federal Taxation in the 1920s,” The Historian, Vol. 33, No. 3 (May 1971), pp. 432-434.

78 Alan Reynolds, “Why 70% Tax Rates Won’t Work,” Wall Street Journal, June 16, 2011, p. A19; Stephen Moore, “Real Tax Cuts Have Curves,” Wall Street Journal, June 13, 2005, p. A13. Professor Joseph E. Stiglitz argued that the tax rate cuts during the Reagan administration failed: “In fact, Reagan had promised that the incentive effects of his tax cuts would be so powerful that tax revenues would increase. And yet, the only thing that increased was the deficit.” Joseph E. Stiglitz, The Price of Inequality (New York: W.W. Norton, 2012), p. 89. However, the tax revenues collected by the federal government during every year of the Reagan administration exceeded the tax revenues collected in any previous administration in the history of the country. Economic Report of the President: 2018 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 2018), p. 552; U. S. Bureau of the Census, Historical Statistics of the United States, Part 2, pp. 1104-1105. The deficit reflected the fact that there is no amount of money that Congress cannot outspend.

79 Edmund L. Andrews, “Surprising Jump in Tax Revenues Curbs U.S. Deficit,” New York Times, July 9, 2006, p. Al.

80 James Gwartney and Richard Stroup, “Tax Cuts: Who Shoulders the Burden?” Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta Economic Review, March 1982, pp. 19-27; Benjamin G. Rader, “Federal Taxation in the 1920s: A Re-examination,” Historian, Vol. 33, No. 3, p. 432; Burton W. Folsom, Jr., The Myth of the Robber Barons, sixth edition, p. 116; Robert L. Bartley, The Seven Fat Years: And How to Do It Again (New York: The Free Press, 1992), pp. 71-74; Alan Reynolds, ‘Why 70% Tax Rates Won’t Work,” Wall Street Journal, June 16, 2011, p. A19; Stephen Moore, “Real Tax Cuts Have Curves,” Wall Street Journal, June 13, 2005, p. A13; Economic Report of the President: 2017 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 2017), p. 586. See also United States Internal Revenue Service, Statistics of Income 1920-1929 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1922-1932).

81 Alan S. Blinder, “Why Now Is the Wrong Time to Increase the Deficit,” Wall Street Journal, January 31, 2018, p. A15.

82 The national debt, which was a little over $24 billion in 1920— the last year of President Woodrow Wilson’s administration— was reduced to less than $18 billion in 1928, the last year of President Calvin Coolidge’s administration. U. S. Bureau of the Census, _Historical Statistics ofthe United States, Part 2, p.1104. See also David Greenberg, Calvin Coolidge (New York: Times Books, 2006), p. 67.

83 David Greenberg, Calvin Coolidge, p. 72.


CONVERSATION


 

Women’s Soccer NOT Paid Less Than Male-Counterparts

Larry Elder destroys the wide-spread myth regarding the idea that the women’s soccer team is paid less than their male counterparts. The callers point was simple and powerful, in essense he was saying how could someone demand equal pay when they were chasing away viewers — which — lowers revenue. Rapinoe is solely responsible for the women’s soccer ratings to sink by 43% this year. The “Sage” also reads from a couple articles zeroing in on the lie (or myth if you like) of this position (they follow the video):

Here are the articles:

Here is the best comment from my YouTube Channel:

  • Please do a video review on the video what about the gender work place hours gap. The Average crowd for the National Women’s Soccer Leauge was 5,464 The Average Crowd for the Men’s MSL was 21,875. The Women’s season was 49 matches and the Men’s Season was 391 matches. Tickets were cheaper for the Women’s matches. The USA women’s team lost by 5 goals to 2 to an Under 15 boys team. The Australian National Women’s soccer team also lost by 7 goals to 0 to the Newcastle Jets Under 15 boys team.

Older Videos:

Christian Hoff Sommers

Sargon of Akkad – so – Rough Language, FYI:


MISES INSTITUTE


(MISES) …At Forbes, Mike Ozanian note that generally speaking, men’s soccer generates revenues at much higher levels:

The men’s World Cup in Russia generated over $6 billion in revenue, with the participating teams sharing $400 million , less than 7% of revenue. Meanwhile, the Women’s World Cup is expected to earn $131 million for the full four-year cycle 2019-22 and dole out $30 million to the participating teams.

But what about the US women’s team specifically?

According to the Wall Street Journal:

From 2016 to 2018, women’s games generated about $50.8 million in revenue compared with $49.9 million for the men, according to U.S. soccer’s audited financial statements. In 2016, the year after the World Cup, the women generated $1.9 million more than the men. Game revenues are made up mostly of ticket sales. In the last two years, at least, the men’s tally includes appearance fees that opposing teams pay the U.S. for games.

So, very recently, women have begun to outpace the men in ticket sales. But, as the WSJ admits: “ticket sales are only one revenue stream that the national teams help generate.”

