Dobbs Watch

Dobbs Thought We Devoted Websites to Him? Crazy, Man

From The Huffington Post, quoting former CNN TV personality Lou Dobbs from an August 14 radio interview:

The left wing, this time, is just as committed as the right wing used to be, coming after me for talking about free trade policies and they wanted to absolutely destroy me, and the National Association of Manufacturers dedicating entire websites to me because I was criticizing manufacturing policies — or the lack of a manufacturing policy. This is just crazy stuff.

Yeah, crazy.

Now, it’s true Shopfloor’s creator, Pat Cleary, created a “Dobbs Watch” category and liked to ding Dobbs for his more inane statements, especially his protectionist pronouncements. But the last time Shopfloor mentioned him before today was June 2008.

Anyway, we call those “posts,” Lou…”blog posts.”

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Executive Compensation Climbs, Bringing Protests

College Presidents Cashing In, Study Says:

The number of college and university presidents taking home eye-popping paychecks continues to climb – even as more and more students have trouble paying their tuition bills.

Fifty-nine presidents of public universities reeled in more than $500,000 in salary and benefits during the 2007-08 academic year, more than double the number who broke the half-million mark three years earlier, according to a survey by the Chronicle of Higher Education released on Monday.

Really? Why hasn’t Congress written compensation caps into the law? After all, hundreds of millions of federal dollars flow to these bloated, inefficient institutions every year.

More seriously, this brings us back to a point that came up in a talk at the American Enterprise Institute by Charles Murray, author of Real Education, which criticizes the nation’s emphasis on a four-year baccalaureate degree as the only education worth having.

If that’s so, and a structure of technical education with certification is a preferable system generally, then how do we get there from here? Universities and colleges are entrenched institutions, economically and politically.

Murray suggested many of the colleges would price themselves out of existence.

See Washington Post, October 30, “Cost of Higher Education Heading Up

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Lou Dobbs: Impeach Bush over Salmonella


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Lou Dobbs and Susan Schwab: Clear Winner

CNN has posted the transcript of Lou Dobbs Tonight from Wednesday featuring Dobbs’ interview with U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab, urging enactment of the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement. An illuminating exchange, both as to the facts of the agreement and to Dobbs’ rhetorical tricks.

You look at the strongest, most positive point in the U.S. economy today, it’s U.S. exports. 40 percent of our economic growth last year was attributable to the increase in exports. So, here you got this deal with Colombia we negotiated and you can throw a lot of aggregate numbers about jobs and trade, we put this together one deal at a time and this deal even Lou Dobbs should like.

Right now, Colombia gets almost unlimited access to the U.S. market. 92 percent of what Colombia produces has been coming in here duty-free since 1991. This free trade agreement opens Colombia’s market to our exports. And that means Caterpillar Tractors. It means John Deer equipment in Illinois. It means Sony televisions.

DOBBS: Coca-cola.

SCHWAB: Sony televisions out of Pennsylvania, apples, poultry, rice.

DOBBS: Sony televisions out of Pennsylvania?

SCHWAB: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania shipped to Colombia. We have today 8,000 small and medium sized businesses that ship to Columbia. Right now, they face tariffs up to 35 percent. Here’s the key. If we’re going to be competitive vis-a-vis China, for example, those 8,000 small, medium-sized companies are competing with the Chinese for the Colombian market. If this free trade agreement goes through, we have the edge. We are more competitive.

Etc. The case wins on its merits. Which means that Dobbs then switches the debate to generalities.

DOBBS: What I don’t agree is the overall policy of free trade that has been pursued by this administration and previous administration and point of fact since 1976 is in the interests of the United States. We’ve run 32 consecutive years of trade deficits. We need to get a handle on what is a sensible trade policy.

This nonsense, as this administration has advanced it even before you were trade representative, I would say that Mr. Market is, you know, Mr. Market’s happy, we’re all happy. That is such utter nonsense in international trade, in international finance, in our domestic economy.

We are going to be paying for those misjudgments for years and future generations for years if we don’t come to terms with it. Why can we not have a rational, balanced mutual reciprocal trade policy?

Populist generalities.

And would Dobbs prefer a Mr. Market that’s not happy? A dour, glum market that retreats into itself?

P.S. As always, thanks to CNN for posting its transcripts. CNN does a fine job in speedy, accurate posting of its programs’ transcripts, a service that certainly brings this reader back to its pages. The other cable news networks could learn from its example.

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Lou Dobbs, What a Class Act

Lou Dobbs had U.S. Trade Representative Susan C. Schwab on his program tonight to talk about the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement. His opening gambit:

Free trade. It sucks and I have been saying that for years.

We’ll have more once CNN posts the transcript.

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Dobbs Roots for Recession

Dobbs WatchBecause populism thrives on pain. From his CNN commentary.

And let’s be honest and straightforward, as I hope our president and the candidates for president will be: This stimulus will not prevent a recession. It may ease the pain for millions of Americans, but a recession we will have. The question is how deep, how prolonged and how painful will it be. Unfortunately, we’re about to find out how committed and capable our national leaders are at mitigating that pain and producing realistic policy decisions for this nation that now stands at the brink.

Why not go for full-blown depression, Lou? That would really prove you right.

Meanwhile, the Lou Dobbs for President movement continues to generate delusions, self- and otherwise. William Lemke would approve.

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Lou “Shermanesque” Dobbs in Detroit

Dobbs WatchMichael Barone says Lou Dobbs might run for President? So reports You know he just wants the attention.

