Tuesday, August 06, 2002

He Who Controls the Press Controls History

I didn't get to this here at the time, but Paul Krugman, columnist for the New York Times [may require registration] appearing in the Commercial Appeal, had a recent column that referenced Tennessee and our Income Tax War. Krugman wrote:
Responsibility gave way to political opportunism, and in some cases to mob rule.
When Tennessee considered a tax increase last year, legislators were intimidated by a riot stirred up by radio talk-show hosts. Only when lack of cash forced the governor to lay off half the work force did the state, which has the second-lowest per capita taxes in the country, face up to reality.
Where do you want to bet he got his information from? The press.

The distortions and untruths have now become part of "official history" thanks to the unrelenting efforts of our State newspapers. Their constant and willful rewriting of events pays off in altering history to suit their agenda.

It wasn't just a tax increase, of course. It was the imposition of an unconstitutional income tax, without respect to the political process in place to levy one. It was a one billion dollar tax increase, for the third year in a row. That's $750 total for every man, woman and child in the State.

Back in July 2001, there was no riot! NONE. A crowd about as boisterous as any sports crowd pressed up to and into the Capitol building, making their voices heard over the sweet whispers of lobbyists. It rightfully frightened many Legislators, reminding them of who's boss, and letting them know that the billpayers they were about to dump several billion dollars onto weren't pleased.

"Lack of cash" didn't force Sundquist to lay off workers. It was a planned-for eventuality brought on by House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh's deliberate efforts to force an income tax vote. Naifeh quite literally did everything in his power to assure that his option was the only possible option. The supposed "alternative" was an "Armageddon" budget intended to intimidate everyone. Other plans--CATS, Fowler, Wilder, etc.--were lobbied against by those who wanted the income tax.

But notice that when Niafeh finally, reluctantly, gave up it only took a few hours to get a workable, temporary solution voted and signed. Spin by the papers aside, that does say something.

And a great many Tennesseans see the second lowest per-capita tax burden as a mighty good, attractive thing. A symbol of freedom worth preserving against the depredations of pork-barrel politicians and social engineers.

But it is how history has forever been distorted and revised by the newspapers that galls. Researchers twenty or thirty years from now will not have the truth, but the story that suits those who wrote it. We are also forced to look at the stories passed down in a new light, wondering just what was left out or rewritten in them.

We stand lost and angry. We are left, impotent, to wonder just what really is going on, who controls the process and to what ends. All we really know is that we cannot turn to our newspapers to find that out.

Until next time, that is all.
Your Working Boy

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