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A SWAT with a rolled-up newspaper for the nonprofit proposal

Submitted by on Friday, 27 March 2009 No Comment

The obvious punch line to Sen. Benjamin Cardin’s bill that would make it easier for newspapers to become nonprofit organizations is that many companies have mastered the “nonprofit” part.

The reasons are partly economic, partly corporate.

The economic ones are obvious: Auto manufacturers that are struggling don’t advertise. Realtors in struggling markets – isn’t that most of the country right now? – don’t advertise. Bankrupt retailers don’t advertise.

The corporate ones have to do with the massive debts many companies took on that are making survival even more challenging.

The problem with Carden’s SB 673 is it can’t do a blessed thing to change either of those situations.

What it would do – and with Maryland’s other senator, fellow Democrat Barbara Mikulski, as the only co-sponsor it really doesn’t stand much of a chance of doing anything other than dying in committee – is give newspapers tax breaks on advertising revenue as long as there are more stories than ads in the paper.

It also would make charitable donations to newspapers tax deductible.

Here’s the problem, though – and it’s actually one of several problems:  The section of tax code that Cardin’s bill would put newspapers under prohibits political activity for nonprofits. On the surface, many might applaud that since political endorsements often are controversial.

Endorsements aside, political activity could well be in the eye of the beholder. Is a story or opinion piece critical of President Barack Obama “political activity”? Is a column lauding Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell “political activity”?

The Internal Revenue Service could have its hands full with that one in an election year. It’s frightening to think of how a government bureaucracy would even go about deciding.

The insurmountable problem with Cardin’s bill, though, is that nonprofit newspapers already exist.

They’re as big as The Christian Science Monitor, which is ending its print edition in a few weeks, and the St. Petersburg Times in Florida, which has been shedding jobs for three years right along with its for-profit counterparts.

They’re as small as the Berkeley Daily Planet, which has cleaned out its owners bankroll in six years and forced them to hold a PBS-style fund drive.

Clearly, nonprofit status hasn’t been a solution either.

The only real purpose Cardin’s bill has served has been to get the right exercised about a potential government bailout to the evil left-leaning media.

Cool your jets, folks. This is not a workable solution. The Fourth Estate can’t possibly remain a watchdog if it’s counting on the government for its Kibbles and Bits.

Sen. Cardin, Stop Wasting America’s Time.

Know of someone who deserves a SWAT? Click here to make a nomination.

Copyright 2009 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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