Journalist questions Seattle Times’ editorial balance

Thursday’s post on Seattle Times publisher Frank Blethen, and his incessant lobbying to repeal the estate tax (“Frank Blethen, Get Well Soon“), prompted an e-mail from a prominent member of the media, reminding me that this is not the first time the Blethens have donated space in their own paper to run an anti-estate-tax ad — an ad so dishonest, that not even a Times reporter would dare to uncritically repeat its claims unchallenged.

I have long criticized the Times’ lack of objectivity in championing estate tax repeal, but the writer raises some interesting questions by pointing out that this is not the only issue on which the Blethens have used their editorial bullhorn to further the family’s own financial interests. In attempting to justify dissolution of the Joint Operating Agreement — a calculated move that is intended to shutter the competing Seattle P-I — the Times has argued that its status as a “family-owned newspaper” somehow makes it more sensitive and responsive to the values and needs of the community. But the writer makes an observation that might strike some as counter-intuitive… that Seattle might be better served by absentee owners.

This is yet further validation of my view that a newspaper run by absentee corporate owners is far less threatening to journalistic and editorial balance than is a newspaper run by local owners.

To further the Blethens’ own financial interests, the Times editorializes (1) against the estate tax, (2) against ownership of multiple local media outlets (translation: don’t let the Hearst Corp. own both a newspaper and a TV station in Seattle because that sort of potential synergy might let the newspaper stay alive), (3) in favor of massive development of the South Lake Union area, which will drive up the value of the Blethens’ properties in the area, and, as I recall, (4) a few years ago, in favor of a proposal to reroute the light rail line up the Eastlake corridor instead of Capitol Hill, an idea that likewise would have fattened up the values of the nearby Blethen properties.

The Hearst Corp., by comparison, doesn’t require its local newspaper to editorialize one way or another because Hearst has no vested interest in doing so. All it cares about is that its newspaper out there in faraway Seattle makes some money.

You will not often read, watch, or hear this type of criticism in the local MSM, because most of Seattle’s working journalists either rely on Frank to sign their paycheck, or envision the possibility that they may have to rely on him in the future… and so I have kept the writer’s name anonymous. I, on the other hand, have little to lose by speaking my mind. Alas, nobody pays me anything for my rabble-rousing, and as to potential employment with the Times, I’ve probably already burnt that bridge in numerous, incalculable ways. (Although I welcome Frank to prove me wrong by offering me a paid column.)

As to the writer’s arguments, I find them very compelling on the facts, despite my deep reservations about media concentration and corporate ownership. Unlike the Times, the P-I’s editorial staff appears to be largely free from ownership interference… much like my excellent home town daily, the Philadelphia Inquirer, which has maintained a remarkable degree of editorial independence from newspaper giant Knight-Ridder (who, by the way, owns 49 percent of the Times.)

I suspect that the editorial boards of both the Times and the P-I attempt to take positions on important issues of the day, based on what they genuinely feel to be the best interests of the community. The difference is, the former is strongly influenced by the vested interests of its owners, while the latter is not. I find myself agreeing and disagreeing with the editorial pages of both papers, but I can’t help but sense that the process by which the P-I comes up with its opinions is slightly more honest and forthright than that of the Times.

Neither, of course, could possibly be as forthright as HA. This is an admittedly liberal blog with the oft stated goal of promoting progressive candidates and causes, and thus, unlike the MSM, I make no effort to feign objectivity in the opinions I express. But we all editorialize for the same reason… not simply to vent (though that’s fun too), but to influence public opinion and policy.

It is in this light that the writer reminds us of the dangers posed by uncritically accepting the Blethens’ blatant lobbying and electioneering on behalf of their own financial interests.

If you were Patty Murray or Maria Cantwell, and your state’s largest newspaper reminded you over and over that its owners are watching closely which way you vote on the estate tax repeal — and are not only editorializing but lobbying against it — that might cause you to consider putting your re-election prospects ahead of your conscience, mightn’t it?

And that, of course, is exactly what Frank Blethen wants… for Sen. Cantwell to vote against her conscience and the interests of the vast majority of American families, in order to pander to the selfish interests of the owners of a paper that could make or break her in an extremely close election. Meanwhile, it should be noted that Sen. Cantwell is not getting the same sort of pressure from the owners of the P-I — the privately held Hearst Corporation — even though the Hearst family heirs have much more to gain from permanent repeal of the estate tax than the Blethen family could ever dream of.

