And, I agree with Paul Krugman but he left something out.
I tried to watch last night's "debate" between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. I really did. Unfortunately, I lasted only about 50 minutes. I thought they were both horrible but I thought that in the time I watched, the Hill dominated the Don.
But let's go beyond that to the issues. I want to highlight two.
First, with his first question, Lester Holt led the two contestants on a tangent. Here's what he asked:
So, let's begin. We're calling this opening segment achieving prosperity and central to that is jobs. There are two economic realities in America today. There's been a record six straight years of job growth and new census numbers show incomes have increased at a record rate after years of stagnation. However, income inequality remains significant. And nearly half of Americans living paycheck to paycheck. Beginning with you, Secretary Clinton - why are you a better choice than your opponent to create the kinds of jobs that will put more money into the pockets of American workers?
No. Central to achieving prosperity [I take as given that we have prosperity and that he, and everyone else, understood that he meant increased prosperity] is not jobs. Central to that is economic growth. How do we achieve more than 2 percent growth in real GDP? So he gets them off-track from the get-go, talking about jobs instead of growth.
Granted that neither candidate seems to understand basic economics, and so they would both would have probably gone to jobs instead of growth anyway. But Holt shouldn't have been an enabler.
Second, free trade took a horrible beating last night. Here's how Paul Krugman put it:
More broadly, Trump's whole view on trade is that other people are taking advantage of us -- that it's all about dominance, and that we're weak. And even if you think we've pushed globalization too far, even if you are worried about the effects of trade on income distribution, that's just a foolish way to think about the problem.
So don't score Trump as somehow winning on trade. Yes, he blustered more confidently on that subject than on anything else. But he was talking absolute garbage even there.
But you know who else talked mainly, though not absolutely, garbage? Hillary Clinton. She started off well, saying:
Well, I think that trade is an important issue, of course. We are five percent of the world's population - we have to trade with the other ninety five percent.
I could nitpick and say that it's not literally true that we "have to." But we certainly should be allowed to.
Then the Hill went downhill. She didn't defend free trade and, like virtually all mercantilists, judged trade deals by whether they increase exports without taking account of the other half of benefits: lower prices and higher quality on imports.
*By the way, if you want to see an unintentionally hilarious piece on the debate, check out NPR's transcript with fact checks at various points. When they fact check the Don, they do it generally accurately and sometimes with a lot of attitude. E.g.,
There is no truth to the charge that the Clinton campaign or Hillary Clinton started the birther movement, as we've written. Donald Trump, however, for several years was the chief spokesman for it and the principal person pushing the falsehood. And Trump still has not apologized to the president of the United States for an effort that many African-Americans saw as an effort to delegitimize the first black president. Undoubtedly, Clinton and Obama fought a bitter 2008 primary campaign. Fringe supporters and advisers did go after Obama's "otherness." One of Clinton's informal advisers, Sidney Blumenthal, told a McClatchy bureau chief based in Africa to look into Obama's birthplace, according to that McClatchy bureau chief. But Clinton certainly did not take the show on the road. The false equivalence Trump is trying to draw isn't even remotely close to the same thing as what Trump did. For the record, once again, Barack Obama was born in Hawaii, something proved over and over again. Here's his birth certificate, the legitimacy of which Trump called into question explicitly as late as 2014.
Notice the schoolmarmy "And Trump still has not apologized to the president of the United States for an effort that many African-Americans saw as an effort to delegitimize the first black president." As if that is relevant to a fact check.
When they fact check the Hill, they do it well also. But what's interesting is how often they fact check him and how little they fact check her. E.g., the Hill's statement:
Trickle down it did not work. It got us into the mess we were in 2008-2009.
In context, she seems to mean by "trickle down" tax cuts for high-income people. But it got us into the mess we were in in 2008-2009? I hadn't heard that one. That was crying out for a fact check. NPR's answer: blank out.