excuse me while my head explodes

Source: New York Times

The New York Times, the reliable organ of the establishment center left, published an editorial today on the rage against trade in this year's election cycle. It was sort of a ho-hum piece of the sort that the paper publishes from time to time, tut-tutting the electorate for lacking the sober judgment so well exhibited by the members of Gray Lady's editorial board. In this case, it pointed out that a larger amount of American job loss can be attributed to automation than to trade. (This assessment, by the way, is entirely correct. But many of the arguments against the environmentally destructive pro-business, anti-labor character of many international trade agreements are parallel to those that could be advanced against automation. Right now arguments that the benefits of automation should be more widely shared, say by shortening the work week, are not particularly influential. Should they become so, however, I have little doubt that the NYT would find reasons to oppose them.) The implication of the piece is that the Very Serious People have things under control and that the rabble should avoid getting too passionate about things they don't really understand.

The point of my post here, however, is not to share my thoughts on international trade. (I do plan to do that here someday, and this older post touches on the subject somewhat.) Instead, I just needed to voice by incredulity at this one particular sentence in the editorial. It read as follows:

While trade is not the cause of all or even much of the wage stagnation or increased income inequality in the past several decades, there are real problems with trade agreements, as Hillary Clinton and her former rival Senator Bernie Sanders have pointed out.

As Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have pointed out? That is a crazy way to relate what happened in this year's Democratic primaries. No one reading that sentence would imagine that a central component of the Clinton "brand" (going all the way back to her husband Bill's presidency) is support for free trade, that Hillary Clinton supported NAFTA in the 1990s and voted for normalizing trade relations with China as a Senatorial candidate in 2000, or that she supported the Trans Pacific Partnership in this year's election cycle until its vast unpopularity with Democratic voters forced her to come out against it. A far more accurate rendition of this sentence would read along the lines of "...as Hillary Clinton, under pressure from her former rival Bernie Sanders, has been forced to point out."

Thus the paper is criticizing the popular opposition to trade while at the same time presenting their favored candidate as being more opposed to trade than she really is, precisely because of the popular opposition to trade. Not cool, New York Times. Not cool.