So perhaps it’s not a question of family ownership after all. It’s merely a question of what sort of family, and how much they respect the journalistic standards and editorial balance of their newspapers.

Comments

  1. 1

    Dan spews:

    Yea, Goldy — don’t get too loud. Remember Belthen shoots people’s dogs — only one step from people!

  2. 2

    Ted Smith spews:

    A very old and wonderful legal principle, called Estoppel, prevents a person from profiting from his own wrongful actions. To review, Frank deliberately prolonged a strike to run up his losses for the sole apparent purpose of killing the JOA. When e he openly did exactly that, the Washington Supreme Court went along with him. Frank’s apparent control of the Supreme Court troubles me deeply.

    And Knight-Ridder is no safe harbor – apparently the Second Generation of little Ridders is well on its way toward ruining that once-proud chain. OTOH, the Hearst Family has quite a little empire that seems to chug right along.

    But if I were Frank, I would worry that some little Blethen will decide to cash out his 2 or 3% and put a swing vote on the board. It appears that the Nlethen family newspaper gene has finally played out. When it happened to Tacoma’s Baker Family, at least they had the grace to sell the News Tribune to a responsible owner. Hey, Frank, sell out!

  3. 3

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Yes, let’s not forget that Frank Blethen went on a spending spree — hiring more staff and building a shiny new $150,000,000 printing plant, among other things — in order to lose money for 3 years in a row so he could wriggle out of the JOA. His objective, of course, is the same as that of all capitalists: Eliminate competition so he can charge monopoly prices for advertising space and newspapers.

  4. 4

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Ted, I don’t think Frank has to worry about outside directors. Stock in a family-owned corporation usually comes an anti-alienation clause: You can’t sell the stock to an outsider. Lawyers were on top of this one 100 years ago.

  5. 5

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Actually, we don’t really need the estate tax to level the playing field and prevent family dynasties from acquiring domineering power over the economy and society. Two or three generations of heirs usually can accomplish that by themselves.

  6. 6

    Green Thumb spews:

    One of the reasons the news media have deteriorated so badly is that there has historically been so little organized counterpoint to corporate oligarchy. Traditional progressive groups have focused minimal attention on the structural changes that have transformed the daily newspaper industry, and working journalists have been effectively muzzled. Long-time media critics such as Ben Bagdikian have made important contributions, but they have tended to be better at pointing out what is wrong than in sketching a compelling alternative vision.

    This is changing, albeit not quickly enough. I’d like to see folks get to the core of the problem: that a democracy cannot function effectively when its major news media are owned by robber barons. Whether there are a few admirable media corporations is beside the point. As the great media critic A.J. Liebling once pointed out, it is wrong that a community’s right to know depends solely upon the character of a monopoly newspaper publisher.

    Dare we disturb the universe and think big? For example, one idea would be for the citizens of Washington to “nationalize” all of its daily newspapers and put them under the control of local or regional not-for-profit trusts that are financially and politically insulated from governmental interference.

    Is this idea too “radical” for you? If so, note that once upon a time the idea of public schools and libraries was considered hopelessly pie in the sky. Furthermore, here in Washington state we have a proud tradition of institutional innovation, e.g., public utilities and ports were a product of the public power movement of the early 20th Century. Note that this movement was a coalition of farmers and labor unions.

    Did anyone notice the interesting ad hoc coalition of conservatives and liberals who beat back a recent FCC proposal to loosen regulations regarding media ownership? I think this suggests that there are more opportunities for finding common purpose than is apparent in the polarized reader comments usually dominating this blog.

  7. 7

    enough_of_this_bullshit spews:

    As someone who potentially could be stung by this bullshit law I really don’t have a problem with ol’ Frankie using his rag to pontificate from. Goldy uses this rag to pontificate from Why can’t Frank do the same?

    First Frank must explain to joe Lunchpail how this law affect Frank and how it affects Joe. Next he must explain to everyone why Joe should care about Frank when frank couldn’t give a shit about Joe.

    Lastly, Frank has to explain to all of his heirs why his stupid lawyers couldn’t find enough loopholes in the law to protect his money from the greedy bastards in DC. The law is bullshit only that it allows me to hide enough of my assests LEGALLY to keep me out of harms way.

