Friday, January 6, 2017

Donald Trump's Fake Jobs Policy

It's generally very difficult to pull solid analysis out of a Paul Krugman commentary but it is getting easier with every new Donald Trump tweet.

I was able to pull this out of a mixed-bag Krugman New York Times essay:
The incoming administration’s incentive to engage in fake policy is obvious: It’s the natural counterpart to fake populism. Mr. Trump won overwhelming support from white working-class voters, who believed that he was on their side. Yet his real policy agenda, aside from the looming trade war, is standard-issue modern Republicanism...

So what can Mr. Trump do to keep the scam going? The answer is, showy but trivial interventions that can be spun as saving a few jobs here or there. Substantively, this will never amount to more than a rounding error in a giant nation. But it may well work as a P.R. strategy, at least for a while.

Bear in mind that corporations have every incentive to go along with the spin. Suppose that you’re a C.E.O. who wants to curry favor with the new administration. One thing you can do, of course, is steer business to Trump hotels and other businesses. But another thing you can do is help generate Trump-friendly headlines.

Keeping a few hundred jobs in America for a couple of years is a pretty cheap form of campaign contribution; pretending that the administration persuaded you to add some jobs you actually would have added anyway is even cheaper.

Still, none of this would work without the complicity of the news media. And I’m not talking about “fake news,” as big a problem as that is becoming; I’m talking about respectable, mainstream news coverage.This is true even if, as often happens, the articles eventually, quite a few paragraphs in, get around to debunking the hype: many if not most readers will take the headline as validation of the claim.

And it’s even worse if headlines inspired by fake policy crowd out coverage of real policy.

It is, I suppose, possible that fake policy will eventually produce a media backlash — that news organizations will begin treating stunts like the Carrier episode with the ridicule they deserve. But nothing we’ve seen so far inspires optimism.

Sorry, folks, but headlines that repeat Trump claims about jobs saved, without conveying the essential fakeness of those claims, are a betrayal of journalism.


  1. This is just getting very weird. Paul Krugman has to invent ways to be against massive infrastructure spending. (I expect that from him. He's a political shill.) But really, RW, you're using PK to back you up in DT bashing? Why? You can find economists everywhere to back you up on that. You're not helping yourself here.

    1. ^^^ yes I agree. Using Krugman is stupid. To a first time or new reader, they will see this and think, "wow this blog is not libertarian at all."

    2. Axel onetwoman,

      Are you saying that, in this case Paul Krugman is wrong? Why?