Taxing Speech

California has decided to kill two birds with one stone.  The State thinks it needs more money, so it’s going to raise a new tax.  The State is anxious to…manage…speech of which it disapproves, so it has chosen its target for its new tax.

California state regulators have been working on a plan to charge mobile phone users a text messaging fee intended to fund programs that make phone service accessible to the low-income residents, reports said Tuesday.

Here’s Jim Wunderman, Bay Area Council President, on the plot, though:

It’s a dumb idea. This is how conversations take place in this day and age, and it’s almost like saying there should be a tax on the conversations we have.

Wunderman understated the problem.  It’s not just a dumb idea, it works out to a naked attack by Government on its citizens’—its employers’—speech.

In the event, when the FCC decided to designate texting to be  an “information service,” and not a telecommunications service, the State decided to withdraw its proposal to tax it.  The State rationalized it decision by claiming “text messaging was not a classified service under federal law.”


The FCC’s designation is a quibble that’s meaningless in this context. Taxing speech directly is the beginning of an effort to manage permissible speech by artificially driving up the cost of it.  The medium used for making speech–a “telecommunications service,” for instance–is just as critical to the freedom of speech as are the utterances themselves. Taxing the service is an opening toward managing speech indirectly by artificially driving up the cost of using a medium for speaking.

Beyond that, the State’s excuse that text messaging hadn’t yet been designated is disingenuous. Not every activity in which an American citizen engages needs Government designation in order to be engaged.  Only those activities to be explicitly proscribed or managed need designation.  That’s at the core of our founding principles of limited government that works for us and of individual liberty and individual responsibility.

As a result, questions arise concerning this Progressive-Democrat- run State’s move to use taxes to manage speech.

What other forms of speech will California try to tax?

Whose forms of speech will California try to tax?

What can we expect regarding speech–and any other individual liberty and responsibility–can we expect a Progressive-Democrat national government to attempt?  Especially in their universe of “you didn’t build that,” and “we’re a collectivist society in which it takes a village to most anything?”

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