One thing that we are not hearing from the mainstream media and a whole bunch of politicians is that the Social Security system is in good shape. Conservative think tanks and politicians are spreading misinformation in an attempt to undermine the program, which they have always loathed. Lies and half truths spread around by the Cato Institute and other conservative outfits are picked up by unquestioning journalists and further disseminated.
One lie they love to spread is that the Social Security system is going broke. Another big one is that Social Security is largely responsible for the federal deficit. By merely checking the latest Social Security Trustee’s report, this lie can be easily debunked. Page 5 of the report includes a table with the following information:
- Assets at the end of 2008 = $2.42 Trillion
- Asset at the end of 2009 = $2.54 Trillion
- Total Income in 2009 = $ .81 Trillion
- Total Expenditures in 2009 = $ .69 Trillion
Aside from the fact that the program is increasing the size of the assets it holds, there is obviously no relationship between the deficit and the Social Security system. Nevertheless, journalists and politicians, on a regular basis, lead the voters and public in general to believe that “if we don’t reign in” Social Security, we can’t reduce the deficit. Ms Jackie Calmes of the New York Times is one of the most persistent disseminators of this misinformation. In her most recent article, she stated the following:
“[A variety of deficit reduction commissions] – including in November, a majority of Mr. Obama’s fiscal commission – each concluded that the growth in the nation’s debt could not be reined in with spending cuts alone. They said the required reductions, including for Medicare and Social, would be deeper than anything the public would accept.” (“Poll Finds a Willingness to Cut Spending, Just Not Medicare or Social Security,” New York Times, Friday, January 21, 2011).
No doubt, she was quoting deficit reduction commissions but she was quoting them unquestioningly – without presenting any contrary information. In fact, she, and other mainstream journalists, always accept the claim that Social Security must be “reigned in for the sake of the federal deficit” at face value. Furthermore, journalists completely ignore Congresswoman Schakowsky’s recommendations (see my blog post dated 11/18/2010).