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The nation owes a debt of gratitude to Washington Post columnist David Ignatius for once again making clear how arrogant and substantively clueless the Mainstream Media tends to be when discussing trade policy.

Last year, as I pointed out, this scion of Washington blue blood society displayed his elitist views on the issue by claiming that trade policy is “one of those subjects that often make people’s eyes glaze over.”  And it’s true that offshoring-friendly deals like NAFTA and the governing class’ bipartisan refusal to combat predatory practices like China’s currency manipulation haven’t cost many jobs – in the Georgetown salon circles in which Ignatius moves.  These measures and decisions, however, doubtless look different outside the Beltway and its government-dominated economy.

Ignatius’ high-handedness made its latest appearance this morning.  On Saturday, in his Fact-Checker feature, Ignatius’ Post colleague Glenn Kessler showed that a think tank figure touted by Ignatius as compelling evidence of the economic merits of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was an Obama administration concoction.

Ignatius’ reaction this morning?  “Kessler is right.”  After which he added “The case for free trade is strong enough that I didn’t need a shaky jobs number.”

But here’s what Ignatius didn’t tell readers:  The statistic that so impressed him – which depicted the proposed Pacific Rim trade agreement as a major job creator – was one of only two pieces of evidence he presented for considering the deal a plus for the U.S. economy.  And the other was even shakier.

Ignatius had cited the same think tank – the Peterson Institute for International Economics – in declaring that the TPP would be a major engine of U.S. export growth.  What he evidently doesn’t know is that the only valid way to judge a trade agreement’s impact on a signatory’s economy is to examine the import side as well as the export side.  And as I’ve documented, when Washington signs a trade deal with countries boasting impressive manufacturing sectors – as is the case with the TPP – imports have increased much faster than exports.  Worse, the resulting worsening of the American trade balance kills not only employment but growth itself.

Finally, Ignatius snooty self-correction demonstrates a troubling ignorance of what’s mainly at issue in Washington’s upcoming debates over the TPP, a possible agreement with the European Union, and new fast track trade negotiating authority for President Obama.  What the nation and its leaders need to decide is not whether there’s a strong case for an abstraction like “free trade.” What they need to decide is whether the specific agreements being negotiated will strengthen or weaken the economy.

Because this embarrassing combination of haughtiness and ignorance can only (rightly) turn off ever more Washington Post readers, I recommended last year that the paper’s new owner Jeff Bezos bar Ignatius from writing about trade and globalization.  The columnists’ latest howler makes my advice timelier than ever.