Again, I understand the rules of the game, and the simple virtue of owning a newspaper grants you the right to use the op/ed pages to push the agenda of your choice. But I am constantly amazed at how ham-fisted the Blethens are in promoting their own narrow self-interest.
For the second time since the election, the Seattle Times has seen fit to editorialize against the estate tax, first the federal and now the state. Yeah… the war in Iraq, the economy, widespread electoral fraud… none of that is apparently as important to the owners of our state’s “paper of record” than assuring that the very wealthy pass on their estates undiminished.
In fact, I’m not sure the Blethens are really all that concerned with anybody else but the Blethens, as they constantly argue their case by raising the specter that an estate tax might force their heirs to sell out, ending decades of local ownership… by the Blethens.
And readers should be concerned because…?
I’m sure their rhetoric has a powerful emotional appeal — to the Blethens — but it ignores a couple realities. A) Any change in tax policy has winners and losers, and eliminating WA’s estate tax would either cut services or shift tax burden to those who can least afford it, making what is already the most regressive tax system in the nation even more unfair. B) Eliminating the estate tax would not ensure Blethen family control; the Times is already half-owned by Knight-Ridder, and a single disgruntled heir looking to diversify their portfolio (according to the Blethens, the Times is a money pit) could shift control of the paper.
(FYI, my former hometown newspaper, the Knight-Ridder owned Philadelphia Inquirer, is a highly respected and editorially independent publication that makes the Seattle Times look like, well… the Seattle Times. All you expatriates from NY, DC, LA and other big cities with real big city papers… you know what I’m talking about.)
But then, it was just an editorial so we don’t really expect intellectual honesty, or even respect for the law:
Now a group of heirs that has had to pay the state tax has sued. On Sept. 30, they argued their case before the Washington Supreme Court. That court has not yet ruled.
How strong their legal case is we do not know, but we hope they prevail.
Yes, the Blethens “hope they prevail”, regardless of how strong the legal case is. I guess that is what the Times means by “political courage”… justices who are willing to rule on policy rather than the law.
Oh… and one more thing. It’s called an “estate tax”, goddamnit, and no matter how many times you call it a “death tax” (eight times in six paragraphs) it is still an “estate tax.” (RCW Title 83)
Perhaps Knight-Ridder could lend the Times a fact checker.