The Fiscal Times

By Felix Salmon
December 18, 2009

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There’s the serious, and then there’s the frivolous. The epitome of serious grappling with complex issues is Pete Peterson, and his crusade against fiscal excess. Frivolous, meanwhile, would be someone like Jackie Leo, who made a career of simplification as editor-in-chief of Reader’s Digest, and whose new book is characterized by Amazon thusly: Sales Rank: #14,221 in Books

#3 in Books > Religion & Spirituality > New Age > Divination > Numerology

So it’s a little bit of a surprise to see that Peterson has hired Leo to be the editor-in-chief of his ambitious new publication, The Fiscal Times. Still, the idea is a good one:

The news operation will begin publishing with a roster of experienced journalists and leading opinion contributors, whose reporting and insights will aim to drive the conversation surrounding our nation’s most pressing economic issues…

The Fiscal Times and the Washington Post have agreed to jointly produce content focusing on budget and fiscal issues that will be available to both publications. The content will complement the Post’s budget and finance coverage, and will include profiles of key government officials, explanations of important budget trends or proposals and investigative analysis of government spending programs.

With any luck, this will help move the press in general, and WaPo in particular, away from the normal emphasis on who’s winning the political game on Capitol Hill, and towards more substantive analysis of policy issues. And in principle I like the idea of hiring a populizer as editor-in-chief, to help move the debate outside the beltway. Still, I doubt that fiscal policy is ever going to really grab the public imagination. Not unless and until it’s too late, anyway.

(HT: Tim Coldwell)

Update: Alex Leo, Jackie’s daughter, writes in:

She was the editor of chief of Consumer Reports, the EIC of Reader’s Digest (which is no longer the condensed rag it used to be), and the president of ASME. She is a serious lady and I think it’s unfair to categorize her flippantly. Her book is not numerology, it’s really about the famous essay “The Magical Number 7 Plus or Minus 2″. Just because Amazon thinks it is doesn’t make it so!


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hate to disagree, but it doesn’t strike me as a good thing that the WaPo and Peterson are teaming up for this venture. it’s just going to be more deficit fear-mongering in an effort to undermine the social-safety net in this country. the fact that the WaPo, a publication that advocates lowering the minimum wage and signing free trade agreements with Colombia and Korea as the way to create jobs, and hopelessly uninformed jokes like Frank Ahrens to cover finance and the economy, does not inspire confidence that the quality of the economic analysis will be particularly high.

Posted by akslater | Report as abusive

Sorry, but Pete Peterson has not been serious: He’s yet another in a long chain of rich guys who run around with their hair on fire preaching against the social safety net.

Posted by Matthew_Saroff | Report as abusive

Pete Peterson is in business to make money for himself, his friends, and his brood. Period. Sometimes old people get misty eyed and want to be loved and try to do genuine good for the world. I do not get this feeling from Peterson.

Posted by Uncle_Billy | Report as abusive

Peterson is one of those conservative-think-tank-as- Glorified-Professional-Liars-Dedicated-t o-Stealing-from- all-NonRich-Americans..

Paired with the Washington Post, this is a dream team of those who would steal the social security trust fund to give to I-Bankers.

Felix, for once they snuck one by you. It makes you more human.

Posted by Dollared | Report as abusive

Serious as cancer. And twice as malignant.

Posted by TimC | Report as abusive

This post is ironic, right Felix? That mission statement is ridiculously disingenuous. How many “investigative analyses of government spending programs” do you think will point to successful social welfare policies and promote their expansion? Zippo. It won’t be because those programs don’t exist. It will be because Hiatt and Peterson are ideological deficit scolds in the new Republican mold (i.e., yell and scream about the deficit unless it involves supporting Democrats who advocate a healthy mix of tax increases and spending restraint). Wake up please. Everybody.

Posted by jahoosafat | Report as abusive