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Paul Krugman: Publicity Stunts Aren’t Policy

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All hat and no cattle:

Publicity Stunts Aren’t Policy, by Paul Krugman, NY Times: Does anyone still remember the Carrier deal? Back in December President-elect Donald Trump announced, triumphantly, that he had reached a deal … to keep 1,100 jobs in America rather than moving them to Mexico. And the media spent days celebrating the achievement. …

Around 75,000 U.S. workers are laid off or fired every working day, so a few hundred here or there hardly matter…. Whatever Mr. Trump did or didn’t achieve with Carrier, the real question was whether he would take steps to make a lasting difference.

So far…, there isn’t even the vague outline of a real Trumpist jobs policy. And corporations and investors seem to have decided that … Mr. Trump is a paper tiger in practice. …

In other words, showy actions that win a news cycle or two are no substitute for actual, coherent policies. Indeed, their main lasting effect can be to squander a government’s credibility. Which brings us to last week’s missile strike on Syria.

The attack instantly transformed news coverage of the Trump administration. Suddenly stories about infighting and dysfunction were replaced with screaming headlines about the president’s toughness…

But outside … the news cycle, how much did the strike actually accomplish? A few hours after the attack, Syrian warplanes were taking off from the same airfield, and airstrikes resumed on the town where use of poison gas provoked Mr. Trump into action. …

In fact, if last week’s action was the end of the story, the eventual effect may well be to strengthen the Assad regime — Look, they stood up to a superpower! — and weaken American credibility. …

The media reaction … showed that many pundits and news organizations have learned nothing from past failures. …

The U.S. fired off some missiles, and … Mr. Trump “became president.” Aside from everything else, think about the incentives this creates. The Trump administration now knows that it can always crowd out reporting about its scandals and failures by bombing someone. …

Real leadership means devising and carrying out sustained policies that make the world a better place. Publicity stunts may generate a few days of favorable media coverage, but they end up making America weaker, not stronger, because they show the world that we have a government that can’t follow through.

And has anyone seen a sign, any sign, that Mr. Trump is ready to provide real leadership in that sense? I haven’t.


Source: http://economistsview.typepad.com/economistsview/2017/04/paul-krugman-publicity-stunts-arent-policy.html


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