Paul Krugman on the Campaign Issue the Media Can No Longer Ignore

Paul Krugman has been harshly critical of the media during this presidential campaign for false equivalency between the two candidates, and exaggerating Clinton's scandals, but he takes no prisoners in his Friday column. His subject is climate change, an issue on which the Trump and Clinton could not be more diametrically opposed. The media's failure to ask questions of the candidates on this vital topic is badly in need of redress.

We do essentially know where they stand. "If Hillary Clinton wins, she will move forward with the Obama administration’s combination of domestic clean-energy policies and international negotiation — a one-two punch that offers some hope of reining in greenhouse gas emissions before climate change turns into climate catastrophe," Krugman writes. "If Donald Trump wins, the paranoid style in climate politics — the belief that global warming is a hoax perpetrated by a vast international conspiracy of scientists — will become official doctrine, and catastrophe will become all but inevitable."

Of course, it's nothing new that the media seems to be ignoring this issue, except periodically when a damaging storm like Hurricane Matthew arises. But even then, not much context is given. In Krugman's view, the Obama administration has not been given enough credit for its progress on environmental issues, like "the green energy revolution that the administration’s loans and other policy support helped promote, with plunging prices and soaring consumption of solar and wind power." There has also been a signigicant tightening of fuel efficiency standards particularly for trucks and buses. "And if Mrs. Clinton wins, it’s more or less certain that the biggest moves yet — the Clean Power Plan, which would regulate emissions from power plants, and the Paris climate agreement, which commits all of the world’s major economies to make significant emission cuts — will become reality," Krugman continues.

On the other hand, Trump.

Still, if Republicans try to place his nutjob ideas about climate change being a hoax invented by China in order to damage our economy outside of the mainstream, don't let them. The GOP is riddled with climate change deniers and conspiracy theorists.

Why are we not hearing about the stark gap in these two positions? No questions about it at the “commander in chief” forum, none at the first presidential debate, nor at the vice-presidential debate. On that last one, Krugman writes:

Somehow Elaine Quijano, the moderator, found time for not one but two questions inspired by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget — an organization concerned that despite relatively low budget deficits now and extremely low borrowing costs, the federal government may face fiscal problems a couple of decades down the line. There may be something to this, although not as much as deficit scolds claim (and Ms. Quijano managed to suggest that Mrs. Clinton’s proposals, which are fully paid for, are no better than Mr. Trump’s multitrillion-dollar debt blowout).

But if we’re worried about the longer-term implications of current policies, the buildup of greenhouse gases is a much bigger deal than the accumulation of low-interest debt. It’s bizarre to talk about the latter but not the former.

It matters a lot. It especially matters to millennial voters, according to polls. And with the media not doing its job, these and other voters are getting the impression that there is no significant difference between the two major candidates. 

And that is dead wrong.

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