A Narrow Range of Ideas

June 28th, 2012 · No Comments · economy, journalism, role of government, tax policy, Uncategorized

By Arthur Alpert

I like to read about ideas. The Albuquerque Journal necessarily deals with some but its range is narrow – in particular with ideas on business and political economy.

It isn’t easy figuring out why the Journal’s marketplace is so bare, but let’s start with its choice of syndicated columnists. Here’s the list on the Journal website:

Amy Goodman, Charles Krauthammer, Cal Thomas, Dana Milbank, Esther J. Cepeda, E.J. Dionne, George Will, Jonah Goldberg, Leonard Pitts, Ruth Marcus, Robert J. Samuelson, Ruben Navarrette and Victor Davis Hanson

Using, for simplicity’s sake, the simple-minded terms “liberal” and “conservative,” we can agree that three of the 13 (Goodman, Dionne, Pitts) definitely fall left-of-center while seven (Krauthammer, Thomas, Will, Goldberg, Samuelson, Navarrette and Hanson) are rightist.

Milbank’s an equal opportunity political sniper. Marcus strikes me as centrist with a liberal lean, and Cepeda, centrist leaning conservative.

(The Journal website fails to list liberal Eugene Robinson and conservative Kathleen Parker; an oversight, maybe.)

In any case, we have a plurality of rightists. And the editors publish their columns more often.

The real Op Ed page (opposite the editorials) also carries ideas, including some that differ from the Journal’s. The preponderance of opinion is, however, as rightist as on the editorial page, with lots of copy from CATO, Heritage, Rio Grande Foundation, et al, as well as representatives of industry, some even properly identified as such.

So this rightward bias may explain the Journal’s shortage of ideas, but let’s look further by considering three pieces on economics and business in the Journal’s Wednesday, June 13 issue.

Robert J. Samuelson’s syndicated column on the budget outlook rehearses his patented litany – “How much will the costs of retiring baby boomers crowd other federal programs, raise taxes or perpetuate large (and probably unsustainable) budget deficits?”

That’s fine. Given his obsession with “entitlements,” we cannot expect Mr. Samuelson to confront today’s limping economy, or ponder, say, the lack of demand for goods and services that other economists trace to unemployment.

Next, on the real Op Ed page, the Journal prints still another screed from Micha Gisser and Kenneth Brown, “retired economists.”.

This Gisser-Brown warning of an economic ‘calamity” was so patently political (lacking the barest academic camouflage) that readers rebelled; the Journal devoted half a page to their letters of condemnation June 26.

But publishing letters to the editor isn’t fairness, not when you offer a steady diet of these “retired economists” and countless others of the same “libertarian” persuasion to the detriment of conservative economic opinions.

Wait. What was that? No conservative economic opinions?

Yes, you read that right. In days of yore, when Pete Domenici reigned, the Albuquerque Journal heavily promoted his brand of conservative economics.

These days it advocates the (not conservative but) radical ideas of the laissez-faire sect and scants St. Pete’s old-fashioned pro-business approach.

Obviously, then, it’s too much to ask that editors deal with demand economics.

Moving to the Business Page, note a report near the bottom headlined “Small Businesses Remain Pessimistic, Survey Finds”. In it, the editors localized a release from the National Federation of Independent Business, the small business lobby, by soliciting comment from NFIB New Mexico state Director, Minda McGonagle.

“It is still about taxes, regulations and access to qualified workers,” she said, in part.

Funny that nobody asked a follow up question. For as a former small business owner myself, I suspect 99 percent of small business owners would say it is first about “lack of customers.”

But on second thought, I’m not surprised; there must exist a Journal policy of ignoring the proposition that lack of demand is weighing on the economy or, restated, that middle-class purchasing power is weak.

For if that’s correct, the austerity the Journal promotes (in editorials, opinion pieces and ‘news decisions”) will make the economy worse – as in Europe.

Oh, Europe. That reminds me I’ve cited one missing idea, but the Journal can’t find room for hundreds. Like these:

  • With austerity pushing many European economies toward another recession, it’s likely we owe the relative success of the U.S. recovery to our milder dose of austerity.
  • Capitalism has great virtues and defects to match. It works best when governments encourage the first and limit the latter. Left alone, it’s boom and bust.
  • It’s not capitalism or socialism, there are stops in between. (I like my credit union.)
  • Markets work well in many areas, poorly in others. They poison non-commercial values.
  • Great inequality of wealth always proves incompatible with democracy.
  • We can better understand politics through the prism of class (i.e., wealth) than political parties.

This isn’t an argument for my ideas and against the Journal’s. I’m advocating exploring both, and yours, too; the Journal should tackle a broad range, as serious newspapers do.

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  • Cheryl Everett

    Excellent analysis. And what’s true for the Journal’s national “perspective” is even more true for its “coverage” of Rio Rancho. Rio Rancho “news” used to run every day; now it’s twice a week. There is no op-ed page. The ed-page weekly commentary is a pseudo-folksy column by Mike Ryan (former editor of the historically conservative Rio Rancho Observer) and his wife Jeannie. ~ whose “base,” by their own admission in a recent column, consists of people who don’t vote in City elections and are generally unaware that an election is actually scheduled. My letters to the Rio Rancho editor have exceeded her annual quota of two letters per person, allegedly to allow a more diverse sampling of local opinion. The problem is, there have been NO letters to the editor published at all in recent Rio Rancho editions. Our community has dozens of concerned citizens and well-informed community leaders who are more than willing to enter the Journal’s marketplace of ideas ~ that is, if the Journal had one.

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