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October 19, 2010
TV ads are annoying, but Senators are worse
If there's an area in which U.S. Senators excel more than tossing tax dollars down rat holes it must be in blowing hot air. List grandstanding and pandering among their attributes, too. The recently passed Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act (CALM, S. 2847) displayed these Senatorial "skills" for all to see.
If you watch television you've noticed the difference in volume between programming and commercials, with commercials being much louder. Condemn those blaring commercials as annoying and I'm right there with you; they're like raking your fingernails across a chalkboard. But does an annoyance warrant congressional action? Let's think about that one for a moment.
Congress may claim authority to regulate a television commercial's volume through their typical mischaracterization of the Constitution. Perhaps they'll cite the Commerce Clause, which Congress routinely abuses to legitimize its unwarranted meddling. However, if we look at the Senate's action in light of how the Founding Fathers viewed proper government we must conclude that Senators missed the mark on the CALM Act.
Governments exist to protect life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But CALM achieves none of those goals beyond what we can do for ourselves. It doesn't defend our lives, as no one has died from an obnoxiously loud used car commercial. Our liberty isn't protected since we can mute offending commercials, turn down their volume, or change channels. CALM doesn't secure our pursuit of happiness, either. We can pursue happiness with or without television and its advertisements.
The CALM Act isn't about protecting consumers at all. It's about providing a populist stage whereupon grandstanding politicians can crow to voters about how they stuck it to the Madison Avenue man, as the bill's sponsoring Senators inadvertently attest.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) claims CALM reduces the stress Americans face. Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) says this "common sense" bill "prevents airing ads at unbearable volume levels." Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) explained that viewers shouldn't fear "losing their hearing" during commercials.
My! Aren't they the champions of the public interest? Maybe not. Genuine common sense (not the kind Rockefeller touts) shows this bill for the pandering twaddle that it is.
No one has fallen deaf due to an overzealous word from the sponsor. Furthermore, there's quite a distinction between an annoying noise and an unbearable one. Whining jet engines are unbearable. So are blaring train horns. Include any form of rap music in the mix, too. Television commercials are actually quite tame by comparison.
The most indefensible position comes from Sen. Whitehouse, the bill's primary sponsor. So, loud commercials add "unnecessary stress" to people's lives? Talk about an oxymoron. Sen. Whitehouse and his colleagues should look inward if they seek the source of America's stress.
Congress -- your Congress, Sen. Whitehouse -- has spent this nation into a black hole. No tax rate can satisfy Washington's insatiable spending lust. Each American's share of the gross federal debt is $45,000. Focus solely on children under 18 and each is saddled with $119,000 in unsecured debt. Americans fight radical Islam overseas while politicians seem content to tolerate it here. Healthcare "reform" is a pig in a poke that will increase the aforementioned debt while promising performance similar to Medicare, Social Security and Walter Reed.
Are Americans uneasy, unnerved, and perhaps stressed? Yes Sen. Whitehouse, and justifiably so. But of the problems we face loud TV commercials aren't high on the stress-o-meter. In fact, they're almost a respite from the harsh gale emanating from blowhard politicians.
Don't fall for the Senate's feint. CALM isn't about TV viewers. It's about political theatre and creating a populist position for politicians in search of public approval. It's an overblown reaction to a miniscule problem, one that Congress should have no authority to address. That S. 2847 passed unanimously is all the more discouraging. Considering the problems our country faces the Senate should find better things to do with its time.
Anthony W. Hager has authored more than 250 articles for various newspapers, periodicals and websites. Contact him via his website, www.therightslant.com.