NYT Reporter, Peter S. Goodman, on Trade

By March 8, 2008General

Peter S. Goodman (Reed, ’89) of The New York Times is one of the top economics reporters around, so it was a pleasant surprise to find an interview with him in the alumni magazine. Always interesting to see a mainstream reporter on the record in a publication that expects its subject to be frank and interesting. Looks like Peter adopted the journalist’s old dodge: On the one hand, on the other hand, a pox on both their houses, and look at this straw man.

A lot of people blame places like China and India—and their low-wage workers—for our economic woes. Is that reasonable?

Most of what ails us in this country, and most of the threats facing American workers, are home-cooked. We don’t compete with China, except in a very limited sense. If we jack up the value of the Chinese currency, and Chinese workers are making $1.25 an hour as opposed to $1.00 an hour, we’re not all of a sudden going to start making tube socks in North Carolina for a living and prospering.

I think that when the Democrats, in particular, essentially demagogue the trade issue and pin the blame for problems with the American economy on trade, they are disingenuously avoiding the solutions that would be complicated and expensive, namely, large-scale public works projects funded by the government to create good jobs, job training, making education a whole lot more affordable, universal healthcare, affordable housing. The Republicans, by the same token, have this dogmatic devotion to free trade, and they’re being disingenuous in not acknowledging that there are all sorts of problems that result from globalization, and markets create winners as well as losers. It’s ultimately an issue of domestic policy how we address the losers.

Do Republicans really not acknowledge that problems result from globalization? Really? And we hear daily from Democrats calling for public works projects, job training and universal healthcare.

We’re fans of Goodman, who does fair-minded and insightful reporting. Still, it always seems like a risky idea for a beat or hard-news reporter to express personal opinions on policy matters (Linda Greenhouse’s commencement speech at Harvard being a prominent example, albeit one at the extreme). You open yourself to charges of bias; Republicans and Democrats, for example, might well take umbrage at being called disingenuous (the polite term for dishonest).

We recall the guidance of introductory reporting professor Mel Mencher, delivered to a class of students at Columbia Journalism School, fall of ’84: “No one cares what you think!”

Join the discussion One Comment

  • Biggy says:

    We don’t compete with China, except in a very limited sense………….. What? You are kidding, right? Every day is a fight against customers demanding the “China price” for American made products.

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