  8. 8

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    7

    I’m happy for you that you’re in line to inherit over $1.5 million. Really, I am. Sure beats working for a living like most of us have to do. I’d love for someone to give me a shit-pot of money, too. But to pay no taxes on it while people struggling to make ends meet fork over up to 40% of their income to Uncle so people like you can skate? That’s the economic system you want us to vote for? I think not.

  9. 9

    Janet S spews:

    If you all don’t like the Seattle Times, start your own newspaper. Isn’t that the American way?

    Oh, by the way, once govt gets into the newspaper business, there is no longer freedom of the press. Of course, I’m sure those on this site who suggest something like that are kidding. Even you guys can’t be that stupid.

  10. 11

    rujax206 spews:

    Oh yeah, Janet…like all the “journalists” on the payroll of the Cheney.

    Hey…chimpy lost 8 lbs (according to his pysical). Guess more brain cells leaked out.

  11. 12

    spews:

    A lot of people don’t know this but Clinton lost a lot of weight in his second term. In fact there are estimates that he lost as much as 10 pounds of semen in his second term in office.

  12. 14

    mark spews:

    Hey Roger Rabbit
    If you think that Blethen had to go on a spending spree in order to lose money for three years, you don’t know anything about the current state of the newspaper industry. The losses are deep for almost every paper in the country and will continue for years. A lot of papers no doubt will go under.

  13. 15

    mark spews:

    Hey Goldy and your annonymous writer — please spare us the diatribe on how wonderful the Hearst Corporation is. First of all, they have very little commitment to quality journalism compared to their commitment to their bottom line. One doesn’t need to look beyond that fact to understand why their circulation drop has been so much more dramatic than the Times’. Secondly, they are more than happy to lay off their staff when times get a little rough — or are you not familiar with the what is going on at the SF Chronicle right now?

  14. 17

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Reply to 14

    Since you’ve asked for my journalism credentials here they are:

    1. My father was a reporter covering a government beat for one of the nation’s major dailies for nearly 40 years.

    2. I majored in journalism at one of the nation’s pre-eminent journalism schools and worked as a reporter for a daily newspaper before I became a lawyer.

    3. I worked my way up from reporter to editor-in-chief of a student newspaper while in college.

    4. I’m well aware of economic conditions in the newspaper industry. I know how a JOA works. I do not know Frank Blethen nor do I have access to the Seattle Times’ books, but I know how much he paid for the printing plant because it’s public knowledge. I also know the Times went on a hiring spree in the 2 years preceding the Times’ 3 years of losses because that, too, is public knowledge.

    5. I also know that Seattle is one of the very few cities in America that still has 2 competing daily newspapers. Their combined circulation strikes me as fairly healthy in relation to the population of their circulation area and given the proliferation of other media competing for the same advertising dollars. Therefore, you should be able to understand why I’m skeptical that Frank Blethen’s driving motivation is survival rather than a desire for monopoly pricing and profits, or at least a bigger piece of the profits under the JOA.

    Could both newspapers survive without the JOA? Hearst says no, and I believe it. Blethen claims Hearst wants to drive the Times out of business. I don’t see how the Hearst Corp. could do that even if they wanted to. Blethen controls his own enterprise. The Times is the bigger paper and the 900-lb. gorilla of the 2 parties to the JOA. The Times owns the printing plant and delivery truck fleet, and controls all printing, advertising, and circulation functions of both papers. The P-I is little more than a masthead and a newsroom staff. The Hearst Corp.’s size and financial resources dwarf the Seattle Times Company, but that doesn’t mean Hearst is in a position to, or willing to, pour its corporate resources into just one of its many media properties — one that can’t stand on its own without the JOA. It does appear to me that Frank Blethen, not Hearst, is calling the shots and if the JOA dissolves the P-I will go out of business. On the other hand, if the courts reject the Seattle Times’ petition, and the Times’ losses are real, not manufactured — if Blethen really can’t make a profit under the JOA as written — then the JOA will survive only another year or two anyway, and Blethen will have his 3 years of losses. The only legal issue is whether the Times’ alleged loss for 1 of the 3 years counts.

