March 11, 2018

On Trump Tariffs, AP Reporter Tries to Frighten, Misquotes Prominent Economist

The Associated Press’s Paul Wiseman has apparently tired of good economic news. Saturday, the AP reporter painted a frightening picture of what a trade war based on President Donald Trump’s planned tariffs on a tiny sliver of U.S. imports might do to the world’s economy, mischaracterizing a prominent economist’s position to build his case.

Wiseman opened with foreboding:

Trump tariffs may imperil a delicate global economic rebound

Things had been going along so nicely.

Over the past year, the major regions of the world finally shed the scars of a global financial crisis and grew in unison for the first time in a decade. Worldwide growth is expected to hit 3.9 percent this year — the best pace since 2011 — and the International Monetary Fund says most countries are sharing in the prosperity.

Upon reading this, Jack Hellner at American Thinker observed:

During Obama’s eight years of the slowest economic recovery in seventy years I do not recall the AP or other media outlets fret about the largest economy in the World stifling global economic growth.

Nor do I.

As seen above, Wiseman recognized the past six years’ anemic worldwide growth. In 2016, liberal economist Joseph Stiglitz admitted that these poor results were policy-based, and go back further:

Seven years after the global financial crisis erupted in 2008, the world economy continued to stumble in 2015. … the average growth rate in developed economies has declined by more than 54% since the crisis.

The dominant policies pursued by developed countries (including the U.S.) during the post-crisis period … have offered little support for household consumption, investment, and growth. On the contrary, they have tended to make matters worse.

Getting back to AP, Wiseman quoted economist Mark Zandi’s views on Trump’s planned steel and aluminum tariffs:

“Tariffs threaten to strangle the global golden goose,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics. “The global economy is on the same page for the first time in over a decade. This threatens to derail it.”

Unfortunately for Wiseman, I attended Wednesday’s ADP Employment Report conference call. My notes on what Zandi said on the call do not reflect the AP reporter’s soundbite portrayal:

(He) anticipates a proportional response from trading partners (Canada and Europe). But it could work out positively and tariffs will be more targeted instead of broad-based (but NAFTA is part of the discussion). Full-blown trade war is remotely possible and can’t be ruled out.

There’s a huge difference between a threatened derailment and a remote possibility. Wiseman didn’t cite Zandi’s sentiment that it could work out positively, even though an AP colleague was on the ADP call.

I don’t dispute that Zandi said what Wiseman wrote. But it’s very unlikely, based on my Wednesday notes, that what he quoted accurately reflects all of what Zandi told him. What Wiseman reported does not accurately reflect Zandi’s current position. If it had been properly reported, it would have gotten in the way of Wiseman’s gloom-and-doom narrative.

Cross-posted, with possible revisions, at NewsBusters.org.

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