www.mozilla.com Weather Central
Voices
Headlines

Bias prevents civil discussion of education issues -9/18/2014, 9:35 AM

Immigration is American -9/18/2014, 9:35 AM

Costs to states not expanding Medicaid -9/17/2014, 10:14 AM

Medicare threats -9/17/2014, 10:12 AM

Green fields in northwest Kansas -9/17/2014, 10:12 AM

Consolidation by starvation -9/16/2014, 9:54 AM

School mergers tricky -9/16/2014, 9:54 AM

Hotel tipping -9/16/2014, 9:54 AM

Abuse video revealed nothing we didn't know -9/15/2014, 9:20 AM

Lessons from 13 years ago -9/15/2014, 9:20 AM

The zero option -9/14/2014, 1:31 PM

Why branding ISIS matters -9/14/2014, 1:31 PM

School efficiency -9/14/2014, 1:31 PM

Favors and loot for sale -9/12/2014, 10:10 AM

The 'college experience' -9/12/2014, 10:10 AM

Ellis schools -9/11/2014, 10:10 AM

Hold on, Mr. President -9/11/2014, 9:26 AM

The best bathroom -9/11/2014, 9:26 AM

The day the world stood still -9/11/2014, 9:26 AM

No one can play your part -9/9/2014, 9:55 AM

Playing candidate dress-up -9/9/2014, 9:55 AM

Congress at work -9/9/2014, 9:55 AM

Schmidt is the answer -9/9/2014, 9:55 AM

The liabilities of cannabis use -9/8/2014, 9:21 AM

Downtown decision -9/8/2014, 9:21 AM

Why are red states so far behind? -9/8/2014, 9:20 AM

Taylor's next move -9/5/2014, 10:16 AM

Consider trees to spruce up yard -9/5/2014, 10:15 AM

Washington takes action to reform VA -9/5/2014, 10:15 AM

Umbehr stands out -9/4/2014, 12:25 PM

Leadership education -- it's not a scam -9/4/2014, 12:24 PM

Not supporting Brownback's re-election -9/4/2014, 12:23 PM

A fair fair debate -9/3/2014, 9:23 AM

Suicide in today's age -9/3/2014, 9:23 AM

Regulation overreach -9/3/2014, 9:23 AM

Sharpton, Kobach's common ground -9/3/2014, 9:23 AM

In charge of all -9/3/2014, 9:23 AM

Pocket-book debate? -9/3/2014, 9:23 AM

Educating voters on education -9/2/2014, 9:33 AM

Crazy election season in Kansas -9/2/2014, 9:33 AM

An erosion of authenticity -8/31/2014, 4:39 PM

Blasphemy, free speech and the 'black mass' -8/31/2014, 4:39 PM

Labor Day -8/31/2014, 4:39 PM

Flexing muscles -8/29/2014, 10:00 AM

Blacks must confront reality -8/29/2014, 10:00 AM

The leadership scam -8/29/2014, 10:00 AM

Green monster -8/28/2014, 10:14 AM

The resurrection of Rick Perry -8/28/2014, 10:14 AM

Senate campaign -8/28/2014, 10:14 AM

Right to be heard? -8/26/2014, 10:08 AM

Over-covering Ferguson -8/26/2014, 10:07 AM

Figuring out the tax debate -8/26/2014, 10:07 AM

An obvious ploy -8/25/2014, 9:29 AM

Not-so-beautiful sunset -8/25/2014, 9:29 AM

Cannabis therapy -- Why bother? -8/25/2014, 9:29 AM

Business climate of Kansas -8/24/2014, 11:39 AM

James Foley: Courage in the face of danger -8/24/2014, 11:39 AM

Festering wound -8/24/2014, 11:39 AM

Big banks settling -8/22/2014, 10:16 AM

Tuition pays for this -8/22/2014, 10:16 AM

College textbook scam -8/22/2014, 10:16 AM

Policing a riot -8/21/2014, 9:45 AM

Evil strikes back -8/21/2014, 9:45 AM

Art appreciation -8/21/2014, 9:45 AM

Abuse of power -8/20/2014, 8:22 AM

Ferguson police arrest reporters for reporting -8/20/2014, 8:21 AM

Don't 'got milk' -8/20/2014, 8:21 AM

Another road map to success? -8/19/2014, 10:05 AM

It's the abuse of power, stupid -8/19/2014, 10:04 AM

Riots in Ferguson, and what they mean -8/18/2014, 9:57 AM

One of billions -8/18/2014, 9:57 AM

The GOP presents: Barack-nado -8/17/2014, 2:08 PM

Media and Missouri: What's going on? -8/17/2014, 2:08 PM

Answer the bell -8/15/2014, 8:58 AM

Get ready for denials -8/15/2014, 8:49 AM

Mental illness -8/15/2014, 8:49 AM

Mindless drones -8/14/2014, 9:27 AM

Can-do attitude -8/14/2014, 9:27 AM

'Poor door' -- a symbol of a truth we all know -8/13/2014, 9:19 AM

Eyeing the Ogallala Aquifer -8/13/2014, 9:19 AM

The slacker congress -8/12/2014, 9:02 AM

CIA vs. Senate -8/12/2014, 9:02 AM

The cannabis conundrum -- we against us -8/11/2014, 8:55 AM

The debate is over -8/11/2014, 8:54 AM

The 'Almost' Revolution -8/10/2014, 3:28 PM

Is cross a history lesson or state religion? -8/10/2014, 3:28 PM

Another downgrade -8/10/2014, 3:28 PM

State economy plays critical role in the future of FHSU -8/10/2014, 2:09 PM

Building on past successes for a stronger future -8/10/2014, 2:09 PM

Will Palin's channel rival Comedy Central? -8/8/2014, 9:25 AM

Western anti-Semitism -8/8/2014, 9:25 AM

Patrolmen without borders -8/7/2014, 10:13 AM

Not a choice -8/7/2014, 10:12 AM

Ebola politics -8/7/2014, 10:12 AM

Too few voters -8/6/2014, 10:03 AM

A special breed -8/6/2014, 10:03 AM

A license to vote -8/6/2014, 10:03 AM

Selfies in Auschwitz -- and why it's wrong -8/6/2014, 10:03 AM

Election turnout -8/5/2014, 9:19 AM

Dairy's closing -8/5/2014, 9:19 AM

