‘Ardently Protectionist’ WaPo Ignores Entire World

Economist Dean Baker (Beat the Press, 6/20/09) has requested you try to “imagine a front-page Washington Post article that talked about how the United States had a shortage of small cars.” He reasonable assumes such a piece would address “the limited capacity of the various small-car assembly plants” and “discuss the amount of lead time needed to build new plants. It would also talk about the need to raise small-car prices because it is so much more profitable to build big cars”:

Imagine that the article never once mentioned the possibility of importing small cars. That’s the front-page Washington Post (a.k.a. “Fox on 15th“) editorial warning readers that “Primary-Care Doctor Shortage May Undermine Reform Efforts.”

Yes, the United States already has a shortage of primary-care physicians. Any serious reform plan will make this shortage worse by cutting back our excessive reliance on specialists. However, primary-care physicians can be trained (to our standards) anywhere in the world. There are millions of very smart people in the developing world who would be delighted to train to U.S. standards and work for the $170,000 year (net of malpractice insurance) that our primary -care physicians. (Developing countries could train 2-3 physicians for everyone that came to the United States if we placed a modest tax [e.g., 10 percent] on the earnings of foreign-trained physicians and repatriated it to the home country.)

“Writing about the potential to increase the number of foreign-trained primary-care physicians in the United States by removing legal and professional barriers,” Baker tells us, would only be possible “if the Post were not such an ardently protectionist newspaper…. However, trade never even enters the Post‘s discussion. It was only interested in telling readers about problems with President Obama’s healthcare plan.”