Times Tries To Rationalize Japan’s Failure With Stimulus Spending
By Don Feder
Monday February 9, 2009

The New York Times has spent the past few weeks pushing the Democrats’ Porky Pig-ulus Spending Package. Like other causes the paper takes up, its advocacy extends to the alleged news pages.

A recent article tried to rationalize Japan’s demonstrable failure with government spending to counteract an economic slump.

In the early ‘90s, Japan’s economic miracle went belly-up. Between 1991 and 2008, Tokyo spent $6.3 trillion on public-works projects.

The recovery still hasn’t happened. But Japan has managed to accumulate the largest public debt in the industrialized world — totaling 180% of its $5.5 trillion economy.

The Times admits, “Among ordinary Japanese, the spending is widely disparaged for having turned the nation into a public-works based welfare state.”

But the front-page editorialists have several handy explanations: 1. Tokyo didn’t spend quickly enough, 2. spending was for the wrong projects, and 3. Japan may not have spent its way out of a recession, but managed to forestall a 1930s-style depression (which was never a threat).

At various points in the story, The Times tells us that “many economists are taking a fresh look at Japan’s troubled experience,” “many economists” believe infrastructure spending “can help revive a developed economy,” and “some Western economists who have studied Japan’s experience say the stimulus accomplished more than it is now given credit for.”

Who are these economists? The Times cites exactly one — a professor of Japanese economics at Columbia.

An ad in The Times on January 28 — which declared “we the undersigned do not believe more government spending is a way to improve economic performance” — was signed by more that 200 economists, including Nobel laureates.

When reading The New York Times, unnamed “experts” should be treated with the same skepticism as UFO sightings.

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