On Thursday, December 31, The Washington Post published an article, presented as a news story, which could be a signal of the death of the Post as an independent and objective news source. The piece, entitled “Support grows for tackling nation’s debt,” appeared to be one of those background news pieces common in newspapers like the Post. But article was written not by the newspaper’s reporters – and not by an objective wire service, like the Associated Press – but by a new organization called The Fiscal Times, whose founder and major backer, Peter G. Peterson, has a long-term ideological commitment to convincing Americans that “support is growing for tackling the nation’s debt.”
A group of concerned policy scholars and advocates today sent a letter of protest to Andrew Alexander, Ombudsman at the Washington Post. See the signers below.
Dear Mr. Alexander:
We strongly protest the printing in the Washington Post of an article taken verbatim from an extremely biased source. The article, “Support grows for tackling nation’s debt” (page A-10, 12/31/09) appears to be a straightforward, objective news story, only opaquely revealing that the piece was “produced by the Fiscal Times.” Nowhere is it disclosed that the Fiscal Times is funded by an individual, Peter G. Peterson, who has spent the last thirty years in a crusade to undermine Social Security. Shame on the Post for presenting this propaganda as journalism.
Consistent with Mr. Peterson’s bias, the story glowingly reports increasing support for a deficit reduction commission, and fails ever to mention that over forty national organizations, including the AFL-CIO, AFSCME, Common Cause, NAACP, National Organization for Women, SEIU, to name just a few, have been outspoken in their opposition to the proposal. Indeed, most readers would have little idea from this story that there was any opposition whatsoever to the proposed commission.
Even worse, the Post has apparently entered into a partnership with the Fiscal Times and plans to publish other artilces from that source. We respectfully urge the Post to rescind the partnership. The Post should maintain its independence, reserve opinion pieces for the op-ed page, and not allow itself to be a propaganda arm for ideologues who use fiscal distress as a stalking horse to destroy social insurance.
Please note that we are submitting this letter to the Post’s editors for publication. Notwithstanding that, we respectfully request that you respond to us about this very serious matter. In that regard, we have provided the contact information for the first signatory at the end of the email. As you can see, the response among Social Security experts was swift and strong, notwithstanding that the piece appeared on New Year’s Eve. In the event that we receive more signatories over the weekend, as we expect we will, we will forward the additional names to you on Monday.
Nancy J. Altman, author, The Battle for Social Security (John Wiley & Sons)
Dean Baker, Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research
Merton C. Bernstein, Coles Professor of Law Emeritus, Washington University
Robert H. Binstock, Professor of Aging, Health, and Society, Case Western Reserve University
Suzanne Blouin, retired, Office of Communications, Social Security Administration
Barbara Burt, Executive Director, Frances Perkins Center
Dale Coberly, co-author of the Northwest Plan to restore Social Security to balance
Nancy Dapper, Executive Director, Western & Central WA Chapter, Alzheimer’s Association
Patricia E. Dilley, Professor of Law, University of Florida
Stephen Gorin, Professor, Plymouth State University, Plymouth, NH
Roger Hickey, Co-Director, America’s Future
Eric Kingson, Professor, Syracuse University School of Social Work
Robert Kuttner, Founding Co-Editor, American Prospect
Theodore Marmor, Professor Emeritus, Yale University
Gerald A. McIntyre, Directing Attorney, National Senior Citizens Law Center
Lawrence Mishel, President, Economic Policy Institute
Maya Rockeymoore, President, Global Policy Solutions
Max J. Skidmore, University of Missouri Curators’ Professor of Political Science, Thomas Jefferson Fellow, University of Missouri-Kansas City
Joseph White, Luxenberg Family Professor of Public Policy and Director of the Center for Policy Studies, Case Western Reserve University
Nancy J. Altman