Guest column: Friend or foe?

Most of the mainstream media is controlled by the wealthy so it shouldn’t be surprising that the news is filtered to the interests of wealthy establishment elites, writes Don Herbst.

Recently the Post Register published a two-part column by Emily Bell on the subject of journalism. Post Register publisher Roger Plothow has also written a series of commentaries on the subject. Both writers are critical of the rise of “alternative facts” and “fake news” in a media environment where integrity of information doesn’t seem to matter anymore. The recommended antidote to the diminished quality of this form of news is to support more traditional news sources that adhere to a higher standard of journalism.

Unfortunately, relying on organizations like the Washington Post, New York Times and the Associated Press will not guarantee the kind of unbiased journalistic excellence these publishers claim. While these mainstream media sources will not generally practice the kind of total fabrication preferred by President Trump and less reliable news sources, they will, and often do present misleading information. It’s very easy to win a debate if the only information presented supports one side. Five giant corporations control 90 percent of U.S. mass media. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the wealthy establishment elites who own the U.S. mass media would filter the news in a way that represents the interests of wealthy establishment elites.

The mainstream media would have you believe that providing adequate healthcare to America’s poor is an unsolvable conundrum. If they mention single-payer at all it is to declare, without any explanation, that it simply would not work in America. What they don’t tell you is that for-profit systems were abandoned by most of the developed world decades ago in favor of single-payer, universal care systems that deliver better healthcare at half the cost.

America has one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world. The top 10 percent of taxpayers pay 70 percent of personal income taxes. True statements frequently published by mainstream media. It strongly implies that rich people shoulder a disproportionate share of the tax burden. What they don’t tell you is that U.S. corporate taxes as a percentage of GDP are well below the average for developed countries. They also don’t tell you that if you include all taxes (not just income taxes) the top 10 percent share of all taxes barely exceeds their share of total income because almost all of those other taxes are regressive.

George Orwell’s vision of a dystopian future in 1984 featured an all-powerful government that maintained power by controlling all sources of information, but before the government can gain that much power it must first control the flow of information. Government can be either friend or foe depending on who controls it.

For the middle class, a government controlled by wealthy elites is not likely to be your friend.

Herbst is a retired corporate tax accountant who has lived in Rigby for 15 years. He’s now a full-time cross country skier, hiker and river rafter.