Americans on the Left and on the Right no longer have much in common. But there is one thing we all share: a passionate loathing for the robocalls that deluge us day and night. They interrupt our work and our sleep, they tie up our phone lines and they seek to steal our money through fraud. If President Trump could put an end to them, Left, Right, and center would cheer him. We might even join in dancing in the streets.
I think there is a way he can do this. Congress is attempting a fix, but the fix relies on technology, which is not likely to work. The robocallers will probably have found a way around the technology intended to block them before it can even be deployed.
Instead of a new gizmo, President Trump could propose a new tax, one I expect even Grover Norquist would support. The proposal would be for a tax of one dollar on every robocall, to be paid by the telephone company that delivers the call. We cannot tax the robocall companies themselves because many are located overseas and they change their identities constantly. But we can tax the well known American phone companies that send the unwanted calls into our home. I suspect all robocalls would cease the day after President Trump signed the legislation.
The phone companies would probably send their lobbyists to Capitol Hill, checkbooks in hand, to try to stop such a proposal. But any legislator of either party who voted to let the robocallers keep interrupting our lives would commit political suicide, and they all will know it. If President Trump could ever get a proposal through Congress by unanimous consent, it would be this one.
The phone companies and the robocallers themselves will argue that blocking all robocalls would also block a few we might want, like notices from our local government about a change in trash collection day. They will probably suggest some technology intended to block only fraudulent calls. But, again, the robocallers will quickly find a way to spoof that technology and reach us with their frauds. In the real world, it is all or nothing, and I’m willing to bet 90% of us would vote for no robocalls at all.
Fraudulent calls from call centers, where there is a person on the line, should also fall under the new tax if those calls can be identified. It may be enough to tax them if they come from overseas. American companies still wishing to place legitimate calls to American phones can set up their call centers in this country, thus creating more jobs here.
President Trump has good instincts for doing things that bring real benefits to American citizens. Few gifts he could give the American people would be more welcome than an end to robocalls and fraudulent calls from call centers. Can someone get him this proposal?