The Secret Policy Victory Buried In The Payroll Tax Compromise

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 07: Members of the House-Senate Conference Committee on how to extend the payroll tax cut, clockwise from bottom, U.S. Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) speaks as Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY), Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI), Rep. Sander Levin (D-MI), and Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA) listen during a meeting February 7, 2012 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

Legislative proposals rarely get better as they wend their way through congress, but today we have an exception. As members were trying to come up with pay-fors to cover a payroll tax extension, Unemployment Insurance benefits, and to avoid cuts in doctors’ salaries they hit upon the idea of auctioning off some of the wireless spectrum that’s currently handed out for free to television stations.

This is an excellent idea and would be a good idea even if the money were simply heaped up in a big pile and lit on fire. Over the air television broadcasts are simply an extremely low-value use of a scarce natural resource, and auctioning them is the right way to go. Nice work by Dave Camp and Max Baucus in working this out.