Mark Gritter (markgritter) wrote,
Mark Gritter
markgritter

The STrib Never Ceases to Amaze

The featured commentary in this Sunday's "Opinion Exchange" advocated economic "self-sufficiency" by cutting off all world trade. Through punishing tariffs, I guess, rather than an outright ban; she also advocated punishing tax treatment of "U.S.-based multinationals." All this is couched in vague language about the United States' founder's ideals and revolutionary fervor; nostalgia for the time of corner stores (Hint: Wal-Mart is not a foreign corporation); and a mishmash of idealism about restoring prosperity, ecology, and eliminating class warfare.

Where to begin? It's obvious Blodgett has not thought about any downsides to her utopia, and doesn't have any idea what is a foreign import and what's produced locally. Big Pharma, Wal-Mart, and high-tech finance? All locally produced. And what's this nonsense about Microsoft abandoning "U.S. customers in order to focus on China"?

Just one specific example: fresh fruit in winter is often imported from Mexico or Chile. The eggplants I picked up yesterday came from Holland! Making these more expensive doesn't really help farmers--- sure, the U.S. Southwest might benefit, and greenhouse manufacturers would have a ball. But all these are expensive ways to replace a foreign market that doesn't really even compete with the domestic one, but complements it.

Blodgett thinks we can just do without oil imports if we had to. "Energy rationing would no longer be an option. We would do it voluntarily." What the heck does that even mean, other than massive disruption of the existing industrial base?

As for exports, the only ones Blodgett seems to have thought about are agricultural. But U.S. export of capital goods alone exceeds that of agricultural goods by a factor of four! This January alone, the world bought $4.3 billion of our semiconductors, and another $4 billion in computers and computer accessories. Those are products where scale is crucially important--- we can make these products more cheaply because there's an export market. Maybe if Blodgett offered an actual economic argument, we could talk about the costs and benefits of comparative economic advantage. But her column is just wishful thinking.

So, really, why does the Star Tribune dedicate that much space to a local writer's fantasy scenario? Is it some misplaced sense of loyalty to local viewpoints? Is it purely a cost-driven decision that actual expert opinion was too pricey? Or does somebody think this was the sort of dialogue that contributes something worthwhile?

The rest of the section was no prize either. Another local writer, Doug Champeau, complains that retail workers at Target have it harder than unionized, educated professionals in Wisconsin. (Why this doesn't lead him to at least consider unionizing escapes me. Does he think unions just happen? When did our discourse switch from "hey, the union guys get better pay and conditions, maybe that would be good for me too" to "hey, those union guys sure are overpaid and underworked, maybe they shouldn't be able to unionize?") Katherine Kersten trots out the usual explanation that middle-class voters don't like to raise taxes on the rich because they imagine they could be rich someday too. The counterpoint on property taxes was at least rational, if dull.
Tags: economics, news, newspapers, rant
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