  15. 18

    mark spews:

    Roger Rabbit

    1. What is also public knowledge is that the “hiring spree” that you mention did not even restore Time’s staff to pre-strike levels. Is that a “spree?” You tell me. And to look at staffing the newsroom as merely an attempt to lose money rather than a commitment to journalism is beyond cynical. I don’t think anyone who respects journalism could ever say that. And I’m sure you would be the first to say if Blethen ran a bare-bones staff and the quality of the paper started to suffer, that Blethen only cared about the bottom line and couldn’t give a fuck about journalism. There is no winning.

    2. Technically, I suppose you are right that Hearts would not drive the Times’ under. Instead, they would do what they have done in other cities. They’ll bleed the Times until it is no longer sustainable, buy it, and shut down the PI. If you don’t understand how this is possible, take a look at what happened in San Francisco.
    You go on about your journalism credentials but you don’t show a lot of knowledge of the Hearst corporation’s history.

  16. 19

    Richard Pope spews:

    Who does own the Hearst Corporation stock? I though that the Hearst Foundation and the William Randolph Hearst Foundation did, but they have diversified their investments since being founded. Did the Hearst family members manage to buy back all of that stock from their foundation? If so, they have a lot of potential estate tax liability in years ahead.

    Why is the Seattle P-I going down the tubes? Are people influenced by editorial positions of a newspaper in determining whether they will subscribe? Evidently, the Seattle Times must be more in tune with the community than the Seattle P-I.

    And there are actually three daily newspapers in King County. The Seattle Times has 234,274 daily circulation, the Seattle P-I has 150,876 daily circulation, and the King County Journal has 42,000 daily subscription circulation.

    Funny how the King County Journal is a profitable business (with its own advertising department, printing plant, etc.), but that the Seattle P-I, with over three times the circulation, is little more than a masthead and news/editorial staff and is in serious danger of going completely bankrupt.

  17. 20

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Reply to 18

    1. We’re talking about different hiring. I’m referring to hiring before the strike. Sure, every newspaper reader wants the paper to hire more journalists. The P-I suffers from thinner editorial staffing, which shows in the dearth of local coverage. A paper that can’t afford its own news staffing is filled with wire service and syndicated material, and doesn’t do much original reporting, and that’s the P-I today and one of the reasons why its circulation lags behind the Times — it’s simply not as informative a newspaper. The news room staff always want the front office to spend more on editorial staffing. But I have to say this, Mark. A newspaper is a business like any other, and management can only afford the staffing that revenues can support. In the newspaper business, revenue comes from ad sales, and ad revenue is partially driven by circulation. You must invest in things that build circulation to generate ad revenue. So to some extent it’s a dog-chasing-its-tail situation. But the problem is, ad revenue also is affected by things beyond management’s control such as the economy and competition from emerging media. The simple fact is newspaper ad revenue isn’t what it used to be. Print news is old technology that’s being displaced by new modes of communication, and a big chunk of the advertising dollars have gone elsewhere. Investing more in editorial content doesn’t necessarily produce more ad revenue. If management misjudges the return on investment, spending more on editorial content simply hastens the paper’s demise. That is the ugly reality that now hangs over newspaper owners and everyone who toils in a newspaper news room.

    2. Well you basically are stating Frank’s argument, and you may be right. Sitting in Frank’s chair, he probably doesn’t feel like a 900-lb. gorilla, and the Hearst Corp. surely looks like a 900-lb. gorilla to him. From the viewpoint of readers and advertisers, a one-paper town is a bad thing, and it’s immaterial whether the masthead name is P-I or Times. Absence of competition can’t possibly improve journalistic quality. But I believe I’ve already answered your point about the Hearst-bleeding-Times-white scenario. Blethen can get out of the JOA by showing 3 years of legitimate losses. That’s not long enough to bleed him white unless the losses are very deep, and I don’t believe that’s the case. Keep in mind that the Times owns other a number of other media properties not in the JOA, so even if the Seattle Times loses money, Blethen could keep the company as a whole afloat with profits from the other properties. And if those properties aren’t profitable he can ditch them overnight and without getting anybody’s permission. In addition, there is a 49% co-owner with resources as large as Hearst’s, that likely would step in to protect its investment. So Blethen has reserves against a Verdun strategy by Hearst, and Hearst can’t get at them. It can only target the Seattle Times, and the Times Company’s other operations and Knight-Ridder are out of range of Hearst’s guns. That’s why the bleed-Frank-white strategy isn’t plausible.

