By Arthur Alpert
What a headline on Winthrop Quigley’s UpFront column Tuesday, May 1!
“Ryan’s Redemption: Deficit Cuts Aid Poor”.
Yes, absolutely. And day is night, black is white and, oh yes, Albuquerque Journal management is committed to journalism.
Here is the reality. Quigley wrote about Rep. Paul Ryan, author of a budget plan condemned by America’s Roman Catholic bishops.
In doing so, Quigley treated Ryan fairly, letting the Congressman argue his theological case.
That case did not persuade the bishops but Journal editors headlined it. They thereby misstated Quigley’s story and maybe suggested that was Quigley’s view.
I wonder why.
No, seriously, I do wonder why because management respects Quigley highly, or so I am led to believe by sources with clues to what transpires in the Journal newsroom and inner sanctum.
And well they should; from my reading, he’s the resident intellectual (meaning he can observe himself attempting rationality), he has real (not theoretical) experience in business, he’s developed great expertise in the business of health and, thus, he consistently provides excellent journalism.
Further, Quigley keeps ideology at arm’s length and partisanship further away.
The Journal recognizes this by allowing him to dissent (slightly and politely) from the newspaper’s editorial agenda.
That just happened, in fact. In his UpFront column Tuesday, April 17, Quigley questioned the Governor’s commitment to establishing a health insurance exchange as required by the Affordable Care Act.
Mind you, he was careful.
Quigley gave the Governor’s people the first word, noted that private insurance companies needed time to synchronize their systems with an exchange’s specifications and recalled that exchanges once were promoted by “conservatives as a free market way of lowering costs”, increasing competition and improving quality.”
But his best came last:
“In normal times, one would expect a Republican Administration to be all over an opportunity to get people buying things from private companies,” he wrote. “You’ve probably already noticed that these are not normal times.”
Quigley was being adroit, I guess, to avoid a confrontation with the Journal’s far right editorial ideology. Or, he may think that. Or maybe both are true.
Whatever the case, Journal management did (to its credit) publish his superior mix of reporting, interpretation and opinion.
So why disrespect Quigley and mislead readers with a headline that’s editorial – and not for the first time.
One of my favorites came last year, March 29, when Quigley called out House Speaker John Boehner for saying the U.S. has “the best health care system in the world.”
Quigley wrote, “The United States does not have the best health care system in the world. It doesn’t even have a system, if by “system” we mean a deliberate structure designed to ensure optimum health for all who use it.”
Since the Journal prefers rubrics that promote its editorial agenda or deflect direct hits on that agenda, they headlined that Quigley UpFront column this way:
“Germany Has Better Health System”.
Now I don’t want to suggest that Quigley is perfect. He can allow his experience in an entrepreneurial technology company to cloud his view of today’s most powerful corporations, many of which deplore competition and free enterprise.
And he can be murky, as in the conclusion of his Paul Ryan column:
“The job creators in the United States are people who start new businesses, whether they are wealthy or not. Among the entrepreneur’s biggest problems is access to capital. Wealthy people already have capital, and raising their taxes won’t change that. Therefore, create a tax or fiscal policy to help the non-wealthy entrepreneur access capital, and you’ve created new jobs, some of which presumably end up helping the poor.”
I get that almost subliminal slap at the myth that a progressive tax system will discourage job creation, but “tax or fiscal policy” confuses me; fiscal policy means spending and revenues, the latter from taxes.
Perhaps Quigley is talking about more government aid to small entrepreneurs via WESST or SBA; if so, that’s sensible. Maybe he’s recommending a new stimulus to bolster demand for the entrepreneurs’ goods and services. I simply don’t know.
What I do know is that Quigley seeks truths, his work repays my attention and while his presence doesn’t mean redemption for the Journal, it speaks well for management.
And I know when the editors disrespect him via opinionated headlines they embarrass themselves, not Quigley.