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
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.