Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Interesting Congressional Budget Office

A Congressional Budget Office (CBO) subscription will open your eyes. I get an email every few days on budget estimates issued by the CBO on the cost of various bills introduced in Congress and the more I read the more interested I am in the process. The CBO is presumably a nonpartisan government office that tries to identify the costs associated with various bills introduced in Congress. I subscribed to see if I could tell whether the office is really nonpartisan or not. I suppose there could be an office in Washington D. C. whose employees are dedicated and sincere government employees who are not affected by the 24/7 inundation of Fox News-like propaganda, but they would have to be exceptional employees. I suspect the office is lobbied just like any government office is and that reports are skewed as a result.

Nevertheless, the CBO's reports are interesting and reading them gives one insight into Congress that you probably would not otherwise have. For example, the H.R. 1319 Informed P2P User Act report. This is a consumer protection bill and since I was born half-geek, I understand it.

H.R. 1319 will require a software developer company to notify you, the computer owner/user/consumer, which, if any, files on your computer the software will share with other computers on the Internet and will have to get your permission to share files before the software does it. Here's a summary of the bill. These software use a peer-to-peer (P2P) distributed transaction to share files. For now, no software you install tells you what files on your computer it is sharing, or what information is in those files, with some far off server or computer. Your Microsoft Operating System, such as Windows XP or Vista, uses distributed transactions all the time. And, every program installed on a Windows system is integrated into the Windows distributed transaction system. To be fair, Microsoft Windows doesn't share private information without telling you, but other software you install on your computer probably does.

The CBO estimates the cost of the bill to be less than $1 million annually. That's chicken feed. Who would be against such a bill? Well, the Business Computing Industry Association and the Business Software Alliance are against it. There are some very hefty member corporations in these associations; Microsoft, Cisco, AT&T, Comcast, McAfee and other large software and high-tech companies. If you read the policies and agendas of these alliances, you can see that the entire focus on sharing the information on your computer is focused on marketing products and business opportunities by knowing who you are and what you do.

The Bill's sponsors are eight Democrats and four Republicans so it looks like nonpartisan support, but I wonder how libertarian Republicans, such as Ron Paul, are going to go. Libertarians support corporate freedoms over individual rights. Personally, there is nothing more aggravating than installing a program on my computer that tracks my usage and personal information and makes me a marketing tool for big corporations and, I believe, imposes on my privacy and freedom without my permission.

But, you probably won't hear about this bill. It is now in the House Energy and Commerce Committee and will likely stay there because of Republican opposition. If you do hear about it at all, you will hear terms like “big government” Democrats once more imposing on the free market and taking away liberty and freedom. Fox News will once more be the Republican propaganda arm, and you, the consumer, will continue to lose your privacy without ever knowing it.

I don't see any bias in the CBO report, but it is nevertheless interesting. You can learn about every House and Senate Bill being considered in Congress. You can subscribe to CBO reports here.


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