Louis Uchitelle on Jason Furman
Ask the Mineshaft

Paul Krugman Ruins My Peaceful Saturday Afternoon

Job creation? - Paul Krugman - Op-Ed Columnist - New York Times Blog

Paul Krugman writes:

Job creation? - Paul Krugman - Op-Ed Columnist - New York Times Blog: Dean Baker is upset at a news report suggesting that John McCain — unlike Barack Obama! — is concerned with job creation. I feel his pain. If there’s one thing that stands out above all over the economic record of the past 16 years, it’s the contrast between stellar employment performance under Clinton and dismal performance under Bush. You can offer various excuses and explanations, but how anyone can suggest that Republicans are more committed to and/or credible about job creation is a mystery...

And so sends me on a pass through the internet that ruins what was a nice, peaceful Saturday afternoon.

The reporter is Perry Bacon Jr., of (surprise! surprise!) the Washington Post, whose death spiral thus continues:

McCain, Obama Clash on Economy: On Tuesday, both candidates discussed their plans to reduce health-care costs, an issue that provides one of the starker contrasts between McCain's emphasis on job creation and reducing regulation and Obama's focus on immediately easing financial problems.

McCain has proposed tax credits of $2,500 for individuals and $5,000 for families. They would have a limited impact on reducing the number of uninsured, but would reshape how Americans receive health care by encouraging more to get it on their own rather than through employers. Obama aims to reduce health-care costs and make health care affordable for every American, in part through greater regulation of insurance companies....

McCain aides said that, despite Obama's rhetoric about bringing people together, he has little record of doing so and that his ideas on the economy are those of a typical liberal Democrat. "We're not for increasing spending; that's the other campaign," Holtz-Eakin said...

To establish tax credits for health insurance requires the creation of a bureaucracy to assess and monitor health insurance plans--somebody has to decide purchase of which health insurance plans qualifies one for the tax credit, and which does not. Regulation via tax expenditur4es and a bureaucracy to define and monitor them is regulation--a point that eludes Perry Bacon Jr. His example of how McCain is for reducing regulation--well, that dog just won't hunt. And as for job creation--covering the uninsured definitely creates health-care jobs; tax credits to persuade people who almost all already receive employer-sponsored insurance to switch to catastrophic-only coverage is not and is not intended to be a job-creation measure. But Perry Bacon doesn't seem to realize this.

Nor does Bacon appear to realize that a government that spends through tax expenditure creates as many potential distortions as a government that spends through, well, spending--that is why they are called tax expenditures, after all.

We find this so often: reporters who have made no effort to get up to speed on issues so that they can have a chance of covering them in a way that informs their audience. This is no anomaly: remember: Perry Bacon Jr. is already known as the reporter who wrote the worst story fo the 2008 presidential campaign, and it is no accident that he works for the Washington Post.

Why oh why can't we have a better press corps?

Dean Baker has already done the heavy lifting on this:

Beat the Press Archive | The American Prospect: [Perry Bacon Jr. of t]he Washington Post contrasted the economic policies of Senators McCain and Obama by telling readers that "one of the starker contrasts between McCain's emphasis on job creation and reducing regulation and Obama's focus on immediately easing financial problems." While Obama has certainly made a point of crafting policies that are intended to ease the financial problems of low and moderate income families, most notably providing universal health care, it would be difficult to characterize Senator McCain's agenda as focusing on job creation.

Senator McCain's economic proposals center on maintaining the tax cuts put in place under the Bush administration. The economy has sustained the slowest pace of job creation on record during the Bush years, creating jobs at annual rate of just over 700,000 a year (0.5 percent). By contrast, it created jobs at almost a 3 million annual rate during the Clinton years. It would be wrong to attribute the entire falloff in the pace of job creation between the Clinton and Bush administrations to President Bush's tax cuts, but it would be difficult to argue that an economic policy that centers on maintaining these tax cuts has a "emphasis on job creation" as the Post told readers.