I never thought I could be persuaded to experience nostalgia for Clinton, but David Ignatius comes close in his Washinton Post column this morning: “Dishonest trade talk.” Ignatius reminds us that Clinton’s message during his 1996 reelection campaign was that there was no easy escape from global competition. Protectionism would only hurt U.S. workers in the long run.
But then Ignatius has to spoil it by reminding us, “The answer was education and job training that would give U.S. workers the skills to compete — to ‘build a bridge to the 21st century,’ as Clinton put it in the signature line of the 1996 Democratic convention.” For Ignatius, this is more Clinton truth-telling; for me, it’s a perfect reminder of why I could never listen to Clinton without mentally retching.
Ignatius rightly completes the circle of economic fatuity by referring to the Republicans who have disowned the administration’s chief economist, Gregory Mankiw, for the “gaffe” of saying that “outsourcing” jobs abroad can be beneficial, by lowering costs and improving efficiency. Ignatius notes that in economic terms, Mankiw’s statement was utterly noncontroversial (unless you imagine that it’s good for workers if companies have high costs and go out of business).
Ignatius’s column is good but, as his weakness for Clinton’s “bridge to the 21st century” suggests, compromised by serious partisan or analytical limitations. Today’s Wall Street Journal reminds us that, on this subject, Thomas Sowell sets the analytical gold standard: “Low taxes do what?” And you won’t want to miss his column on the “Big lie of the year.” Sowell begins the column by conceding that this is an election year and that any final determination of the big lie of the year is probably premature.
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