NYT Econ Journalist David Cay Johnston: It Doesn't Add Up
by: Paul Rosenberg
Tue Sep 23, 2008 at 18:15
NYT Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Cay Johnston, author of Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (and Stick You with the Bill, has written a letter to fellow journalists that deserves wide attention, urging a fundamentally skeptical approach to reporting on this purported crisis, warning against repeating the mistakes of the recent past, reporting on other Bush Administration panics:
Journalists, start your skepticism.
In covering the proposed $700 billion bailout of Wall Street don't repeat the failed lapdog practices that so damaged our reputations in the rush to war in Iraq and the adoption of the Patriot Act. Don't assume that Congress must act instantly, as so many news stories state as if it was an immutable fact. Don't assume there is a case just because officials say there is.
The coverage of the Paulson plan focuses on the edges, on the details. The focus should be on the premise. And be skeptical of what gullible Congressional leaders, most of them up before the voters in a few weeks, say after being given a closed-door meeting on supposed horrors.
The Administration has scared the markets and some key legislative leaders, but it has not laid out a coherent, specific and compelling need for this enormous proposal, which is the equivalent of a one-time 55 percent income tax surcharge. (Instead the money will be borrowed, so ask from whom and how this much can be raised so quickly if the credit markets are nearly seized up with fear.)
He then goes on to talk about specific journalistic question-asking around the chief question of the day: is credit really about to vanish?