Apropos of the astonishing and false claim in this morning's LA Times that Jason Furman is some sort of a crypto-Bushie with views on Social Security matters "similar" to those Bush proposed in 2005, I write to the reporter involved, Tom Hamburger. And he writes back:
Mr. Hamburger's bottom line appears to be that his leaving a lot of readers with a false view of Jason Furman's position on Social Security is OK because that was "not the point of this story..."
So I write back:
On Wed, Jun 11, 2008 at 12:22 PM, Hamburger, Tom wrote:
Dear Mr. DeLong: Thanks for writing. I'll respond briefly and welcome the chance to chat with you further, if you wish. 1/I not only googled "Furman and social security"...
Then how did you miss the first two substantive results in your search?
The Impact of The President’s Proposal On Social Security Solvency ... by Jason Furman, http://www.cbpp.org/5-10-05socsec.htm
Contrary To Claims By Its Supporters, The Congressional Budget ... by Jason Furman ... http://www.cbpp.org/4-29-05socsec.htm...
I don't understand how anyone can write in good faith that Jason Furman's views on Social Security were "similar in some ways to that proposed at the time by President Bush," or could in good faith write that "labor activists... successfully challenged the president's initiative" without also feeling under a moral obligation to note that it was Jason Furman's quantitative analyses of the Bush plan for CBPP that provided a lot of the most effective ammunition against the Bush Social Security plan.
What you wrote simply isn't fair. It also isn't true--unless you rely want to rely very, very heavily on your two weasel words "similar" and "in some ways." It would have been much truer and fairer to write that Jason Furman's views on Social Security are "very different in many ways from those proposed by President Bush, and Furman was at the time one of Bush's harshest critics."
You seem to offer a defense of your article that I can only call half-hearted:
I did not suggest [Jason Furman] was a cheerleader for Bush, only that he was open to discussing some things -- i.e. private accounts and benefit cuts, which is what he said on the show...
To which the rest of us can only respond that you mischaracterize your own article. The article you are now describing says that Furman's views on Social Security were "similar in some ways but different in many others from those proposed at the time by President Bush." To just say that his views were "similar"--and to suppress the role he played in analyzing the Bush proposal in 2005--is to suggest that he was if not a cheerleader at least neutral. Which is false.
You've left a lot of readers with a false impression of Furman's views on Social Security. You owe them a correction. And you owe yourself a correction as well.
Instead, you say:
I wish our anemic news business had more space to include more info. In the future I plan to include some of Furman's social security views. But that was not the point of this story...
To which the rest of us can only respond that a story that says that labor activists are worried that Jason Furman is a crypto-Bushie on Social Security but they are wrong because he was actually a harsh critic of Bush Social Security proposals back in 2005 informs the LA Times's readers, while a story that says that labor activists are worried that Jason Furman is a crypto-Bushie on Social Security and his views are indeed "similar" to Bush's proposals misinforms the LA Times's readers. And there is an important distinction here somewhere.
Why oh why can't we have a better press corps?