01 June 2005

Washington Post: You Call This Media Liberal?

I usually ignore the Business section of the Post, but I had some extra time on my hands and read Steven Pearlstein's commentary on the French "non" vote on the EU Constitution.

I couldn't believe I was reading the Post, which likes to portray itself as sophisticated, cosmopolitan, and urbane; it seemed I was reading the W.Times or some publication of the John Birch Society. Pearlstein begins with this little dig against "non" voters: "otherwise intelligent and cultured people think Polish plumbers, Turkish chambermaids and American hedge-fund managers are the reasons their pay is stagnant, their children are unemployed and their health and welfare systems are fraying at the edges" [italics added]. Apparently this opposition to so-called free markets has something to do with xenophobia, Pearlstein implies. Certainly, France has plenty of xenophobia to go around (although to the best of my knowledge they don't have "minutemen" patrolling their borders), but Pearlstein just displays his ignorance when he ascribes the defeat of the EU Constitution to this cause.

It gets worse, though, with Pearlstein asserting that the French, and Europeans in general -- oh yeah, with the exception of England -- are lazy and unambitious. Somehow he forgot to throw in that they smell funny and the women don't shave their armpits.

Pearlstein did a "live online" today in which he resorted to pathetic name-calling when faced with challenges to his snide column. Here's an example:

good deal, but it is a fantasy -- it is unsustainable: You mean, of course, that its utterly unsustainable by having a near total trade balance, and very limited
govt. debt. I totally agree. Our "muscular free market capitalism" is so much
more sustainable, especially with those ever so sustainable huge debts and trade
deficits! We're doing fab! We can keep this up forever!
Spare me. I'd buy your argument if you'd bother noting that our supposed "free market" system was in even worse shape than the Euros are in. Between our huge debts, and our addiction to SUVs and gas guzzling, we're far more likely to go down than they are.
Who's kidding themselves?

Steven Pearlstein: Maybe you should move to
the eco-socialist paradise of Finland or Sweden.

Wow. Take that. America, love it or leave it.

And so it went for the live online chat, which I read after the fact. When confronted with evidence that free market capitalism had structural issues and also relied on heavy (if hidden) subsidies from government, Pearlstein consistently retreated to name-calling and redirection. Not what you'd expect from a seasoned reporter.

As an example of Europeans' supposed laziness, Pearlstein gets on his high horse about their paid holidays: "If the French and Italians aren't serious enough about reform that they can give up one of their dozen paid holidays every year..." [WP]. 12 paid holidays? The sloths! I hope Pearlstein realizes that here in the hard-working U.S. of A., it's fairly common for workers to have 11 or 12 days paid holidays a year. In fact at GWU right here in the District of Columbia, employees are granted an astounding 12 days! The damn Francophiles. I mean, what is his point?

Are the massive national debt and the long-running trade deficit seen as "sustainable"? At what point do we collapse under the weight of our debt?

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