The WSJ’s unhelpful aggression
The front page of today’s WSJ has a big headline: “A President as Micromanager: How Much Detail Is Enough?”. The lead anecdote?
In briefing President Barack Obama one day this spring, White House economist Jared Bernstein delved into such arcana as the yields on different forms of credit relative to the risk. Later, Paul Volcker pulled Mr. Bernstein aside. “Why would the president want to know that level of detail?” asked the former Federal Reserve chairman.
“That’s what he wants,” Mr. Bernstein replied.
This is astonishing stuff, coming from the Journal. Any other US newspaper might be forgiven for underestimating the importance of credit spreads. But for the WSJ, in its lead paragraph, to characterize credit spreads as “such arcana as the yields on different forms of credit relative to the risk” is not only inaccurate (“relative to the risk” makes no sense) but also comes across as unpleasantly faux-naive, in the service of a contentious thesis.
This is part of the new Murdoch Journal, of course — the same paper which has for months been desperately trying to drum up some kind of Congressional expenses scandal by leveraging the power of its front page, to almost no visible effect. It’s aggressive, yes, and that’s normally a good thing. The problem is that it’s aggressive in a particularly unhelpful and often disingenuous way, and there’s no reason to believe that anybody at the Journal is going to stop this carrying through past the silly season of August.
The Journal is clearly desperate for a big political scoop, or at very least a scalp. But it’s sad that it’s letting its desperation show so obviously.