myTown Calendar

SPOTLIGHT
[var top_story_head]

Reading up on the Bazillionaire Times

Published on -8/16/2013, 9:48 AM

Printer-friendly version
E-Mail This Story

Amazon's bazillionaire CEO is buying The Washington Post, America's second-most prestigious daily newspaper. Jeff Bezos only had to pay $250 million, less than 1 percent of his $28 billion personal fortune.

Has plutocracy finally overwhelmed our press? Some veteran journalists fear the worst. Another grand old family of American journalism, the lament goes, has stepped away. Who can we now count on to protect the public interest?

Let's cut this gauzy sentimentalizing.

Yes, the Graham family that owned the Post for the past 80 years did perform a notable public service after the 1972 Watergate break-in. But the Grahams may have performed an even greater service -- for plutocracy -- three years later when they hired "replacement workers" to grab away the jobs of striking Post pressmen.

That move broke the unwritten rule that had held sway among "respectable" employers for the entire mid-20th century and set a precedent that President Ronald Reagan would exploit, to the fullest, six years later. Reagan replaced striking air traffic controllers and busted their union, a two-step that would help shove the American labor movement on a three-decade-long slide.

Organized labor's descent has left the modern American workplace virtually "union-free." Less than 7 percent of America's private-sector workers now carry union cards.

None of these union workers, at last count, labor in Amazon's vast and often contracted-out warehouses. Exhausted after 12-hour shifts, these employees regularly wait, unpaid and for nearly a half-hour, at security checkpoints meant to detect pilfering.

A class action lawsuit against a contractor for the mammoth online retailer that runs many of its warehouses is pending. The plaintiffs accuse the warehouse operator of systematic wage theft.

Amazon has, to be sure, started making nice on some fronts. Last year, after a barrage of negative publicity, the company did install air-conditioning in its brutally hot warehouse workplaces.

But the company's basic, take-no-prisoners business model still is roaring along. That formula has made Bezos staggeringly rich and denied middle-class status to tens of thousands of American families. Workers at Amazon's distribution-center warehouses, CNN reports, take home approximately $24,300 a year.

That's barely more than the official poverty line for a family of four and far less than what Walmart pays.

We don't know what exactly Bezos has in store for the Washington Post. His PR people declined to make him available for interviews following the announcement of last week's sale, which included the mogul's official promise to not interfere in the newspaper's daily operations.

No surprise there. The Post editorial line already meshes quite smoothly with the Bezos worldview, liberal-ish on cultural issues, dependably conservative on anything -- like the labor movement -- that poses any serious potential threat to America's deep pockets.

In other words, working families will find in the new Washington Post no more crusading zeal on their behalf than they found in the old Washington Post.

So what's new? America's most powerful newspaper publishers always have been partial to the privileged.

But we've had exceptions, publishers who remind us how great newspapers could and should be wielding their power. The most eloquent of these public-spirited publishers? That may well have been Joseph Pulitzer, the idiosyncratic and widely revered force behind the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and New York World.

In his 1907 retirement address, Pulitzer urged his successors to "always oppose privileged classes and public plunderers, never lack sympathy with the poor, always remain devoted to the public welfare, never be satisfied with merely printing news, always be drastically independent, never be afraid to attack wrong, whether by predatory plutocracy or predatory poverty."

Don't expect any credo like that to appear on the Washington Post's masthead anytime soon. In his home state of Washington three years ago, Bezos played the predatory plutocrat to the hilt. He helped bankroll the defeat of a ballot initiative that would have cut taxes on average families and modestly raised taxes on the rich -- like himself.

OtherWords columnist Sam Pizzigati is an Institute for Policy Studies associate fellow. His latest book is "The Rich Don't Always Win." OtherWords.org

digg delicious facebook stumbleupon google Newsvine
More News and Photos

Associated Press Videos