  18. 21

    mark spews:

    Yeah Roger Rabbit, a couple rinky dink papers in Maine and Eastern Washington are really a major factor in the continuation of the Seattle Times. And Knight Ridder has nothing to do with the JOA battle. If the Times goes down, Hearst gets first dibs and the game is over. I can tell that you are going to think what you want to think and not let the facts get in the way. And do losses of $50 million per year sound deep to you? Furthermore, you state that loss of competition never improves journalism quality. Please explain to me then the situation in Dallas, where after becoming the sole newspaper in town, the Morning News improved to the point where it is generally considered one of the top five or six papers in the country, ok? Whatever, just keep thinking what you’d like and pretty soon we’ll be a one newspaper town and we’ll be served by the kind of quality journalism San Francisco enjoys under Hearst — mediocre newspaper that lays off its staff as a first option in bad times.

  19. 22

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Reply to 19

    Richard, if your point is the P-I is going downhill because it’s out of sync with public tastes, I think you’re wrong. The P-I clearly is not the more conservative of the 2 papers, and Seattle clearly is not a conservative town. The Seattle Weekly, which comments frequently on the JOA controversy, blames the Hearst Corp. for not investing in the paper to compete for circulation. I don’t know whether they’re right. But it seems obvious this isn’t the whole story or even the main story. I can tell you why the P-I has less circulation. All I have to do is explain which newspaper box I put my 50 cents in.

    More often that not, I buy the Times instead of the P-I. Why? 3 reasons. (1) The Times has more news in it. (2) The P-I no longer hits the streets first, as a result of the Times switching to morning publication. (3) Since taking over as publisher a couple decades ago, Frank Blethen has toned down the blatant partisan flavor it had under his predecessors, making it more acceptable to readers like me.

    When the Times switched to morning publication, Seattle Weekly predicted this would be a death blow to the P-I. SW also accused Blethen of trying to kill the P-I. Maybe so. But it’s not that simple. Afternoon papers are dying all over the country. Lifestyles have changed and people don’t read newspapers after work anymore. That’s family time, fun time, time to do the things they live for. It’s too precious to spend it reading a newspaper. Blethen can credibly argue that he had to go to where his customers are, because they would stop coming to him if he stuck with afternoon publication. The story has been pretty much the same everywhere. Most of the surviving papers are morning papers.

  20. 23

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Reply to 21

    The Washington Supreme Court opinion of June 30, 2005 doesn’t say what the Times’ losses were, and I couldn’t find the Court of Appeals or Superior Court opinions on-line.

    I would ask, where did you get the $50 million figure? It doesn’t jibe with the information I have in several respects.

    To put this number in perspective, the Times Company’s revenues in 2001 from all its operations (not just the Seattle Times) were $380 million. Fifty million therefore represents about 13% of gross. To lose $50 million a year from Seattle Times operations, the company would have to lose $213 a year per reader, or about 60 cents on every paper it sold.

    An April 2003 P-I story said,

    “In an affidavit filed as part of the suit, P-I Editor and Publisher Roger Oglesby says he believes the JOA generated for The Times more than an estimated $50 million in cash flow between 2000 and 2002 and that The Times’ losses during that period are ‘small in relation to the JOA’s revenues and expenses.’”

    Perhaps your are confusing this $50 million with the loss figure? This story certainly suggests the annual loss is much less than $50 million a year.
    Here is the link to the above article: http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/.....ain29.html

    In addition, on June 30, 2005, Frank Blethen issued the following statement:

    “The Times has lost money every year since 2000. It is our hope that the Hearst Corporation will join The Times in modifying the JOA contract to reflect today’s difficult newspaper economics so that The Times has a fair chance to become profitable again. A return to profitability will enable The Times to remain locally-owned and focused on quality, independent journalism for our city and our region.”

    If the Times is losing $50 million a year, its prospects for “returning to profitability” would seem negligible. You can’t make up that kind of shortfall by laying off a couple hundred staff or tweaking the share of the revenue stream the P-I gets under the JOA. Yet Blethen has said his objective is to renegotiate the terms of the JOA with Hearst, not put the P-I out of business. This statement makes sense only if rejiggering the JOA percentages would make up the shortfall. Fifty million is too big a number to erase in this fashion.

    So, I think your $50 million-per-year loss figure is wrong.

