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Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press NYT Finds Economists Without Names to Criticize Japan's Plans for Stimulus and Promote "Free-Trade" Agreement

NYT Finds Economists Without Names to Criticize Japan's Plans for Stimulus and Promote "Free-Trade" Agreement

Monday, 18 February 2013 22:28

Most economists have names, but the NYT managed to find some without names to give critical comments on the stimulus plans of Japan's prime minister, Shinzo Abe. An article on Mr. Abe's plans told readers:

"Economists say Mr. Abe’s policies so far contain few of the deeper-reaching structural reforms that they say are needed to produce sustainable growth by encouraging competition in Japan’s sclerotic economy. They say the most symbolic step would be joining a Pacific-wide free trade pact that would force Japan to open sheltered domestic markets, like farm products."

It would be interesting to know which economists have this view, because some economists, like Paul Krugman, have argued that the main obstacle to Japan's growth is a lack of demand. They have advocated exactly the sort of expansionary fiscal and monetary policy that Abe is now advocating.

It is also worth noting that the Pacific trade agreement mentioned in this piece cannot properly be described as a "free-trade" agreement. Most of its provisions have nothing to do with trade and some involve increased protectionism, like stronger patent and copyright protections.

The piece also referred to "Japan’s already stifling national debt." It's not clear how it has determined that Japan's debt is "stifling." The interest burden of Japan's debt is roughly 1.0 percent of GDP, roughly two-thirds the current size of the U.S. interest burden and one-third of the burden the U.S. government faced in the early 1990s. The interest rate on long-term Japanese debt is just 1.0 percent. And, it is facing deflation, not inflation.

If the debt is stifling Japan's economy, it is not showing up in the data. If the economists cited in this article had names perhaps people could try to figure out what they meant.

Comments (7)Add Comment
"They" Might Be Those Trend Setting Van Pattens
written by Frankly Curious, February 18, 2013 10:28
Decades ago, a letter writer asked David Letterman who people were referring to when they say things like, "They say broccoli is good for you." Dave's answer was, "Those trend setting Van Pattens!"

I think that must be who Martin Fackler is referring to in the article. In fact, it might well be Dick, who I noticed is still alive. At 84, he doubtless has a lot of wisdom to impart. But if not him, perhaps Vincent, Nels, or Jimmy. Regardless, if the Van Pattens say Shinzo Abe is doing the wrong thing, I'd trust them. They say the Van Pattens are very good at economics.
Economists without names...
written by Sandwichman, February 18, 2013 10:33
I do think it is about time that these "economists without names" are exposed for the hack propagandist frauds that they are. Usually the phrase "economists say" stands for "this is what the boilerplate always says but I can't be bothered to actually ask a real person to confirm it."
the Van Pattens
written by Sandwichman, February 18, 2013 10:55
Yes, I think Frankly Curious may be on to something. If Dave says it's the Van Pattens, that's good enough for me. After all, broccoli IS good for you!
Daniel Vasella of Novartis got $78 mil severance for his know-how
written by JaaaaayCeeeee, February 19, 2013 1:02
and shareholders still can't stop execs from looting corporations http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02...f=business

Dean Baker (and Krugman, Stiglitz, Thoma and others) are a lot better for us.
Mystery Economist
written by Bart, February 19, 2013 7:15

Amity Shlaes?
written by watermelonpunch, February 19, 2013 10:04
RE: Van Pattens.

Sounds more like maybe Debbie Downer got a degree in economics for the express purpose of attempting to exert psychologically for people who are shit-scared that PM Abe might actually be dealing with reality.

Abenomics, it's the number one killer of domestic cats.
written by Jay, February 19, 2013 7:01
Who knows whether any economists were actually contacted? The credibility is suspect without real sources. Names makes all the difference in evaluating things.

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About Beat the Press

Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books, his latest being The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. Read more about Dean.