The Blog of the Frances Perkins Center

Washington Post parrots the Peterson “deficit reduction” line

In Political world on January 6, 2010 at 10:12 am

In what’s turning out to be an embarrassing misstep, on December 31st the Washington Post printed a story created by The Fiscal Times, a paper funded by Pete Peterson, Wall St. tycoon, founder of the Concord Coalition and the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, and longtime opponent of social insurance programs such as Social Security.

Peterson has been one of the main forces behind a push to force a fast-track commission on the Congress that would propose cuts in social programs in the name of deficit reduction. He reportedly is spending tens of millions to influence members of Congress to support the commission.

The Washington Post article, Support grows for tackling nation’s debt, included this statement:

“I think there’s more interest in the proposal not only in Congress but at the White House because there’s a growing realization the deficit and the debt are reaching such levels they can’t be ignored any longer,” said Robert L. Bixby, executive director of the Concord Coalition, a nonpartisan group that advocates entitlement reform and balanced budgets.

Note that the spokesperson is the executive director of the Concord Coalition — another Peterson connection. The Post later appended this statement to their article:

Correction to This Article
The article by the Fiscal Times, about growing congressional support for a bipartisan commission to address the nation’s debt, contained a statement supporting the concept by Robert L. Bixby, the executive director of the Concord Coalition. The article should have noted that the Concord Coalition receives funding from the Peter G. Peterson Foundation. Peterson, but not his foundation, also funds the Fiscal Times, the independent news service that prepared the article.

The article’s attribution ran thus:

This article was produced by the Fiscal Times, an independent digital news publication reporting on fiscal, budgetary, health-care and international economics issues. Fiscal Times staff writer Adam Graham-Silverman contributed to this report.

After an outcry by many experts and organizations — many of whom have sent letters to Congress and the Administration opposing the establishment of a so-called deficit reduction commission — the Post’s ombudsman is looking into the issue.

The story has been picked up by many progressive blogs. Yesterday it hit the mainstream media: in its Media & Advertising section, the New York Times ran this article, Sourcing of Article Awkward for Paper.

The Times article reported on the conflict-of-interest angle but didn’t mention that the conflict of interest led to an inherently incorrect article, points of which has been soundly refuted. Here’s an excerpt from a letter signed by many social insurance experts and sent to the Post’s ombudsman:

Consistent with the bias of the founder, the story reports glowingly of the increasing support for a commission, failing ever to mention that over forty national organizations, including the AARP, the AFL-CIO, SEIU, National Organization for Women, Common Cause, to name just a few, have been outspoken in their opposition to the proposal.  Indeed, most readers would have no idea from this story that there was any opposition to the proposed commission whatsoever.

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