I have been reading Charleston's daily newspaper for eight years and am constantly astounded at the mean, ignorant, superstitious and misleading things which appear on that benighted newspaper's editorial and op-ed pages. I have written about this in my weekly column several times, but I know the futility of trying to write a letter to the editor of the P&C. Therefore, I am emailing this to the editors of our dear city's daily, and posting in on my blog so that others may have a chance to see it and, hopefully, gain a little insight.
Yes, it is true that the editorial and op-ed pages of the P&C have improved remarkably since Barbara Williams was replaced as editorial pages editor by Charles Rowe two years ago. We now have a number of liberal and enlightened syndicated columnists — including Maureen Dowd, Nicholas Kristoff, Paul Krugman and Bob Herbert — but the op-ed page is still overwhelmingly rightwing blather from The National Review, the Hoover Institute, the Club for Growth, the Heritage Foundation, the S.C. Policy Council and other corporate mouthpieces.
The editorials are no better. This is a paper that has not endorsed a Democrat for president since 1932. That means three endorsements for Richard Nixon, two for George W. Bush, to say nothing of a host of largely forgotten figures who were briefly in the national spotlight and in the hearts of the P&C editorial board. As predictable as the tourists returning to Market Street in the spring, the editors of the P&C rouse themselves from sleep each morning and report to work for the purpose of bashing Democrats, especially President Barack Obama. In light of their long love affair with George W. Bush, their regular lacerating of Obama is especially hypocritical and implausible. But it is what generations of Charlestonians have come to expect and one must assume it is what generations of the Manigault family, who own the paper, have come to demand. And so the editorial board grinds out its daily drivel as the rest of us grind our teeth, clench our fists, and endure.
Yet, perhaps the worst of the editorial and op-ed pages is given over to letters to the editor. Here we see a perfect reflection of South Carolina's public education system, as local philosophers and historians write in to denounce evolution as a Marxist conspiracy, to call President Obama a socialist, to deny that the Civil War was rooted in the conflict over slavery, and otherwise demonstrate the ignorance that has made South Carolina a national laughing stock and given us a regular place on "The Daily Show."
Apparently, the editors take the position that if somebody else writes it, they take no responsibility for the content or veracity of it. Their only job is to print it in the paper.
How else to explain the letter which ran a few weeks ago, claiming Obama's current budget carries a $15 trillion deficit? The whole budget is less than $3 trillion and carries a$1.6 trillion deficit. But if the letter bashes Obama, who on the editorial board would quibble over details?
On March 13 came another absurd letter, this one from Thomas C. Mobley of Johns Island. Mobley claims that the State of Oregon recently did away with a subsidy on hybrid vehicles because tax revenues on gas had dropped so precipitously. He used this "fact" as a jumping off point to rail against the use of any tax as an incentive for good behavior or penalty for bad behavior: "The call to tax the next guy today is a call to raise taxes on yourself tomorrow. Giving the government a free hand to use taxes to force smokers to quit is also a free hand to force you to quit whatever it is that you're doing, at least as long as the government is taking your money, forcing you to quit."
If the editors had not been so credulous and happy to believe this libertarian claptrap, they might have been suspicious of Mobley's initial claim. Had hybrid cars actually sent Oregon's gas tax revenues into the toilet? If the editors had been more diligent in their task, they might have asked Mobley for some proof of his claim. Failing that, they might have gone online to see what they could find.
What they would have found was that Oregon did, indeed, end the $1,500 hybrid tax incentive on January 1, 2010, but it had nothing to do with plummeting gas tax revenues. The state now offers a tax incentive for the purchase of electric "plug-in" cars, which use no gas at all! This is, in fact, a more aggressive effort to ween drivers off gasoline.
The 11,000 hybrid owners who have claimed the tax break since 1999 hardly represented a threat to Oregon's gas sales. Any knowledgeable person would have been immediately suspicious of Mobley's claims to the contrary. It seems the editorial page editors at the P&C were not very knowledgeable or very curious. If they had been, they could have put the whole question to rest at http://archives.chicagotribune.com/2009/jun/12/news/chi-ap-or-electriccars-taxc