  21. 25

    mark spews:

    Roger Rabbit
    I’m well aware of the argument about the hiring spree. Just before you said you were talking about a pre-strike hiring spree, which is not part of the JOA argument if such a thing exists. The article you refer to is about the 2002 hiring. As I already stated, the Times hiring “spree” never brought the newsroom back to pre-strike levels. So in my opinion, that is not a spree and you just went on about the Times having better coverage of local news than the PI — why do you think that is?

  22. 26

    mark spews:

    I cannot comment on the $50 million figure for last year’s losses, and it is what the Times’ claims, so it can’t be confirmed since it is not a public company. However, when you consider that the great majority of revenue is from advertising and classifieds, it is not hard to believe that the losses are terrible across the industry. Advertising is way off and classified is all but gone thanks to craiglist.

  23. 27

    Enough_of_this_Bullshit spews:

    Roger @8

    Okay dummy why don’t you really read the post.

    I am legally protecting enough of my assets that the government will not be able to touch most of my estate when I die (if I die before I turn 65). I have earned every penny of what I have and my family has had to make do when the times were lean. They paid a price years ago they should be able to reap the benefits of my success as they endured the pain of the lean times.
    That is what is wrong with the law. If I can hide my assets to protect them from the FEDS who does this law really affect? By the time I hit 65 I won’t have any assets that the FEDS can claim as theirs. (no I won’t be buying any fur lined sinks or mega-peso lottery tickets) The law is riddled with loopholes.

    It’s more of a class warfare issue that it is a hinderance to rich people. You think that you have a right to my money and I don’t. The government lets you think that they are taking it away from my heirs Then the government provides me with enough loopholes that I can drive my Hummer through it. Therefore you think you get something when in fact you’re not.

    So I guess my advice to Frank was to either shut up or hire a good tax lawyer.

    My advice to you is to get a clue.

  24. 28

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Reply to 26

    This article attributes a statement to Seattle Times president Mason Sizemore that the Times lost “several million” dollars “during the strike,” when the Times’ advertising revenues were impacted by a boycott. http://www.bizjournals.com/por.....ily50.html

    This article in Slate doesn’t shed any light on Seattle Times finances but does contain some interesting facts about the newspaper industry as a whole. http://slate.msn.com/id/2082745/

    OK, here’s something — this article says Blethen told staff the Times would lost $12 million in 2004, in the context of discussing a possible need for layoffs in 2005. http://www.realchangenews.org/.....n_use.html

  25. 29

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    $12 million is about 3% of the company’s revenue. That’s not a small loss in a low-margin business, but if I were running the company, I’d look for ways to cut costs and/or boost revenues before thinking of selling or shuttering the business. Three percent isn’t insurmountable.

  26. 30

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    And, of course, when Frank Blethen looks at costs the percentage of revenue he has to share with the P-I under the 1999 JOA agreement sticks out like a sore thumb.

  27. 31

    mark spews:

    Reply to 28.

    Whatever the losses are, they are in the millions. Businesses that keep losing tens of millions of dollars don’t stay around forever. I know the Blethens are reviled and maybe with some good reasons but if people let that get in the way of their good sense. There is NO reason to think that the Times is bucking the industry trend and raking in money hand over fist.

  28. 34

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    bullshit @ 27

    I really can’t take issue with your bragging about beating the tax laws if what you’re doing is legal. Although there is a massive amount of illegal tax dodging going on, I mainly take issue with government tax policies that are UNFAIR.

    To adequately reply to your argument, I need to go back to the basics.

    To begin with you would have no wealth at all without government. Without government neither a modern economy nor private property could exist. Much of the basis of the U.S. economy is government-subsidized (e.g., nearly all basic research; most education and workforce training; much of the infrastructure necessary for commerce; the subsidies and price supports enjoyed by some industries; plus the many costs of doing business that government allows the businesses to externalize to society at large).

    Government costs money. Someone has to pay those costs. The basic idea here is that we all chip in. So the question is not whether you are going to contribute for the cost of government but rather how those costs are distributed.

    This brings us to my point. What is fair, moral, or right about taxing wages and not taxing inheritances? Under current law your heirs will be taxed nothing on the first $1.5 million you give them, which is more than most wage earners will make in their lifetimes. And you’re bitching? Gimme a fucking break.

