Sunday, August 23, 2009

Referring to "Some Critics" and "Critics Say": Lazy Journalism?

I try to be specific when I'm referring to the opinions of others but I'm sure I fail sometimes. What puzzles me is how often I've seen articles lately that do not name their sources when a quoted or paraphrased opinion seems easily attributable. It's not a state secret to have an opinion. Here's an article on the Cash for Clunkers program by Ken Thomas of AP:
... the Cash for Clunkers program encouraged more than a half-million Americans to dump their gas guzzlers for new cars and provided a much-needed, short-term boost to the economy.

Critics say that's hardly the whole story. They view the $3 billion program as the equivalent of a Ford Edsel, a lemon of a policy and an example of Obama administration willingness to cherry-pick winners and stick taxpayers with the tab.

"Ford Edsel, a lemon of a policy" is catchy and sounds like a direct quote to me. But the person who made it wants it off the record? Odd. At the very least, Thomas should say whether the critic is a Republican.

Thomas, however, does quote Chris Edwards of the Cato Institute:
"It increases the government's debt and will probably, like those other temporary programs, produce higher inflation in the future."
Let's see. The United States has had inflation for every year since the 1970s. Republicans in most of the years they have controlled the White House, Congress or both have outspent the Democrats. Under their watch, the real estate bubble, combined with fraudulent financial instruments in the mortgage industry, was the primary cause of the recent economic meltdown. But housing costs were so inflationary during the Bush years they gotten taken off the books. And conservatives were nowhere to be found. In the meantime, meaning today, the auto industry around the world is in a nosedive. The Cash for Clunkers program has put a brake on that nosedive and that's all.

In addition, the purpose of the Clunker program, besides trying to help the auto industry, is to help consumers afford cars with better gas mileage. What, if I can ask a rhetorical question, was another big cause of the economic meltdown? High gasoline prices! Surely it's not hard for Edwards to understand that higher mileage per gallon is not, I repeat, not inflationary. Actually, what the hell is Chris Edwards talking about, anyway? If he's doing anything other than mouthing conservative boilerplate to cover 30 years of failures, I can't see it.


Let's go to another article. It seems conservatives are nervous that China's stimulus package will actually help their economy. So in the last two weeks, with the temporary drop in China's stock market, conservatives have been talking about inflation and employment problems in China. Well, let's take a look at an article titled "China Growth Can't Fulfil Jobs Demand: Ministry":
Some critics have argued that Beijing's 585-billion-dollar economic stimulus, unveiled in November, did not give sufficient support to the labour-intensive sectors and firms that create most jobs.

Now I admit I don't know what continent or even what political persuasion "some critics" adhere too but I have seen conservatives express similar opinions. The simple truth, which has been known for some time, is that China is going to have an employment problem for another 10 to 20 years. It is, after all, an emerging economy. But let's look at another part of the article:
The government has pledged to create nine million new jobs this year and keep the urban registered unemployment rate below 4.6 percent.

Conservatives can throw as many monkey wrenches at that sentence as they want. But the Chinese may deliver on that pledge and there aren't many countries even capable of fulfilling that pledge. In a year when most economies are down or barely raising their GDP more than 1 or 2%, China is having an off year and will have a growth of some 7 to 8%. But if the Chinese stock market slips for a few days, American conservatives are ready to jump.

Let's finish with another article on China, this one from The Wall Street Journal:
While the country might shift benignly to stable levels of economic growth, it faces the risk of a renewed slowdown -- or worse -- next year, asset bubbles, overcapacity in basic industries or a burst of inflation from all the money the authorities have injected into the economy.

Conservative economists (and writers) are raising the specter of inflation. For many reasons, inflation is a real concern but it is trivial compared to an economy dead in the water. We know in the coming 20 to 30 years that we have entered a new era. Fossil fuels, all by themselves, make it likely that a wide range of prices will go up and down and sideways. The world has wasted thirty years ignoring the fact that it has not developed the energy of the future. People in the 1950s were already aware that the oil age was going to have a finite life, one sufficiently short that attention needed to be given to what the next energy source would be for sustaining the modern world.

China is building infrastructure for the future. It shows signs that it gets it. Even Japan is changing its ways. In Japan, the economics of Milton Friedman is dead. What the second and third largest economies in the world realize is that the conservative agenda laid out in the United States is not working. What will work is a combination of government and business working together. What will not work is giving $10 million bonuses to sociopaths and narcissists who could care less about the long term effect of their actions on the economy of their nation.

Will Obamanomics work? I have no idea. In my opinion, Obama is not going far enough. And much still depends on psychology. There can be no question that Republicans are doing their best to gum up the works and bad mouth the results. They do not want Obama to succeed. Ultimately, they do not want America to succeed. If America succeeds under Obama, conservatives will have to do something they would despise: admit they're wrong. Actually, they've been wrong on the economy for a very long time.

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