StanCollender'sCapitalGainsandGames Washington, Wall Street and Everything in Between

Note To Matthew Yglesias: Say What?

14 Feb 2010
Posted by Stan Collender

Dear Matthew:

I think I understand what you were trying to say in your response to my post last week about The Fiscal Times.

I just disagree with it.

You say that, because you write a blog for an organization that has a definite point of view and you understand it without being told what it is, those who will be posting on TFT's blog -- Capital Exchange -- must, no doubt about it, absolutely, positively, be in a similar position.  Therefore, TFT must reflect what Pete Peterson, who provided the initial funding for TFT, thinks and wants to happen.

Matthew, I get it: You don't like Pete Peterson, Peterson's politics, or Peterson's policies.

But...unlike the the situation you say you were/are in at The American Prospect, I have no idea what TFT wants other than good writing and my own thinking about the federal budget.  I wouldn't have agreed to write for it had I thought otherwise and I will stop writing for it immediately if at any time someone tells me what they want me to say.

Yes, I've read all of Peterson's books about the budget and know where he's coming from.  That didn't stop me from agreeing to post for Capital Exchange, I haven't given Peterson's ideas a thought in the two things I've posted so far (one already up, another coming next week), and I don't give a damn if I agree or disagree with what Peterson prefers.

FYI...When it comes to the budget I also read CBO reports, think tank white papers, and everything I can find on the subject.

The better question is, why doesn't the very, very broad political and ideological range of writers the TFT has recruited give you some reason to believe that the TFT wants to provide that same scope and breadth of thinking?

Finally, your statement "...the very notion that the country needs smart, capable people working at a well-financed Fiscal Times rather than a Poverty Times or an Infrastructure Investment Times or a Tax Cut Times or a Climate Times reflects Peterson’s distinctive and contestable worldview" is more than curious. 

The fact that there is a new information source about fiscal issues does not automatically mean that there is a bias against the areas of federal spending or revenues you mention, or any areas at all.  To the contrary, one of the ways the government will be more likely to cut taxes or increase spending is for the whole budget outlook to be considered and a serious fiscal policy put in place.

If you disagree with that we have a lot more to talk about.

All the best.


Re: one of the ways the

Re: one of the ways the government will be more likely to cut taxes or increase spending is for the whole budget outlook to be considered and a serious fiscal policy put in place.

With the possible exception of short-term stimulus, isn't the opposite the case? In other words, if "the whole budget outlook [is] considered and a serious fiscal policy put in place", wouldn't it be much more likely that taxes would be increased and (projected) sending reduced?

That's only one option; you

That's only one option; you may not like it but for some, the opposite is not just possible but also preferable.  My point is that a blog or analysis devoted to only one thing -- lower or higher taxes, lower or higher spending, more or less military spending, etc. -- promotes the type of discussion that has led to the current intractable budget situation.

Naive much?

Stan - So you're telling me that you think it'd be okey dokey to write piece after piece for TFT about how the best solution for our nation's fiscal situation is large scale tax increases on the rich with few/no spending reductions? I don't think so. But this hypothetical proves the point. You're not going to do this and Peterson's people know you're not going to do this. That's why they hired you. This is the kind of censorship that is really censorship by selection.

The TFT as a "new information sources about fiscal issues" ... I would love to be surprised but I will place a large wager that there won't be much in the way of "new" coming from TFT. Peterson is a person with a strong ideological commitment to budgets that are balanced through outlay reductions primarily. Even if TFT was interested in promoting both tax increases and spending cuts, the playing field has already been massively tilted by the prior ten years of tax cuts for the wealthiest. So, if by tax increases, TFT means returning us to the tax burdens of the Clinton years, while simultaneously slashing programs ... well, no thanks.

 "This hypothetical" proves

 "This hypothetical" proves absolutely nothing.

I have no problem with revenue increases and spending reductions.  In fact, that's the only way -- substantively and politically -- the budget problem can be dealt with properly.  I've said that for years.

And for the record, TFT hasn't taken any editorial positions on budget issues.

Do you also have a problem with the reporting for Bloomberg?

Clinton cut taxes

Unfortunately the decline of policy reporting and the prevalence of political reporting has led to myths. Clinton signed significant tax cuts in 1997. Talk to someone who is rich -- these cuts were more important than 2001, 2002 or 2003. In 1993 Clinton signed a tax cut on a tiny percent of Americans -- but they made out quite well over the next few years on a booming economy.

Have any of the anti TFT commentators ever delt with Concord?

Come on. Peterson has bankrolled the Concord Coalition for years and they have consistently whispered opposition to spending increases and screamed oppositition to tax cuts. This may reflect the executive director's views more than Peterson's but he clearly is not using his money to force an entitnment cuts agenda on Concord. Also, the Peterson Institute has an outstanding reputation for well documented and unbiased research. Finally, if you read his books, Peterson cosnistently identifies the need for revenue increases. The concept that Peterson is some sort of secret tea party small government advocate is absurd. If anything, he is a Nixonian big government advocate.

On the other hand, the Fiscal Times IS very annoying given the number of broken links. I've tried 8 times to read the profile on Elmendorf and the story page never opens. several of the other stories have the same problem.

It would be funny if it

It would be funny if it weren't sad that people unaware of their own strong biases often confidently (but erroneously) characterize Concord (and Peterson) in opposite ways and criticize Concord on that supposed basis, with folks on the right claiming that Concord's "real" objective is tax increases and folks on the left claiming that Concord's "real" objective is reduction in entitlement spending (or even "destroying" Social Security). Even on this very thread we have you (Woodbridge) doing the former and Jeff upthread doing the latter, saying "Peterson is a person with a strong ideological commitment to budgets that are balanced through outlay reductions primarily."

If you search on right wing and left wing websites/blogs you can see much more of this conflicting dichotomy of characterizations of Concord and Peterson that are diametric opposites. Obviously both sides can't be right. And the truth is that neither is right. Concord is non-ideological. And while I don't know Peterson's ideal of relative "spending side" vs. "revenue side" portions of a solution (and my sense is that David Walker's ideal would be skewed somewhat toward the spending side, but not nearly to the extent that those critics on the left allege), one only has to go as far as the "Welcome" message from Walker on the website of Peterson Foundation (of which Walker is CEO), which contains a short list of actions of our leaders in Washington that the Peterson Foundation considers irresponsible, and the list addresses both the spending and revenue sides: "tax cuts, spending increases, unfinanced war costs, expansions of entitlement programs, and government bailouts". The video is also on Youtube at

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