By Arthur Alpert
So blatant is the Albuquerque Journal’s politicizing of its news columns that dissecting it is shooting fish in a barrel. It’s a useful exercise, though, so I was going to discourse today on the editors’ passion for percussion, their drums of doom on the deficit – when – wham! bang! – it hit me.
“Idiot, “ I explained to myself, “the Journal’s skewed news isn’t the point. Not the crucial point, anyway.”
What’s crucial is what the Journal omits – stories, trends, even ideas it finds repugnant.
And the deficit offers a shining example. It may be too small. Yet I cannot recall ever reading that argument in the Journal. Not ever.
So what if Joseph Stiglitz, former chief economist at the World Bank, advisor to President Clinton and a Nobel Prize-winner, writes in his (dynamite) new book, “Free Fall”:
“In the end, the Obama administration’s stimulus made a big difference – but it should have been bigger and better designed.”
No matter that Stiglitz wrote elsewhere:
“That deficit reduction leads to a strong economy was an idea that Andrew Mellon tried in the midst of the Great Depression…the effect, of course was not positive. Then came Keynesian economics.”
So what if Paul Krugman, another economics Nobelist, writes in the N.Y. Times Feb. 5:
“The point is that running big deficits in the face of the worst economic slump since the 1930s is actually the right thing to do. If anything, deficits should be bigger than they are because the government should be doing more than it is to create jobs.”
So what if economists Jared Bernstein, Dean Baker and James K. Galbraith agree?
Of course, they could be exceptions to a broad consensus, right? Wrong. When the Wall Street Journal asked 51 economists (Dec. 11) if the federal government should act to create jobs, 27 said, “Yes.” Translation? They would boost the deficit.
Beyond deficits, the crash has prompted a global rethinking of free market theory; even market fundamentalist Alan Greenspan wrestles with doubt – which you wouldn’t know from the Albuquerque Journal.
That’s partly because management leans on economists of the laissez-faire faith for its Op Ed pages, but there’s more. The Journal also will publish any ignoramus advocating its cause – see Cal Thomas, Feb. 9. Finally, most egregiously, the editors respect no boundary between Journal editorial beliefs and the news.
To demonstrate that last, let’s move from what the daily won’t print to what it does print – with a twist. Here’s a Cliff Notes version of the piece I meant for today:
The Journal ran an Op Ed column – played as a news account – on its front page Friday, Feb. 5.
Using Congress’ action on the debt limit as a news peg, Andrew Taylor (Associated Press, Washington) wrote this lead:
“The House on Thursday voted to allow the government go to $1.8 trillion deeper in debt – an increase of about $6,000 more for every U.S. resident that provided a vivid election-year reminder of the nation’s perilous financial condition.”
Whoa! Taylor stated the “nation’s perilous financial condition” as fact. It’s opinion. He fingered the deficit as a present danger. That, too, is debatable. And the long piece, while thoughtful, contained assumptions galore, marking it as opinion, not news.
After all, what news reporter would perpetrate:
“Economists warn that the rising debt could force interest rates higher and, if left unchecked, could have even worse consequence for the economy.”
All economists? Some economists? Which economists? Taylor named none, cited no survey. This “reporting” wouldn’t pass muster in a UNM journalism class. Nonetheless, a Journal editor called it news and ran it up front.
I fear that Krugman was correct when he speculated (Feb. 5, again) that the Republican agenda includes ramping up “deficit-hysteria.” That might explain the Journal’s editorial decision.
But these are discouraging words, so let’s end on something positive.
On the very front page that featured Taylor’s Op Ed as “news,” the Journal ran local reporter Dan Boyd’s account of the Legislature’s progress.
It was news and it was excellent.