We note that Detroit Free Press business columnist Carol Cain interviewed the CNN personality during his recent trip to Michigan. So what about that presidential buzz? Dobbs:

“I’m an advocacy journalist,” he said. “I cannot imagine being a candidate for any office and certainly not president…”

Phew. Thanks, Lou, for finally dispelling all that political blather (no offense, Mr. Barone), which appeared to be nothing more than reporters stroking an uncontrolled ego.

But, wait, Dobbs had something else to add? “I would be the candidate of last resort.”

Aww, ick. He’s still autostroking.

Elsewhere, more keen political insight from the CNN pundit:

On Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm: “I think she is terrific and is one of the most engaged and capable chief executives of any state in the union. She’s facing more challenges than any other governor in this country. I give her high marks in a difficult job.”

From the New York Times political blog back in October:

Unemployment in Michigan is 7.4 percent, the highest in the country, where the average is 4.6 percent. And the size of the labor force keeps shrinking.

Out of desperation, Jennifer Granholm, Michigan’s Democratic recently signed an increase of 11.5 percent in the income tax and expanded the state’s 6 percent sales tax to include some business services.


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David Brooks: Lou Dobbs is Winning

Follow the Fundamentals,” Brooks writes in today’s New York Times.

So it’s worth pointing out now more than ever that Dobbsianism is fundamentally wrong. It plays on legitimate anxieties, but it rests at heart on a more existential fear — the fear that America is under assault and is fundamentally fragile. It rests on fears that the America we once knew is bleeding away.

And that’s just not true.

Brooks cites the World Economic Forum’s recent report that ranked the United States as the most globally competitive country in the world, saying the foundation’s of U.S. prosperity are strong.

P.S. Good thing the Times dropped its subscription wall putting Brooks and his editorial page colleagues off-limits to general readers. Hurry up, Wall Street Journal!

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Third Way: Making the Case for Trade, II

Third Way has now posted its news release and report, “Why Lou Dobbs is Winning,” released at a Capitol Hill news conference today. It’s a very helpful contribution to the public debate, especially for those who understand the economic and empirical arguments about trade’s value, but who also recognize the powerful political, activist and media forces (e.g. Dobbs) aligned against the openness and opportunity that trade represents. Politicians respond to those forces, so trade advocates have to make compelling counterarguments.

The report identifies three reasons for the failings of trade supporters:

  • A failure of vision. Free trade has succeeded when it has been linked to compelling causes, such as winning the Cold War. Today, the overall goal of US engagement in the world is far less clear.
  • Values trump data. Opponents of free trade appeal to values like “fairness” and “justice,” while proponents rely on data and opaque economic theory.
  • An anxious middle-class. Trade proponents have not offered policies that help restore confidence to a middle-class that has been profoundly shaken by the negative impacts of globalization.
  • In many ways, the report reads like a good campaign or marketing document: We have a strong case and a great product, now let’s help the consumer appreciate the value. There are many, many manufacturing workers in America earning very good livings right now thanks to U.S. exports. We need to tell their stories with more vigor and frequency.

    In addition, Third Way calls for policies that address the economic anxieties that give rise to anti-trade sentiment. We can debate the particulars — although the emphasis on education, investment and innovation is definitely well-placed — but the need to engage is beyond doubt.

    So good work and good timing, as Congress gets ready to act on the free trade agreements with Peru and then Colombia and Panama (and eventually Korea).

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    The Third Way: Making the Case for Trade

    From The Politico:

    “Today free trade is in free fall,” writes the centrist Democrat group Third Way in a report entitled “Why Lou Dobbs Is Winning,” to be released Wednesday.

    The report’s authors target Dobbs, CNN’s resident populist anchor and commentator, as typical of a growing backlash against trade. And they fault the free trade community for allowing public perception of their efforts to become so negative.

    “Our policies and arguments in defense of trade have stayed static in the last few decades — even as the world around us has changed dramatically,” write Anne Kim, John Lageson and Jim Kessler of Third Way.

    Now, we like to mock Lou Dobbs as much as the next blog. (Obviously. We have a blog category, “Dobbs Watch.”) Dobbs IS a classic blowhard and populist bully, and on free trade he’s wrong. And yes, he has a big megaphone. But we also worry about lending him too much influence. He’s not why free trade is suffering as an issue.

    The rise of anti-trade sentiment is a complex one, but certainly electoral politics play a key role. Organized labor’s place in the economy has slipped dramatically as membership numbers fall (7.4 percent of private sector workforce is unionized) and global competition and technology place a premium on flexibility and adaptability — not labor’s strengths. But labor still wields tremendous political influence through organization and its millions of dollars in campaign spending. With many Democrats frustrated at being out of power in Congress for a decade, the organizational and financial support of labor (as well as anti-war “netroots” and leftwing activists) became irresistable. And labor has just a few demands.

    How are cool economic arguments about the benefits of trade, no matter how persuasive AND empirical, supposed to overcome that bald political self-interest?

    Chicken/egg, we know. Which came first, the unpopularity of trade or the rising political influence of anti-trade forces? After reading economist Bryan Caplan’s “Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies” we’re inclined to think the former — that with an anti-market, anti-foreign bias, voters tend to oppose trade. It takes hard work by advocates and political leaders to overcome that bias, to win the arguments on behalf of prosperity and trade. And when the leaders bail out because of electoral self-interest, the work becomes even harder.

    More about Third Way later.

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