Expert Choreography

October 12th, 2012 · No Comments · budget policy, economy, role of government, tax policy

By Arthur Alpert

The small role I played in the just-closed production of “Pride and Prejudice” at the Adobe required that I dance.

Though I neither fell nor harmed my partner, I doubt my movements constituted dancing. Too bad I lacked the dexterity just demonstrated by Albuquerque Journal editors in coverage of the annual Domenici Public Policy Conference in Las Cruces.

The paper’s first story Sept. 20 reported on the Wednesday, Sept. 19 opening day. The October 1 column in Business Outlook by Jerry Pacheco (praising the former Senator for his vision on cross-border trade) probably was the last.

And nowhere was Mr. Domenici’s advocacy of raising taxes (along with cutting expenditures) to reduce the federal deficit mentioned. Nowhere. Never. Not once.

Thus did the Journal doff its hat once more to its longtime “sacred cow” even while minimizing (almost to the point of invisibility) the differences between Domenici’s traditional conservative economics and the doctrines of laissez-faire on the Far Right.

Delicately done, worthy of Astaire.

Whitewashing this fundamental disagreement on the right is, however, only part of a larger Journal agenda – sparing readers the pain of dealing with ideas to the left of Domenici’s.

Yes, face it – Pete Domenici represents the left at our statewide daily.

I have written that before, of course, but having read just the preface to Joseph E. Stiglitz’s new volume, “The Price of Inequality “ (2012, W.W. Norton), I am reminded how well the editors have moved to keep their pages free of thoughts that might displease, say, the Koch brothers.

Think about it. When was the last time you read anywhere in the Journal that markets can fail?

That is one of Stiglitz’s fundamental assumptions. He also writes:

• Markets can be inefficient and unstable.

• Markets have no inherent moral character.

• Inequality has its price – including loss of confidence and loss of opportunities to move up the class ladder.

• Globalization is being managed to benefit “special interests.”

• Markets can be major forces in raising living standards, but they also can “concentrate wealth, pass environmental costs on to society and abuse worker and consumers.”

• Markets ought to be “tamed and tempered” as in the Progressive Era and New Deal

• “The financial crisis unleashed a new realization that our economic system was not only inefficient and unstable but also fundamentally unfair.”

• Our market system may be “eroding fundamental values,” as in the failure of the guilty (e.g. predatory lenders and others on Wall Street) to feel guilty when house collapsed.

• The political system is failing too, amplifying voices of the wealthy and allowing elites to shape the market to their advantage.

• And on redistribution, “We have a system that has been working overtime to move money from the bottom and middle to the top but the system is so inefficient that the gains to the top are far less than the losses to the middle and bottom.”

My point, remember, is not that the Journal should espouse these views; that’s an absurd notion. It’s just that a professional newspaper would, should give them a fair shake in Op Ed essays and news coverage.

Of course, that’s a pretty silly hope, too. Heck, the Journal hardly recognizes the existence of Stiglitz, Nobel Prize or no.

In fact, a search for Stiglitz on the newspaper’s website turns up all of nine or 10 entries going back to 2003 – about one a year. Of those, five appeared not in the Journal but in other papers it owns; one is a letter to the Journal, two are Journal “guest columns” and – bless Winthrop Quigley! – one is his Dec. 19, 2011 column.

(Actually, I think the Journal missed one; I distinctly remember an item quoting Stiglitz on the syndicated Markets page maybe two months ago.)

But you get the idea. The paucity of Stiglitz citations corresponds to the near-total absence of any economic idea left of

St. Pete’s or, as I prefer to state it, that speaks for middle and lower class Americans rather than those atop the pyramid.

This is the work of expert choreographers, er, editors.

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