Hostile to Hispanics
August 27, 2000
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A front-page article in this morning's New York Times about Governor George W. Bush's record on issues of concern to Hispanics embraces the myth that opposing bilingual education is somehow "hostile" to Hispanics. The article says, "In Texas, Mr. Bush's record shows that he has embraced his state's growing Mexican-American population, pointedly rejecting the hostility shown by some members of his party on issues like immigration and bilingual education." The article goes on to say, "Nationally, the political response to this new wave of immigration at times was hostile. Republicans in Congress fought to kill bilingual education and pushed for laws establishing English as the country's official language."
It's not "hostile" to Hispanics to oppose bilingual education that keeps Spanish-speaking youngsters segregated for years in classes that prevent them from learning to read and write in English. If anything, it's hostile to Hispanics to support such programs. The successful California ballot initiative opposing bilingual education as it was being practiced there was begun when a group of Mexican-American parents picketed their children's school because the school refused to teach the children English along with native speakers. The Times itself has reported the improvements in English performance that California students have shown with the end of bilingual education. How is it "hostile" to Hispanics to teach them the language they need to succeed in America?
The same article quotes a Democratic state senator complaining that Mr. Bush isnÕt spending enough state money to help Hispanic neighborhoods. "When you're the governor, and you've got 77 percent popularity and a $6 billion surplus, you can make big things happen in Texas," the senator is quoted as saying. We wonder how this $6 billion surplus squares with the Texas "budget woes" referred to in a July 20 Times headline, or with the Texas "deficit spending" that Larry Rockefeller alleged in an op-ed piece in the July 20 Times. Mr. Bush can't win. If he spends too much money, the Times assails him for having a state deficit and budget woes. If he spends too little money, the Times assails him for amassing a surplus while Hispanics go unhelped. In fact, even though it would seem to defy logic, the Times has managed to attack Mr. Bush for both sins at once.
Anti-Choice: The New York Times is avowedly pro-choice on the question of abortion rights. It claims to be so supportive of a variety of choices for consumers of the press that it wants to force Rupert Murdoch to sell the New York Post so that he doesn't own it and two New York television stations at once. So it seems baffling to see the newspaper sweep in, as it does this morning on the front of its metro section, with a news story attacking what the article calls the "dogma" of free-market competition for goods and services in the economy. The article is so ridiculous and wrongheaded that smartertimes.com urges you to actually read it yourself, in its entirety, to gain a full appreciation of the silliness that the Times is capable of placing in the lead position in its Sunday metro section.
One of the article's main claims is that there is a "sense of powerlessness and confusion that many people feel" when confronted with choices about what to buy. There is, the article says, "the growing sense that people are simply being asked to decide too much."
Not a single consumer is quoted in the story proclaiming himself or herself powerless or confused. Instead, we hear from a succession of college professors that the Times fobs off on readers as "prominent social critics." One psychologist is quoted complaining about "the tyranny of freedom," leaving a reader wondering just what kind of tyranny the professor would prefer as an alternative. Another professor, who is given the final word in the article, is quoted as saying, "Deregulation and privatization were sold implicitly on the assumption that everybody can win from this, but I'm hard pressed to find an example in the real world where that has happened." Right now, the professor is quoted as saying, "maybe somebody is winning, but it isn't the consumer."
Hello? If this professor is really hard-pressed to find an example of successful privatization or deregulation, he must be either living in a cave or relying on the Times for his information. One example of a success was the Airline Deregulation Act signed by President Carter in 1978. An article by John Robson in the Spring 1998 number of the journal Regulation points out that airline deregulation has been a success by just about any possible measure. There are lower fares: As Mr. Robson writes: "Measured in a variety of ways, airfares have consistently fallen under deregulation. Some economists have found that fares are 22 percent lower today than they would have been if the industry had stayed under government control. . . . [I]n April 1998 Northeastern University economist Steven Morrison, a leading authority on the economics of the airline industry, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that 1997 air fares, adjusted for inflation, were 40 percent lower than they were before deregulation. Since 1990, consumer prices in general have risen 20 percent faster than have average airline prices. Morrison and Brookings Institution economist Clifford Winston, in their 1995 study, 'The Evolution of the Airline Industry,' pegged the annual savings to air travelers at $12.4 billion thanks to deregulation. They also estimated that because of more convenient flights and a more efficient route system, passengers save another $10.3 billion each year in reduced travel time." The airline industry has also grown, Mr. Robson reports: 50% more persons were employed by the airline industry in 1998 than before deregulation, and the number of flights to smaller communities is up more than 50%.
And the list of successful privatizations and deregulations goes on: A 1992 study by the World Bank -- hardly a bastion of right-wing economic views -- found that "privatization -- properly structured -- yields substantial and enduring benefits. . . .Consumers won or broke even in a majority of cases." One example was the privatization of an electricity distribution company in Chile, which had the effect of reducing theft of electricity, "hurting those who were stealing it -- but allowing the company to lower prices to paying customers." Another Chilean success story, according to the World Bank report, is that country's phone company, which doubled its capacity in the four years after it was privatized.
The Times, needless to say, is oblivious to all this. Its view of airline deregulation is that the hub-and-spoke system has resulted "in less competition, not more." This ignores the research cited by Mr. Robson, who says that "even at dominated hubs, consumers are paying less than they would pay without deregulation."
Considering the deregulation of electricity, the Times article claims that "electricity is also just different. Unlike a telephone call, or an airline ticket, nobody ever really wants to buy electricity itself -- rather people buy its expression and result: a cold beer in the fridge, a light to read by. By the standards of American marketing, it is barely a product at all." This logic, taken to its conclusion, is an argument for government monopolies on flour ("Nobody ever really wants to buy flour itself -- rather people buy its expression and result: a warm cupcake, a fresh rye bread."), on gasoline ("Nobody ever really want to buy gasoline itself -- rather people buy its expression and result: a trip in the car to the supermarket, a drive to the beach."), on credit cards ("Nobody ever really wants to buy a credit card itself -- rather people buy its expression and result: a vacation charged to a travel agency over the phone, a book purchased online.").
Embarrassing Truths Department: This is from a "Political Memo" in the national section of this morning's Times: "Day after day, the Gore campaign has essentially driven the media coverage of the campaign for two weeks, from the favorable publicity when Mr. Gore picked Senator Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut as his running mate and on through the Democratic convention -- and beyond." The Times finally admits it!
Late Again: The Times carries at the top of its front page today a story reporting on Mr. Lieberman's close ties to the insurance and health care industries. The article contains a quote from Karen Ignagni, who is the president of the Association of American Health Plans. It also contains a quote from a spokesman for Mr. Lieberman, Dan Gerstein, saying that the senator is not afraid to take on the companies when they are wrong. This is old news to readers of The Washington Post, which carried a virtually identical story on the front page of its Saturday editions. The Washington Post story, which was picked up in Saturday's edition of kausfiles.com, quoted Ms. Ignagni. The Post story also quoted Mr. Gerstein asserting that Mr. Lieberman is not afraid to differ with industry. The Times story doesn't mention or credit the report in the Post.
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