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What The Media Tell Americans About Free Enterprise

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January 1998


ABC’s David Ensor and NBC’s John Palmer
IMF Bailout Balance

In an unusual move, two network correspondents — ABC’s David Ensor and NBC’s John Palmer — included limited-government arguments in an economics story about a large government spending plan.

Neither Ensor nor Palmer concluded that opponents of U.S. support for the International Monetary Fund (IMF) were correct, but both at least included such opponents’ views in their stories about IMF bailouts of Asian economies.

"And now," Ensor reported on the January 9 World News Tonight, "a growing number of international economists are questioning the whole idea of IMF bailouts." Why? "First, they argue that the painful medicine the IMF imposes on Asian economies may only make the patient more sick."

Ensor then noted that there was "another problem, in Indonesia many big businesses are believed to be corrupt, closely tied to President Suharto’s family, and unwilling to change their ways."

"Finally," he reported, "a lot of economists say banks, including many major American banks, are being rewarded for bad investments."

Ensor then ran a soundbite from James Glassman of the American Enterprise Institute, who quipped, "Capitalism without bankruptcy is like Christianity without hell. There has to be consequences, otherwise people tend to make bad investments."

"The Clinton administration insists the bailouts will help ease the pain on Asian economies and the rest of the world," Ensor concluded, "but for the moment at least, officials admit the problem is only getting worse."

On the January 10 Nightly News, John Palmer reported that "the plunge in stock prices on Wall Street yesterday prompted concern that Indonesia’s problems will continue to affect other world economies until the Suharto family embraces the economic program insisted upon by the International Monetary Fund in exchange for a $43 billion bailout."

"But," he added, "some economists say that’s the wrong approach." He then ran a soundbite from Ian Vasquez of the Cato Institute, who contended that "an IMF bailout postpones, not promotes, market reforms. If the IMF did not step in, countries would be forced to introduce reforms in any event and they would do it in a much faster way."

Palmer noted that "administration officials disagree. They say the plan offered by the IMF is the best one to restore confidence in Indonesia and to forestall any form of political unrest that might shake Indonesia, one of America’s staunchest allies in Asia."

So while both Ensor and Palmer included Clinton administration views that Americans should support the IMF bailout of Asian economies, kudos to them for also including a dose of skepticism in their stories about Asia and the International Monetary Fund.


Rich Noyes


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