    In what way did you work harder than a waitress making minimum wage plus tips, or an assembly line worker making $8 an hour, or a roofer making $12 an hour? Spare me this “hard work” stuff, everyone works hard! And there are plenty of people who work harder than you did for far less financial reward. So I find it worse than disingenuous that being able to give your heirs $1.5 million of unearned income tax-free isn’t enough to satisfy you. What you want to do is shift the taxes currently collected from estates over $1.5 million to people WORKING for wages who will never see the kind of money your heirs will get from you without having worked for it.

    In my book, that makes you a selfish prick.

  29. 35

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Reply to 31 & 33

    The Columbia Journalism Review article I cited indicates the hiring spree occurred after the strike, so I stand corrected on my original statement.

    Perhaps Frank Blethen is “reviled” by (a) union members who locked horns with him, and (b) newspaper lovers who think he’s scheming to sink the P-I in order to line his own pockets.

    I don’t revile Frank Blethen. I don’t share his Republican politics, but I give him credit for transforming the Seattle Times from a partisan rag to a more journalistic and objective newspaper under his tenure. Nor do I think he’s out to “get” the P-I or his union employees. I take his word for it that his company his losing money — I don’t think Frank Blethen is a liar — and I understand he has to do something about it.

    And maybe Frank’s fears of getting eaten alive by the Hearst organization are perfectly rational. Although Willie Randolph Hearst has been moldering in his grave for many a year now, nevertheless, the organization he built did compile a long and sordid history as the pre-eminent predator of the newspaper business. Undoubtedly the Hearst family has mellowed since Willie kicked the bucket, and there’s a ton of non-family professional management influencing the organization these days, but I wouldn’t ignore the Hearst company’s history either, if I were Frank. It’s still a corporate behemoth.

    And when you read the terms of the JOA, it’s hard not to feel sorry for Frank Blethen. It’s a mystery to me why he signed it in the first place. He has to provide all of the physical plant and staff necessary to print and distribute both papers, yet the P-I gets 40% of the revenue. Not only that, if he bails out, he has to pay Hearst ransom until 2080. He got bad legal advice somewhere.

    So, yeah, I feel for Frank. I don’t revile him.

  30. 36

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    But if it makes you feel better, Bullshit, I’m not in favor of redistributive schemes or using the tax code for what sme peoople call “social engineering.” I just think the tax burden should be fairly distributed, that’s all. All I’m saying is it’s absurd to let a person inherit millions tax-free while making minimum wage workers pay taxes. And before you start ranting about government spending, I’ll just point out that Dubya is the most profligate spender of them all.

  31. 37

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Or, to put it another way, making minimum wage workers pay taxes so the rich can inherit millions tax-free.

  32. 38

    Enough_of_this_Bullshit spews:

    I think you need to reread what I said.

    The law is BULLSHIT it doesn’t accomplish a thing. It allows the working class to think that the government is taking away some “unearned wealth” from the heirs of rich people. What I am doing is legal and it was written into the tax code by the party (the democrats) that wrote the law.

    I didn’t make the rules but I am playing by them. Just the way the working class is supposed to do. So why does that make me selfish. Do you leave part of your assets unprotected from the feds? My guess is you don’t. So why should I? You talk about equity…..there it is in a nutshell.

    If it was really an hinderance to the rich don’t you think George would have repealed it by now?

  33. 39

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Reply to 38

    This shouldn’t be too hard to clear up. Do you think there should be a tax on estates? Yes or no?

  34. 40

    Donnageddon spews:

    Bullshit @ 38 “I didn’t make the rules but I am playing by them. Just the way the working class is supposed to do. So why does that make me selfish.”

    If you can’t see why it makes you selfish, then I must assume you are morally corrupt, and ethically challenged. Thus you are a Republican.

  35. 41

    Richard Pope spews:

    RR @ 39

    Didn’t Frank Blethen come out in support of a 15% estate tax — which is the same as the maximum tax on long term capital gains? What is wrong with a 15% estate tax?

  36. 44

    L. H. Smith spews:

    I say NO ESTATE TAX, ever! Estate taxation is just another way for sleazy lawyers and accountants to drum up revenues for themeselves.

    Trying to “redistribute” wealth destroys wealth. Wealth only matters is it is in private hands and not conficated by government.

  37. 45

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    43

    Richard, could you copy and paste a pertinent quote? Reason being I can’t access the Seattle Times archives without registering, and I’m trying to limit the number of junk e-mail lists I’m on. Thanks.