And what about revenues from broadcasts? It seems that “TV ratings for U.S. men’s games tend to be higher than those for U.S. women’s games, according to data collected by U.S. Soccer.”

Moreover, Politifact was unable to confirm that total revenue is, in fact, higher for the women in recent years:

During the three years following the 2015 Women’s World Cup, the women’s team brought in slightly more revenue from games than the men’s team did. While marketing and sponsorships are sold as a bundle, there are anecdotal signs that the women’s brand is surging in popularity.

However, it’s harder to say whether the women are ultimately paid less than the men, due to the lack of transparency and the complicated variables that feed into the compensation. Several experts said the reality may be murkier than a shouted catchphrase [i.e., “equal pay!”] can capture.

For the sake of argument, let’s say the women do bring in more revenue. The fact this is such a recent development would help explain why the pay structure has yet to catch up with revenues. Moreover, if US Soccer is going to risk paying out-sized salaries and benefits, it’s going to have to first be comfortable that the women’s teams are a reliable and sustainable revenue source….

Net Neutrality – Ma Bell

Here is a comment via my LIVELEAK (rough language warning):

Pai is right. The neutrality storm is being shilled up by the content providers that are scared they will have to actually start paying market rates for their access. The loudest is Netflix, and anybody with at least two brain cells (and a functioning ability to give a shit) know that’s the bunch that melted down a lot of peering among the major networks while screaming for those same networks to increase Netflix’s transit capacity for free. They stir the ignorant masses up with bullshit about ‘equal access’ while their data accounts for up to 70% of the total internet bandwidth demand and 90/10 asymmetrical peering transits. They talked the weak Obama administration into legislation to favor their business, calling it “Net Neutrality” and are now pissed they are about to lose that favoritism. 

The stupid sheep are screaming that ISPs will fuck them over with fees and blocked content while the fat cat content providers sit back and grin at how easy it is to manipulate their minions. The internet was created and ran just fine for twenty years before the unnecessary Obama “Net Neutrality” doctrine. The doomsday claims of the NN bunch are belied by the facts. 

Wanted to get this portion of an important article here — via THE MISES INSTITUTE:

The Natural-Monopoly Myth: Telephone Services

The biggest myth of all in this regard is the notion that telephone service is a natural monopoly. Economists have taught generations of students that telephone service is a “classic” example of market failure and that government regulation in the “public interest” was necessary. But as Adam D. Thierer recently proved, there is nothing at all “natural” about the telephone monopoly enjoyed by AT&T for so many decades; it was purely a creation of government intervention.”54

Once AT&T’s initial patents expired in 1893, dozens of competitors sprung up. “By the end of 1894 over 80 new independent competitors had already grabbed 5 percent of total market share … after the turn of the century, over 3,000 competitors existed.55 In some states there were over 200 telephone companies operating simultaneously. By 1907, AT&T’s competitors had captured 51 percent of the telephone market and prices were being driven sharply down by the competition. Moreover, there was no evidence of economies of scale, and entry barriers were obviously almost nonexistent, contrary to the standard account of the theory of natural monopoly as applied to the telephone industry.56

The eventual creation of the telephone monopoly was the result of a conspiracy between AT&T and politicians who wanted to offer “universal telephone service” as a pork-barrel entitlement to their constituents. Politicians began denouncing competition as “duplicative,” “destructive,” and “wasteful,” and various economists were paid to attend congressional hearings in which they somberly declared telephony a natural monopoly. “There is nothing to be gained by competition in the local telephone business,” one congressional hearing concluded.57

The crusade to create a monopolistic telephone industry by government fiat finally succeeded when the federal government used World War I as an excuse to nationalize the industry in 1918. AT&T still operated its phone system, but it was controlled by a government commission headed by the postmaster general. Like so many other instances of government regulation, AT&T quickly “captured” the regulators and used the regulatory apparatus to eliminate its competitors. “By 1925 not only had virtually every state established strict rate regulation guidelines, but local telephone competition was either discouraged or explicitly prohibited within many of those jurisdictions.”58

Conclusions

The theory of natural monopoly is an economic fiction. No such thing as a “natural” monopoly has ever existed. The history of the so-called public utility concept is that the late 19th and early 20th century “utilities” competed vigorously and, like all other industries, they did not like competition. They first secured government-sanctioned monopolies, and then, with the help of a few influential economists, constructed an expost rationalization for their monopoly power.

