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Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press The Washington Post's Name-Calling On Trade

The Washington Post's Name-Calling On Trade

Friday, 12 November 2010 06:15

Everyone knows that the Washington Post abandons any pretext of objectivity when it comes to trade. It once even famously claimed that Mexico's GDP had quadrupled from 1988 to 2007 in order to tout the benefits of NAFTA. (The actual increase was 82 percent.) So, it is hardly surprising that it resorted to name-calling in denouncing the opponents of the trade pact with South Korea.

It referred to these opponents as "protectionist voices" within the Democratic Party. Of course everyone involved in trade debates is protectionist, the only issue is who is being protected. This trade agreement would actually increase protections for items like copyrights and patents, increasing the cost to consumers of items like prescription drugs and recorded music and videos. This will slow growth and reduce jobs. The deal also does little or nothing to reduce the barriers that protect highly paid professionals like doctors and lawyers from international competition.

This is why it inappropriate to refer to the Korean pact as a "free-trade" deal. Does the Post require that reporters refer to every trade deal that it likes as a "free-trade" pact, instead of increasing accuracy and saving space by referring to it simply as a "trade" deal?

The Post also repeats the silly old trick of telling readers that the pact will help the economy creating 70,000 jobs in firms exporting goods to South Korea. Of course, the real story on job creation depends on both exports and imports. (Come on, does the Post really think it can fool readers with this one?) The country's trade deficit has increased with most of the countries with whom it has signed trade pacts in the last two decades, implying that by this crude measure the deals have been job losers. 

So, the main information that readers get from this front page article is that the Washington Post really likes the proposed trade pact with South Korea. But regular Post readers already knew this.

Comments (9)Add Comment
Trade Barriers to Legal Services Are Already Falling
written by LSTB, November 12, 2010 6:59
Already much high-end legal work is being outsourced to India.


Nor are most attorneys "highly paid professionals." The BLS's stats mask a multi-modal salary curve in which some lawyers make cash-sacks while others scrape for a living. Moreover, given the high unemployment in the legal sector, prices can't go down much further.
written by izzatzo, November 12, 2010 7:20
Of course everyone involved in trade debates is protectionist, the only issue is who is being protected.

Certain Americans in particular have engaged in socialist protectionism in attempts to use government intervention to reverse the complete stripping and gutting of their personal identity and property rights by "free" markets, which have monetized not only every cell of their bodies, but every facet of their souls as well.

Not one move, one utterance, one transaction goes unnoticed by the Free Market Monetization Machine:

"We noticed you have been drinking water. We'd like to add your entire personal profile and history to our corporate data bank for the rest of your life, so we can sell you water related products. To opt out of this offer which is otherwise mandatory, please fill out the 100-page form below and submit it monthly for life."

End protectionist socialism now. Support free trade.
written by Jim F., November 12, 2010 8:43
"the Washington Post really likes the proposed trade pact with South Korea. But regular Post readers already knew this."

I'm not too sure "regular Post readers" know much of anything ....
"Free" at last!
written by diesel, November 12, 2010 9:35
The word "free" is the most abused in the American language. Try, as an exercise, to write an essay on "freedom". It's damn hard to define. And impossible without invoking "rights", "property", "equal treatment", and an agreed upon code of values. Altogether a bird's nest of interlocking concepts each of which also requires lengthy explanation.

A "Freedom is being able to do whatever you want as long as you don't impinge on another person's freedom."

B "Give me all your money."

A "No, it's mine."

B "Who says so? I want it. I'm free to take it."

A "It's mine. It belongs to me. I earned it."

B "What do you mean, you "earned" it? And what does "belong" mean? Hand it over"

A "No. I worked for it. There is a justice. Money reflects honest labor."

And so forth. Standards are invoked as well as the necessity to adhere to standards--the very opposite of what people think they intend when they employ the word "free".

Imagine that you own a plot of land six feet long by two feet wide. It's yours. Your kingdom. Surrounding you is property belonging to a man named Freedman. It is 400 square miles in extent, twenty by twenty.

Now exercise your freedom.

You cannot take a step off your property without "harming" Mr. Freedman. To do so, you must pay him for your damage--a user fee.

Without a public sector--lands, sidewalks, roads, as well as air and water, we would all be in thrall to the owners of everything. This is clearly an untenable social model and the delusion of an insane mind.

The word "freedom" occurs more often in Republican ad campaigns and speeches than any other. Undefined, it is verbal garbage. Which is exactly why they use it.

written by liberal, November 12, 2010 10:59
diesel wrote, Without a public sector--lands, sidewalks, roads, as well as air and water, we would all be in thrall to the owners of everything.

Very good rant, but it lacks a certain sharpness: it omits mention of economic rent.

That is, owners of true capital have created something where before nothing exists; therefore, it's just that we compensate them when we use or borrow their works.

OTOH, owners of "land" (in the sense of classical economics, which means land in the traditional sense, but includes urban site value, EM spectrum, etc) contribute absolutely nothing; they're just parasitic toll collectors.

It's the latter that you want to focus your ire on. Conflating capital and land is a Marxist error, one that neoclassical economists are only too eager to adopt.
Only goal of all trade talks:
written by Martin Langeland, November 12, 2010 11:48
Who is protected? Who is plundered?
Confirmation of Dean's trade deficit stats
written by Todd Tucker, November 12, 2010 12:13
If you want to see confirmation of Dean's stats on trade deals and deficits, see a report Travis McArthur and I did at: http://bit.ly/bx3JJn
don't forget freedom fries
written by frankenduf, November 12, 2010 12:23
yo deez- i would also refine ur fine rant by pointing out a fairly prevalent use of the word- as dog whistle- that is, "freedom" in propaganda terms really is code for advancing corporate interests, for insider policy makers, while serving as the mythical meaning to the commoners- so, free trade policies benefit international corporatons, fighting for freedom in the middle east entails protecting privatized oil assets, the free market touted by the t party protects corporations from regulation and tax, etc
written by diesel, November 12, 2010 3:29
"Freedom" is the sugar Republican speechwriters pour over everything they serve up. It masks the absence of real substance while satisfying a craving for an easily digested plot. Just like All-American manufactured FoodStuff. Long on calories, short on nutrients. "A flabby Mind in a flabby body". That's the Red State motto.

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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.