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Economy

Praising Biden, Macron Agrees ‘US Is Back’ Image via @Wikimedia Commons

Praising Biden, Macron Agrees ‘US Is Back’
Although former President Donald Trump and his MAGA ally Steve Bannon have been enthusiastic supporters of Marine Le Pen — the far-right National Rally leader and White nationalist who lost to President Emmanuel Macron in France’s 2017 presidential election — many on America’s right have been quick to bash France over the years, including the country’s economic policies. But liberal economist and New York Times opinion writer Paul Krugman, in his January 14 column, argues that France’s economic policies during the COVID-19 pandemic have been a succ

ess.

“For as long as I can remember,” Krugman writes. “U.S. media coverage of the French economy has been relentlessly negative…. The data never actually supported this negativism. What was really going on, I believe, was that business and economic discourse in the United States is strongly shaped by conservative ideology — and given that ideology, France, with its huge social expenditure, high taxes and extensive economic regulation, should have been a basket case. So, reporting about France seized on every negative development as a sign that the long-awaited disaster was finally arriving.”

Krugman adds, however, that the French government’s economic policies have worked well during the pandemic. France, he notes, has “not only managed to avoid a huge plunge in employment, but has also surpassed its pre-pandemic level.”

“My sense is that many Americans still imagine that France suffers from mass unemployment — a vision that had some truth to it 25 years ago but has long been out of date,” Krugman writes. “And prime-age employment is where France has done astonishingly well during the pandemic…. How did it do that?”

Krugman continues, “When the pandemic forced economies into a temporary lockdown, Europe, France included, and the United States took divergent routes toward supporting workers’ incomes. We offered enhanced unemployment benefits; France offered subsidies to employers to keep furloughed workers on the payroll. At this point, it seems clear that the European solution was better, because it kept workers connected to their employers and made it easier to bring them back once vaccines were available.”

The economist notes that although France has “its anti-vaxxers,” the country has a higher COVID-19 vaccination rate than the United States. Nonetheless, Krugman points out that American liberals and progressives shouldn’t think that France is idyllic.

“I don’t want to romanticize the French economy or French society, both of which have plenty of problems,” Krugman observes. “And liberals who like to imagine that we could neutralize the anger of the White working class by raising wages and strengthening the social safety net should know that France — whose policies are to the left of U.S. progressives’ wildest dreams — has its own ugly White nationalist movement, albeit not as powerful as ours.”

The economist adds, “Still, at a time when Republicans denounce as destructive ‘socialism’ any effort to make America less unequal, it’s worth knowing that the economy of France — which isn’t socialist but comes far closer to socialism than anything Democrats might propose — is doing pretty well.”

Republished with permission from Alternet

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Reprinted with permission from PressRun

News that U.S. inflation inched up 0.5 percent last month set off another round of excited media reports, as news outlets pounded one of their favorite themes in recent months. Convinced that rising prices are the defining economic issue of the day — not huge job gains, record-setting GDP predictions, or boosted wages — the press continues to portray inflation as a uniquely American problem that’s hounding Democrats.

“President Joe Biden suffered a new blow to his economic agenda this week,” Politico announced, pointing to the new inflation figures. “That prompted the Biden White House to scramble to do damage control in the face of attacks by Republicans.” The Associated Press on Wednesday stressed that inflation is “heaping pressure on President Joe Biden and the Federal Reserve to address what has become the biggest threat to the U.S. economy.”

The New York Times: “A troubling development for President Biden.” The Washington Post headline: “Democrats Worry Biden Could Pay the Political Price For Rising Inflation.” (The first person quoted in the piece was a GOP pollster.)

What’s missing from the inflation coverage is the consistent acknowledgement that the trend of rising prices is a global phenomenon, fueled by the pandemic. The Politico report made no mention of worldwide inflation, neither did the Times or Post dispatches; the AP included just one sentence.

Dismissed or downplayed is the fact that systemic, record-setting inflation has taken hold in virtually every major economy:

• “Germany: Annual Inflation Hits Highest Rate Since 1993

• “Italian Inflation Hits Highest In More Than A Decade On Energy

• “Mexico Ends Year With Inflation At 7.36%, Most In 20 Years

• “Russian 2021 Inflation Accelerates To 8.39%, Preliminary Data Shows

• “Spain's Annual Inflation Jumps To 6.7% At End Of 2021, Highest Since 1989

“UK Inflation Hits 10-Year High Ahead Of Key Bank Of England Meeting

• “Canada's Annual Inflation Rate Matches 18-Year High, Set to Keep Rising"

Thanks to international reporting, we know inflation is on the rise around the world. But news consumers here have to search that information out because it’s rarely included in coverage of the U.S. economy. Most often, domestic inflation is presented in a silo, independent from the global economic trend that has been sparked by a worldwide virus.

Meanwhile, the press eagerly trumpets Republican claims that Biden’s agenda is responsible for inflation, while failing to point out that it wasn’t the infrastructure bill or Covid relief legislation that prompted inflation to jump to 4.7 percent in Canada, 5.1 percent in the U.K and and 6.7 percent in Spain. Inflation is occurring everywhere, so it’s not Biden’s policies that are to blame. The press prefers a more linear narrative, and seems to deliberately leave out the international context. That allows journalists to frame the story as a Dem vs. GOP one, as if policy adjustments from Biden would cure inflation.

Today’s unfortunate economic trend is clearly caused by the pandemic, which warped global supply and demand patterns, creating a mismatch that has driven prices higher. Energy costs and shipping bottlenecks are two major, driving factors. One reason inflation sprouted so quickly in the U.S. is that consumer demand is booming as the economy has recovered from Covid faster and stronger under Biden than most people ever thought possible.

Still, Republicans claim Biden is driving up prices by passing large spending bills. Government spending is bad because it fuels inflation, the GOP claims over and over in the press.

Yet eager Republicans just helped pass a $768 billion defense budget. When Trump was president, Senate Republicans supported pumping trillions of dollars into the economy in order to battle the effects of the pandemic shutdown. The GOP, with help from the press, is still able to frame inflation as a problem Biden created and must be penalized for. The Post: “Republicans argued the new inflation numbers were another sign that Biden’s policies are not working.”

There’s nothing subtle about what the GOP is doing. Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) last year told the Wall Street Journal that rising prices were a “gold mine” for Republicans, suggesting the party hopes consumers will continue to have to pay higher prices this year.

The press trumpets that GOP message. Inflation is a “political nightmare for Biden,” CNN recently stressed. The Associated Press, while conceding that consumer spending is way up, claimed inflation was “casting a pall” and that upward prices, not plummeting unemployment, dominated water cooler talk in the U.S. When weekly jobless claims recently fell to a 52-year low, the New York Times ran yet another excited Biden inflation piece on the following day’s front page. News of the historic jobless numbers ran on page B3.

It was no surprise that a recent AP poll found consumers fixated on inflation: “Income Is Up, But Americans Focus on Inflation.” Why is that? Americans are inundated with the media’s constant inflation coverage, most of which omits the fact the trend is now happening all around the world.

Reprinted with permission from PressRun