I didn’t put “media bias” in the title because this isn’t exactly a case of media bias: it’s more a case of media bullying. I was the health economist with Martin Feldstein’s Council of Economic Advisers from September 1982 to July 1984. The first day of his time there, the day after Labor Day in September 1982, Marty held a meeting of the whole staff, professional and support. One of the things he emphasized was that we should never talk to the press. If someone from the press called, we were to refer that person to his office.

In late October, I received a call from Spencer Rich, who was covering health policy issues for the Washington Post. He had heard, correctly, about some secret meetings I was involved in with people from Health and Human Services, OMB, the Treasury, and a few other agencies (I’ve forgotten which) about how to rein in the growth of Medicare and Medicaid spending. Was I attending these meetings, he asked.

DRH: My boss, Martin Feldstein, has made it clear that I’m not to talk to the press. If you want to talk to him, I’ll give you his number.

Rich: Will you ever be willing to talk to me?

DRH: Yes.

Rich: When?

DRH: After I’ve left this job.

Rich: Well, I’ll see if I can help make that happen.

DRH: ‘Scuse me?

Rich: Maybe if you don’t talk to me, I can help you lose your job.

DRH: Good-bye.