Bailing Out Journalists: Another Problem Too Simple for Policy Types to Understand

March 30, 2020

Ben Smith had a piece on the collapse of the news industry and makes a case that the government will play a role in rescuing journalists, even if it does not rescue specific news outlets. There is a very good argument for this, except most people across the political spectrum would probably not like the idea of the government deciding which journalists get supported.

As Smith has written previously, the obvious answer to have some sort of individual tax credit, where the government gives $100-$200 per person to support the journalist and/or creative workers of their choice. I lump journalists, writers, musicians, and other creative workers together both because they all face the same problem and we don’t want the government to be deciding who fits the bill. The condition of getting the money is that you give up your right to a copyright monopoly on your work. (The government only pays you once, not twice.)

Those who think this is too radical are unfamiliar with the U.S. tax code. We already provide this sort of grant to rich people.  If Bill Gates gives $1 million to an art museum or opera, he will get paid $370,000 in the form of an income tax deduction. This is just about giving the same sort of benefit to ordinary people.

This is discussed in chapter 5 of Rigged [it’s free].

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