By Arthur Alpert
There they go again! Albuquerque Journal editors, I mean. Not satisfied with manipulating a news story to advocate for freezing Santa Fe’s minimum wage, they rushed to compound the felony.
I will explain but first let’s recapitulate. Just the other day, Jan. 18, I alerted you to an ersatz news story wherein the editors relied on yet another corporate-funded “think tank” and employed its research director as an “expert” and the sole “expert.”
They afforded one Michael Saltsman of the Employment Policies Institute three paragraphs to explain how higher minimum wages are cruel to minorities, teenagers and the economy.
Journal editors didn’t tell you (I noted) that Saltsman works for Richard Berman, of Berman and Company, a Washington, D.C.,public relations organization, who rakes in big corporate cash to create front organizations that war against organized labor, health care reform and anti-smoking campaigns.
Do Journal editors know any “experts,” I was moved to ask, “who are not paid advocates for corporate interests?
Because Monday, Jan. 21, the Journal ran a full-fledged “Guest Column” by Mr. Saltsman, elaborating on his argument against raising minimum wages in New Mexico.
Let’s first compliment the Journal on its hat-trick – advocating against raising minimum wages in the “news,” with Op Eds and in editorials.
Nothing new there; it’s what Journal management does.
However, in doing so, the editors appended to the Op Ed essay an ID that’s, well, incredible:
“The Employment Policies Institute is a non-profit research organization dedicated to studying public policy issues surrounding employment growth. EPI sponsors nonpartisan research which is conducted by independent economists at major universities around the country.”
Shall we parse the big words?
EPI is non-profit. Fine, but that legalism doesn’t preclude Mr. Berman (or Mr. Saltsman) booking handsome profits for their client services. (Berman owns a $3.3 million home.)
Nor does it mean their clients, the funders of the EPI, do not profit from, say, paying their employees less. (That’s what drama teachers call foreshadowing. Please read on.)
EPI does “research” on employment issues. Fine, but does it seek truth or justifications?
(Journal editors didn’t inquire. Funny, because they’re quite skeptical of other organizations, including unions.)
EPI’s research is nonpartisan. Probably so; corporate money flows to both parties. But “nonpartisan” tells us zero about why EPI exists.
EPI sponsors research by independent economists. Delighted to hear it, but so what? Independent economists’ conclusions run all over the map.
(Oops! Not in the Journal, they don’t.)
Don’t confuse this EPI front group, incidentally, with the Economics Policy Institute, founded in 1986 by economists Jeff Faux, Lester Thurow, Ray Marshall, Barry Bluestone, Robert Reich and Robert Kuttner and backed by organized labor to research and analyze the status of working Americans.
Those economists (none of whom you ever read in the Albuquerque Journal) would dispute the product of Berman’s front group. But so do others with no particular sympathy for labor.
Take, for example, The Economist. That sophisticated promoter of international business ran an essay Nov. 24, 2012 headlined, “Evidence is mounting that moderate minimum wages can do more good than harm”.
(The Economist piece is worthwhile, not least because it reports that Mr. Saltsman’s favorite economists recently conceded something to those who favor higher minimum wages, something he didn’t mention.)
But I’m not plumping for higher minimum wages, just for fair reporting of the issue, which is why I’m demonstrating how Journal editors “report” information fitting the newspaper’s editorial agenda while ignoring what doesn’t.
This time editors not only denied readers a fair shake in the “story” on Santa Fe’s minimum wage hike but compounded the felony with an Op Ed ID as empty as it was windy.
Here’s the crux – the Journal never asked who funds the EPI, though that information is fundamental and easy to find.
According to (industry publication) Nation’s Restaurant News, EPI as a “research organization funded by restaurants, retailers and manufacturers.” (Source: Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington at citizensforethics.org.)
The Journal also neglected to ask what EPI is, also basic information and also a cinch to find:
“The Employment Policies Institute (EPI) is one of several front groups run by Berman and Company, a Washington, DC public affairs firm owned by Rick Berman who lobbies for the restaurant, hotel, alcoholic beverage and tobacco industries. While most commonly referred to as EPI, it is registered as a 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt organization under the name of “Employment Policies Institute Foundation.” (Source: SourceWatch.org.)
Big surprise, huh?
Looks as if the low-wage restaurant, hotel and alcohol industries pay EPI to keep wags down.
Now that’s neither odd nor illogical; heck, Adam Smith noticed and deplored it. So you’d expect a newspaper to deal with it.
Describing how the polity works is journalism’s proper, fundamental role, right?
Sadly, Journal management isn’t in that business. No, it’s in cahoots with corporate front organizations, bought-and-paid-for.
Or, as a Journal editor might put it, “experts.”