This has to be one of the greatest corporate public relations coups of all time. “By a soothing process of rationalization,” wrote Horace M. Gray more than 50 years ago, “men are able to oppose monopolies in general but to approve certain types of monopolies. … Since these monopolies were ‘natural’ and since nature is beneficent, it followed that they were ‘good’ monopolies. … Government was therefore justified in establishing ‘good’ monopolies.”59

In industry after industry, the natural monopoly concept is finally eroding. Electric power, cable TV, telephone services, and the mail, are all on the verge of being deregulated, either legislatively or de facto, due to technological change. Introduced in the United States at about the same time communism was introduced to the former Soviet Union, franchise monopolies are about to become just as defunct. Like all monopolists, they will use every last resource to lobby to maintain their monopolistic privileges, but the potential gains to consumers of free markets are too great to justify them. The theory of natural monopoly is a 19th century economic fiction that defends 19th century (or 18th century, in the case of the US Postal Service) monopolistic privileges, and has no useful place in the 21st century American economy.

Let me caveat this next excerpt by saying I am NOT a fan of the New American Magazine. They are a John Birch publication, and my understanding of this organization is intimate, and so are my ultimate rejection of many of it’s positions. THAT BEING SAID, I thoroughly enjoyed this article (minus the NWO crap!) — THE BREAKUP OF MA BELL:

….Alexander Graham Bell patented the telephone on March 7, 1876, but initially it was considered no more than a passing novelty. In fact, Western Union passed up the opportunity to purchase the Bell patents for $100,000. But when those patents held by American Telephone and Telegraph Company expired in 1894, competition entered the market and the availability of telephone service and the number of telephones exploded. The telephone moved from novelty to necessity. According to Adam Thierer of the Cato Institute, there were, at the time, more than 3,000 telephone companies vying for customers. Author G. W. Brock, in his book The Telecommunications Industry, pointed out the difference competition made:

After seventeen years of monopoly [thanks to the patents held by AT&T from 1877 – 1894], the United States had a limited telephone system of 270,000 phones [mostly concentrated] in the centers of the cities, with service generally unavailable in the outlying areas. After thirteen years of competition [1907], the United States had an extensive system of six million telephones, almost evenly divided between Bell and [its competitors], with service available practically anywhere in the country. [Emphasis added.]

Writing in The New Telecommunications Industry, authors Leonard Hyman, Richard Toole, and Rosemary Avellis concluded that “competition helped to expand the market, bring down costs, and lower prices to consumers.” Because of the negative impact upon AT&T by its competitors, the president of AT&T, Theodore Newton Vail, changed the focus of the company from competition to consolidation. As noted by Thierer, “Vail’s most important goals upon taking over AT&T were the elimination of competitors, the befriending of policymakers and regulators, and the expansion of telephone service to the general public.” Vail’s belief in the superiority of a single monopolistic system was reflected in the company’s new corporate slogan, “One Policy, One System, Universal Service.” In the company’s 1910 annual report, Vail wrote:

  • It is believed that the telephone system should be universal, interdependent and intercommunicating, affording opportunity for any subscriber of any exchange to communicate with any other subscriber of any other exchange…. It is believed that some sort of a connection with the telephone system should be within reach of all…. 
  • It is not believed that this can be accomplished by separately controlled or distinct systems nor that there can be competition in the accepted sense of competition…. [Emphasis added.] 
  • It is believed that all this can be accomplished to the reasonable satisfaction of the public with its acquiescence, under such control and regulation as will afford the public much better service at less cost than any competition or government-owned monopoly could permanently afford…. [Emphasis added.] 
  • Effective, aggressive competition and regulation and control are inconsistent with each other, and cannot be had at the same time.

Author R.H.K. Vietor, writing in Contrived Competition, said, “Vail chose at this time to put AT&T squarely behind government regulation, as the quid pro quo for avoiding competition. This was the only politically acceptable way for AT&T to monopolize telephony.” In fact, without government regulations eliminating the competition, the reinstitution of the AT&T monopoly would have been impossible. The Kingsbury Commitment (named for one of Vail’s employees) was an agreement with the Attorney General and the Interstate Commerce Commission in 1913 that essentially codified the playing field which allowed AT&T to regain monopoly control of the industry.

In 1934, the power to regulate the telephone industry under the ICC was transferred to the new Federal Communications Commission. Enacted by the Roosevelt Revolution during the Great Depression, the Communications Act of 1934 created the FCC “for the purpose of regulating interstate and foreign commerce in communication by wire and radio so as to make available, so far as possible, to all the people of the United States a rapid, efficient, nation-wide, and world-wide wire and radio communication service with adequate facilities at reasonable charges.” In other words, according to Thierer, “every American was henceforth found to be entitled to the right to telephone service, specifically cheap telephone service.” The FCC’s powers included the power to regulate rates and restrict entry by competitors, all in the name of preventing “wasteful duplication” and “unneeded competition.”…..

For months, it seemed nearly every media figure was in hysterics over the impending repeal of net neutrality. Then, net neutrality was repealed… and nothing much changed. So what exactly is net neutrality, and why do so many people have such strong opinions about something they don’t understand? Jon Gabriel, editor-in-chief of Ricochet.com cuts through the hysteria to bring you the facts.

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