The last-minute nation

In his speech about the economy on Thursday, President Barack Obama had never sounded so presidential, if you define “sounding presidential” as already sounding frustrated by the glacial pace of Congress.

“I don’t believe it’s too late to change course, but it will be if we don’t take dramatic action as soon as possible. If nothing is done, this recession could linger for years,” said the president-elect, appearing to predict inaction on a plan he hasn’t even sent to Congress yet.

Today, the president-elect got even more evidence that it’s getting worse before it gets better. Unemployment has reached a 16 year high.

But a glance at the morning papers proves that Congress is hitting the ground running on threats to our country’s survival.

  • The top Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee (Commerce. That has something to do with the economy, right?) announced he’s filing legislation to get rid of the Bowl Championship Series. “There’s no way you can say that whoever wins tonight’s game is demonstrably better than USC, Texas or Utah,” Joe Barton said in a telephone interview a few hours before Thursday’s kickoff, the Associated Press reported..
  • President Obama is asking Congress to delay implementation of digital television transmission. It was supposed to take place on February 17, a date that the TV folks have been warning us about since the last fly-by of Halley’s Comet. But the agency that had been sending out coupons for converter boxes ran out in December because of the last-minute crush of requests. And why the last-minute crush of requests? For the same reason that you, and I, and Aunt Maude (who’ll be wondering where her stories went) never did our homework on Friday nights. Waiting until the last minute is the American way.
    • Erik

      It seems like the economy gets people depressed, but people getting their TV shut off would piss them off. Even though it is their own fault, really. Does that make any sense? I don’t know what to say about the BCS. That is just ridiculous.

    • Josh

      Well… whats the advantage of having digital television really? There’s a lot of people who don’t have experience with technology devices. How is it their own fault for buying a tv that no longer works? That like saying we’re changing the roads to only allow metal tires. If you bought a car with rubber tires, you’ll just have to get new ones and here’s a credit for you…

      I’m not an expert but are we really getting a much better value for having digital tv? This should be happening in 40 years when people who grew up with nintendo are in their 70’s… not when people who grew up with b&w tv are in their 60’s…

      Also, I do agree with you on the BCS – is that really a major concern right now? It seems to me all the bowl games that we have which is a huge amount, generates a ton of money. Why would we get rid of that? I think this comes down to a monetary decision rather than a cinderella story of some school making it to the championship. But that this is a topic of the top republican in congress is just silly.

    • david zuhn

      The real advantages of digital TV are in the amount of spectrum it uses. There’s only so much space in the radio waves, and spectrum used for something like TV, radio, or cellular phones can only be used for that particular device.

      So by switching to digital TV, which uses some different spectrum than analog TV, we can get more channels in less spectrum (because we can put some computing power in the TV’s that we couldn’t do back in the 1940’s or earlier when TV got started).

      The spectrum used by analog TV has been resold, and is fully expected to be used to increase the spectrum available to wireless communications, including cellular voice and data traffic.

      If you’ve got a cell phone and would like better reception in your house, then relish the fact the old analog TV frequencies travel through typical building construction better than current phones do. You can expect better service once the old TV is shut off and the new phone frequencies are running (and you’ll need a new phone, too; more stuff you’ll need to buy).

    • Joel

      Josh, no one is being forced to buy a new TV, all they need is a digital converter box, which sells for as little as $40. And those are only needed by people who still use an antenna.

      Personally, I don’t think they should push the date back any more. People have had ample time to get ready, and those who haven’t yet prepared, won’t be any more prepared by pushing it back. They’ll procrastinate just as before.

      Plus, think of the time and money wasted by Congress messing with this issue, instead of focusing on the more important things like the BCS…

    • tiredboomer

      Let me think. We’re entering the worst financial crisis in 80 years and we’re on the verge of a major energy consumption crisis. The way I see it we have two options:

      1) We can make tough decisions and take tough action. Of course this option will make some constituents and most lobbyists really angry.

      OR

      2) We can look like we’re doing something while actually doing nothing. If done properly, this option will make lobbyists and constituents happy.

      I think Joe Barton’s BCS legislative action means he has chosen option #2.

      When it comes to digital television, it sounds like President Obama made a poorly considered decision on an issue that, in the grand scheme, is unimportant.

    • Lily

      99 % of us own TV’s. There are lots of folks that are oblivious to this whole process and won’t understand it until their service stops. We are all dependent on TV–especially the aged and the disabled. Let’s give those folks some more time and print out some more of those darn coupons.