Social Security’s Retirement Date Long Passed
70th anniversary marked
by media spin on reforming the system.
By Dan Gainor
August 15, 2005
Â Â Â Â
Sunday marked the 70th birthday of a program that is fast running
out of money and that Congress lacks the will to fix. By Social
Security’s own age measurements, that means it’s five years past
retirement. But journalists and politicians marked the event with a
Â Â Â Â The Aug. 14 Washington Post led off with a story by
Jonathan Weisman, illustrated by two separate anti-reform photos
taken at the FDR memorial, under the headline “Happy 70th Birthday,
Social Security.” The Business section followed with a defense of
the status quo by “Color of Money” columnist Michelle Singletary.
The New York Times chimed in on Aug. 15 with a column by left-wing
economist Paul Krugman that contained multiple misrepresentations.
Â Â Â Â Here’s a quick summary of the coverage:
- Each picture
tells a thousand words: In the case of the Post’s Weisman
story, readers got 2,000 words, all against Social Security
reform. The top picture was of people holding signs from
“Americans United to Protect Social Security,” a group that
opposes changing the system. The next photo captured a view of
the Franklin Delano Roosevelt statue at his memorial in D.C.
and was used by reform opponents to invoke the Roosevelt
legacy to promote the program.
- Most successful?:
Krugman started off with a claim that Social Security is the
nation’s “most successful government program.” Krugman’s idea of
success is a program that is a Ponzi scheme built on the backs of
an ever-declining number of workers. Without comparing every
single department, it’s still easy to remind Krugman that the
American military has kept the United States safe from foreign
conquerors – even the Nazis and imperial Japanese in World War II.
biggest falsehood: According to the skewed view of the Times’
economist, “a few months ago the conventional wisdom was that
President Bush would get his way on Social Security.” Even for
Krugman, this is an amazing falsehood. For decades, Social
Security has been known as the “third rail of American politics”
because anyone who dared touch it would be electrocuted. To claim
Bush was going to get his way when Democrats hold enough Senate
seats to filibuster anything is outright spin.
- Krugman’s second
biggest falsehood: Krugman added that “the punditocracy” was
“very much in favor of privatization.” Unless he means a few
talking heads on the Sunday news shows, Krugman is out of touch. A
Free Market Project analysis of Social Security news coverage on
the five major networks found reporting biased toward the left by
a margin of 2 to 1. Not exactly support for reform.
- Consider these
facts: Post columnist and NPR regular, Michelle Singletary
brought her own liberal spin to the anniversary. After telling
readers about how her grandmother and brother had received
benefits, she proceeded to list several facts about the program.
Among these was that “More than nine out of 10 people age 65 and
older receive Social Security benefits.” However, she followed
with “Without Social Security benefits, 46.8 percent of Americans
age 65 and older would have incomes below the poverty line.” She
should have said that nearly all seniors receive Social Security
whether they need it or not and, clearly, 53.2 percent don’t need
it to stay out of poverty.
- Smoke and
mirrors: Singletary devoted a good chunk of her column to
disability benefits, which are notÂ being addressed by
any prominent reform plan.
- All I want for
Christmas: Weisman’s article quoted Rep. Anne M. Northrup (R-Ky.)
outlining the dream she has for reform: “The plan I support for
strengthening Social Security would not increase taxes, it would
guaranteed promised benefits, and it would make Social Security
permanently solvent.” With economic leadership like that, it’s
easy to see why reform plans have failed.