Letter from NY Times Reporter David Cay Johnston

Dear Editor:

In “The Left’s Economic Distortions Debunked,” Alan Reynolds gets his facts wrong and then uses his errors to falsely malign my integrity.

In July I wrote in The New York Times that an Internal Revenue Service statistical report showed that incomes fell, down 9.2 percent in real terms in 2002 compared to 2000, the first time incomes have fallen in consecutive years since the mass income tax began in World War II.

Mr. Reynolds wrote that my report showed what “was serious income shrinkage, to be sure, but it wasn’t exactly middle class.”

Provably wrong.

I reported, accurately, that incomes fell across the board. In the middle class categories Mr. Reynolds cites incomes fell by at least 4.5 percent in real terms; in nominal terms the three middle class categories were unchanged and up by one-tenth and two-tenths of one percent. My article noted, with telling examples, that the higher one’s income the greater the fall because incomes from capital fell the most.

Mr. Reynolds writes that I felt “obligated to prove” that Senator Kerry had not made up some statement about the middle class.

Provably false.

Mr. Kerry said it after I wrote my piece — and anyone who has read my Pulitzer Prize-winning tax reporting work knows that I focus on what government does, not what politicians say. I was not even aware of Mr. Kerry’s remark until I read Mr. Reynolds’s column.

My article explained that incomes fell because of events that preceded the Bush Administration: the 2000 stock market fall, the recession that was on its way by the end of that year and changes in pay practices that tie many more people’s incomes to stock prices. And I pointed out that it was falling incomes, especially at the top, and not the early Bush tax cuts, that caused income tax receipts to fall far more than incomes.

What was “left” and “distorted” about reporting those facts?

Mr. Reynolds also relies on the jaundiced words of Donald Luskin, a writer so unreliable that he has misquoted me and publicly denied his own published words labeling my writing “unbiased” (and in bold face capitals at that).

Did Mr. Reynolds even read my article before attacking my integrity?

The published record shows that I take integrity seriously. For more than 30 years, in newspapers and professional journals, I have gone after dishonest reporting, in one case exposing a television station that later lost its license over news manipulations and blackouts. I lecture widely on how to make sure news reports are fair and straight, as thousands of Americans can attest.

The Human Events headline impugns my integrity by labeling my work politically motivated and “distorted,” when the record shows my work is even handed, as at least four score of commentators have written in the past year alone, and as the rounded facts in my July article prove.

Mr. Reynolds’s column is a dishonest attack on an honest, and balanced, news report.

You have a moral obligation to take corrective action.

David Cay Johnston
The New York Times