Saturday, July 29, 2006

A Case Study in Headline Editorializing

Yesterday's Bangor Daily News contains an article about changes in regulations governing bidding for federal government contracts. In essence, more areas of Maine will be classified as "Historically Underutilized Business Zones," which will give the businesses within them an advantage in the bidding process.

As required by the federal Small Business Reauthorization Act of 1997, HUBZones get 3 percent of the 23 percent of contracts the federal government awards small businesses annually for a huge array of products, McLean said.

McLean is none other than Millinocket Town Councilor Bruce McLean, whom Lance Dutson has interviewed about his involvement with the Millinocket Area Growth and Investment Council. The BDN quotes Senator Olympia Snowe as lauding McLean's involvement in getting the regulations changed:

"He really made a difference," Snowe said. "Now we want to make sure that all of the eligible businesses that can use the program do so."

So far, so good. McLean says this, the newspaper reports it. Snowe says that, the newspaper reports it.

The article writer, Nick Sambides, actually does an even-handed job in reporting what is occurring here, without editorializing. The headline writer (and headline writers are usually not the folks who write the articles), however, seemingly cannot resist editorializing on the story:

Vote aids business in rural Maine

Sambides carefully chose his language to merely state that small rural businesses would now be able to become members of an advantaged, or preferred, class when they bid on government contracts. He refrained from stating his own thoughts about whether it would actually be helpful for businesses in rural Maine to become yet more feeders at the government trough. He does offer, without comment, this quote from Jack Cashman:

Exactly how many Maine businesses would benefit from the change is impossible to tell, state Economic Development Commissioner Jack Cashman said. Nor is there any guarantee that Maine businesses will get government contracts, but the state windfall could be considerable.

"Government contracts are a way of life for some companies," Cashman said late Wednesday.

Yet the headline writer has obviously read too much into the story, and let his or her bias for government interference in the economy to become manifest. No mention of the costs that we all pay in the government's social engineering experiment, in which it takes a large chunk of the wealth of its citizens and then redistributes some of it to politically connected entities.

This is the danger of large government that most people still fail to recognize. It enables economic planners such as Cashman and McLean use the confiscatory power of government taxation to siphon money from the economy, and then "invest" it into projects that they, the Philosopher-Kings of Maine, deem worthy. They may be well-meaning authoritarian ideologues, and fancy themselves as beneficent hoi aristoi, but they are doing the rest of us hoi polloi great harm.

Maine needs to entirely dismantle its Department of Economic and Community Development, and put nothing in its place. Ditto for MAGIC, and all regional economic planning bodies. If we just let private citizens and businesses keep more of the wealth they are creating, all of us will be better off. Government has an abysmally poor record of choosing which businesses to subsidize. Let's take that choice out of its hands.



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