  38. 46

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    44

    And I say people who inherit over $1.5 million should pay the same rate of taxes as waitresses making $2.00 an hour plus tips, instead of being selfish pricks!

  39. 47

    L. H. Smith spews:

    RE: 46 – Hey Roger, I think you’re confusing income taxes with estate/inheritance taxes. Waitresses making $2.00 an hour plus tips pay income taxes, not estate taxes. When it comes to income taxes, I’m with you: there should be only one flat rate with no deductions. If the tax can’t be computed by a reasonably smart high school sophmore, then it’s too complex.

    I think Steve Forbes is right-on when he talks about his proposal for a flat rate income tax. I think the tax code should be there to raise money for the ordinary and necessary functions of goevernment. It should NOT exist so tax attorneys and accountants can make millions filling out government forms. After all, that’s all the Form 1040, Schedule A, B, and the rest are: government forms. Does it make sense to have highly educated people like attorneys and CPAs earning their livings filling out government forms?

    We need a flat rate tax in order to take the next step, a national sales tax. I envision a sales tax that will replace income taxes. Imagine – no more filling out government forms by April 15th each year! No reading that gobbledy-gook the IRS puts out. No more intrusion into your personal financial affairs by a nosy government agency. I think this approximates more what the Founding Fathers wanted versus this monter tax code we now have.

    As far as estate/inheritance tax goes, it’s just a scam to sieze wealth. It destroys family businesses and puts waitresses out of their jobs when the heirs that inherit the restaurant can’t pay the taxes! Does it really help the working class guy or gal to kill small businesses?

    Remember, people create wealth, and governments consumes it. Let’s permit people keep their wealth and do with it as they want when they pass from this life. If Bill Gates wants to leave his money to the government, I say fine. He should do what he wants with his wealth, and everyone in this country should have the same choice, but don’t seize wealth just becasue someone has passed on.

  40. 48

    GBS spews:

    Goldy:

    What you should be advocating is the exact same things Republicans do: “vote with your wallet.” If I’ve heard Kirby W. say it once, I’ve heard him say it a thousand times about not seeing “Liberal” Hollywood movies just because of the Liberals who star in them.

    Do what I do. Cancel your subscription to the Seattle Times. I canceled mine back in 2000 when the Times endorsed “W” for president. I did it, then I sent them a letter stating why. I know it’s just one voice, but, if the rest of the Democrats in this town canceled their papers, then Frank wouldn’t have the bully pulpit and he wouldn’t have to worry about the death tax either.

    This should become a focal point of Liberal politics in this town and set an example for the rest of the country. Look at the income and educational demography of blue states vs. red. You’ll see a trend that supports this type of “vote with your wallet” activism that would truly be successful in reshaping corporate America’s support of the RNC to the DNC. It really comes down to a matter of dollars and “sense.”

  41. 49

    GBS spews:

    Estate taxes are not just about stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. That’s so over simplistic it completely evades reality. It has more to do with the prevention aristocratic societies that destroy democracy through inherited power – either economical or political.

    Thomas Paine wrote an excellent pamphlet on the subject in 1782 The Necessity of Taxation. Ben Franklin gave rise to the argument about a progressive tax based on one’s ability to pay.

    This is all simple US History that conservatives either didn’t learn in high school or intentionally ignore for their own personal gain at the expense of freedom. So what’s driving this argument from the Right? It is either ignorance of intentional deceit. Either way, it’s not patriotic thinking regarding the good of whole the country.

    That’s a shame, too.

  42. 50

    Enough_of_this_Bullshit spews:

    Donfullofshit at 40

    Don, you ignorant bitch.

    The democrats wrote the tax code on that bill. Why does that make me a republican? If I was cheating..then you would have an argument. But I am playing by the rules set forth by the feds.

    I continue to ask the same question. If the Working Class plays by the rules set forth by congress and i do too, then why am I the bad guy? (oh I got it because I have evil money and you don’t? more leftwing bullshit) Seems to me you should vote out the dipsticks that voted for such a stupid law. And one of them is coming up for re-election next year…..that would be Maria CantDowell.

    This is nothing more than a Class-Warfare law. The ones that wrote the law have no class.

  43. 51

    righton spews:

    roger; what government service costs a rich person so much more that he must pay much more raw dollars? (arguing about percentages ignores the huge dollars a rich person sends the gov’t in taxes)