Must Read: Paul Krugman: Trade, Trust, Obama, Warren, Politico, and Journamalism

Must-Read: Ah! Here we are: trade, trust, Obama, Warren, Politico, and journamalism. Paul Krugman sees the Obama administration engaged in something it does rarely: trying to depress the substantive level of discussion in the public sphere. And he sees Politico do something that it does sufficiently often that it seems to me to do so more often than not in those of its pieces that cross my screen: work not to inform its readers but rather to misinform them in order to please that subset of its sources it believes it really works for.

I confess I do not know how to improve the public sphere–short of taking note of when the bosses of organizations like Politico make moves to degrade it:

Paul Krugman: Trade and Trust, Obama, Warren, Politico, Journamalism: “One of the Obama administration’s underrated virtues is its intellectual honesty…

…[in] every area, that is, except one: international trade and investment. I don’t know why the president has chosen to make the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership such a policy priority…. There is an argument to be made… some reasonable, well-intentioned people are supporting the initiative…. But other reasonable, well-intentioned people have serious questions about what’s going on. And I would have expected a good-faith effort to answer those questions. Unfortunately, that’s not at all what has been happening….

Some already low tariffs would come down, but the main thrust of the proposed deal involves strengthening intellectual property rights–things like drug patents and movie copyrights–and changing the way companies and countries settle disputes…. International economic agreements are, inevitably, complex, and you don’t want to find out at the last minute… that a lot of bad stuff has been incorporated…. So you want reassurance that the people negotiating the deal are listening to valid concerns…. Instead… the Obama administration has been… trying to portray skeptics as uninformed hacks who don’t understand the virtues of trade. But they’re not…. It’s really disappointing and disheartening to see this kind of thing from a White House that has, as I said, been quite forthright on other issues…

Must-Read: Paul Krugman: Hypocritical Sloth: “Yesterday [Edward-Isaac Dovere and Doug Palmer of John Harris, Jim VandeHei, and Mike Allen’s] Politico posted a hit piece on Elizabeth Warren…

…alleging that she’s being hypocritical…. It was clearly based on information supplied by someone close to or inside the Obama administration–another illustration of the poisonous effect the determination to sell TPP is having on the Obama team’s intellectual ethics. Second, the charge of hypocrisy was ludicrous nonsense–‘You say you’re against allowing corporations to sue governments, yet you were a paid witness against a corporations suing the government!’ Um, what? And more generally, the whole affair is an illustration of the key role of sheer laziness in bad journalism.

Think about it: when is the charge of hypocrisy relevant?… Someone can declare that inequality is a problem while being personally rich; they’re calling for policy changes, not mass self-abnegation. Someone can declare our judicial system flawed while fighting cases as best they can within that system–until policy change happens, you have to live in the world as it is. Oh, and it’s very definitely OK to advocate policies that would hurt one’s own financial interests–it’s just bizarre when the press suggests that there’s something insincere and suspect when high earners propose tax increases. So why are charges of hypocrisy so popular [especially among journalists who work for John Harris, Jim VandeHei, and Mike Allen? Mainly, I think, as a way to avoid taking on policy substance…. The same motives drive the preoccupation with flip-flopping…. So maybe this head-scratchingly weird hit on Warren will serve as a teachable moment, a reminder that journalism about policy should be, you know, journalism about policy.

June 1, 2015

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