Learning from experience

Learning from experience

by digby

Krugman's column today discusses Clinton's economic policy speech from earlier in the week and he makes a very valuable observation about it which should prompt thoughtful people in the media to think about how they cover her over this next year and change.  He writes:

Hillary Clinton gave her first big economic speech on Monday, and progressives were by and large gratified. For Mrs. Clinton’s core message was that the federal government can and should use its influence to push for higher wages.

Conservatives, however — at least those who could stop chanting “Benghazi! Benghazi! Benghazi!” long enough to pay attention — seemed bemused. They believe that Ronald Reagan proved that government is the problem, not the solution. So wasn’t Mrs. Clinton just reviving defunct “paleoliberalism”? And don’t we know that government intervention in markets produces terrible side effects?

No, she wasn’t, and no, we don’t. In fact, Mrs. Clinton’s speech reflected major changes, deeply grounded in evidence, in our understanding of what determines wages. And a key implication of that new understanding is that public policy can do a lot to help workers without bringing down the wrath of the invisible hand.
[E]mployers always face a trade-off between low-wage and higher-wage strategies — between, say, the traditional Walmart model of paying as little as possible and accepting high turnover and low morale, and the Costco model of higher pay and benefits leading to a more stable work force. And there’s every reason to believe that public policy can, in a variety of ways — including making it easier for workers to organize — encourage more firms to choose the good-wage strategy.

So there was a lot more behind Hillary’s speech than I suspect most commentators realized. And for those trying to play gotcha by pointing out that some of what she said differed from ideas that prevailed when her husband was president, well, many liberals have changed their views in response to new evidence. It’s an interesting experience; conservatives should try it some time.

Read the whole thing to understand how the thinking has changed on this over the years. It's fascinating. But I think he's hit upon something important in political coverage: when a politician takes a different position on policy from earlier positions (or, in her case, from her husband's positions) the press assumes that she's flip-flopped for political reasons. But it's always possible that she has changed her mind based upon new evidence. If reporters spent some time probing these differences instead of doing Trey Gowdy's wet work for him, they might learn something. It doesn't have to be a "gotcha" situation. It's perfectly legitimate to ask what changed someone's mind --- and letting them explain it.

It's facile and dumb to assume that Clinton has become "more liberal" (or has gone back to being liberal) solely because she's trying to sew up the base or whatever. She's been in public life a long time. Maybe she's learned something. That's not usually considered a bad thing.

And, by the way, that should apply to Republicans too. Krugman rightly points out that they aren't usually too influenced by actual evidence, but you never know.