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Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press Can WAMU Say "Cut Social Security?"

Can WAMU Say "Cut Social Security?"

Thursday, 03 November 2011 04:54

We know that politicians don't like to talk about cutting Social Security or Medicare because both programs are hugely popular across the political spectrum. Even large majorities of Republicans are strongly opposed to cutting these programs. This is why politicians like to use the term "entitlements" when they talk about cutting these programs. Entitlements are much less popular than Social Security and Medicare.

While it is understandable that politicians would like to conceal their efforts to do actions that are opposed by most of their constituents, it is not obvious why the media would feel obligated to assist them in this effort. In a top of the hour news segment, WAMU (one of DC's local NPR affiliates) told listeners about plans to "tweak" or "change" entitlements. In fact, they meant plans to cut Social Security and Medicare.

It is striking that such terms are never used on the tax side. For example, reporters never refer to plans to "change" taxes in reference to plans to end the Bush tax cuts to the wealthy. Nor do they ever refer to this as a "tweak" to the tax code, even though it would have less impact on the after-tax income of the affected population that the cut to Social Security that is being considered (a 0.3 percentage point reduction in the annual cost of living adjustment).

Comments (13)Add Comment
Tweak This You Socialists, Low-rated comment [Show]
written by Mitchell Nusbaum, November 03, 2011 9:42
When will you be announcing your own smart website for us trolls?
Why Cut SS, Medicare or any other "Entitlements?"
written by Paul, November 03, 2011 9:45
Our federal budget deficit is clearly too small to achieve full employment, as Bernanke suggested yesterday. Interest rates on the federal debt are lower now than when Clinton ran budget surpluses in the 1990s. And if we ever need more money, we can print it at will.

Why don't Keynesian economists point out these facts to the news media?
written by econimonium, November 03, 2011 9:51
What are you talking about izzatzo, like you know what OWS is about? It's about nothing and everything. It's about waking people up to the fact that they've been screwed and are being screwed by politicians that take money from the big guys and vote that way. And voting in any changes to Social Security and/or Medicare is in this vein. That's what OWS is about in a way that the teabaggers failed because they are, frankly, crazy. OWS touches more people emotionally, honestly, and it will be a much bigger force in the next election.

Couching the language in fuzzy terms will not fool anyone anymore either. "Tweaks" will not fool anyone. These programs are here to stay and we're frankly lying if we think that we're going to cut back on these and not end up spending vast sums on people who can't afford to retire in other ways. This is the HEIGHT of dishonesty in my opinion, which is another reason the teabaggers are crazy. There is NO WAY this country will allow seniors to go without medical care, food, heat, housing, and a pension. So we're being dishonest about it and, frankly, I've been paying into this system for around 30 years and I vote and there is NO WAY I'd vote for ANYONE that even squeaks about adjusting the system. And I know far more people that feel like I do. So this is all crap and diversion from real problems, brought to you by the 1%.
written by bmz, November 03, 2011 10:02
Izzy: How ignorant can you be? There is almost $2 trillion/yr available from the wealthy to redistribute to the 99%: http://99percentmanifesto.blog...festo.html
Life without SS or Medicare
written by econimonium, November 03, 2011 10:05
Let's just put this in black and white perspective for the people that are dishonest or math-challenged:

Right now my health insurance costs 5844 a year (total if not subsidized by my employer). It isn't a cadillac plan, but it's good. I am single, 42 and live in MA. If I retired today and assumed this that's 487 a month. For 20 years that's a total of 116880 IF it never goes up (unlikely). So just to insure myself and pay copays etc, I should have around 200k in the bank when I retire.

My taxes on my house are now 5200/year. Over 20 years that's 104,000. So given increases I probably should have around 200k in the bank to pay for taxes, repairs, and insurance.

So far I haven't talked about heat, utilities, food, transportation, or anything else and I need 400k dollars saved just for 20 years. If I live longer I'm probably looking at more than half a million. And I'm living very modestly.

So, in the sense of honesty, how many people do you think can amass this type of savings by the time they retire? How many people can live for 20 years beyond retirement with NO money coming in (or very little) and "vouchers" for medical care? Who will pay the bill when these people need assistance as they will anyhow?

I call all of you out as lying and dishonest about this situation of the 99%. Liars all of you.
written by coberly, November 03, 2011 10:38

without commenting on your ignorance with regard to how much of the total pie is owned by "the one percent", i will just offer than i am not bothered so much by how much they have as by how they got it.

i don't like tax transfer solutions to the poverty problem, but i am in favor of laws that prevent theft.
entitlements vs SS/medicare
written by freebird, November 03, 2011 10:52
I think there is a distinction between Social Security and Medicare vs "entitlements", in that most people believe that they have paid for their Social Security and Medicare benefits. The term "entitlements" suggests benefits that were not specifically paid for by the recipients, such as welfare, food stamps, medicaid, EIC, etc. For example if my car insurance paid me when my car was stolen, I would not view their check as an "entitlement" but rather a fulfillment of a contract that I had paid premiums to acquire. Unemployment compensation and disability would fall under the paid-for benefits as well. This may be why entitlements are much less popular than Social Security and Medicare-- especially among those who are having these deducted from their paychecks. I suspect that entitlements are quite popular among the recipients, however.
written by Jeff Z, November 03, 2011 10:56
Of course WAMU can not say "Cut Social Security." That would violate the journalists' professional code, to seem "objective" by merely reporting what 'very serious people' say. It does not involve analyzing competing claims, though it should.

WAMU and other outlets are only 'pundit playback machines' now. They are not serious journalists when it comes to economics and economic reporting.
written by sherparick, November 03, 2011 11:26
Actually, for budget purposes Social Security and Medicare have been called "entitlements" since the early 1970s. It means that if you meet certain conditions (e.g. for Social Security, you have made the requisite number of payments into the program and have reached the minimum retirement age of 62 (for a reduced benefit) you are "entitled" to recieve social security checks. Likewise for Medicare when you reach 65. Food stamps, welfare, medicaid, etc. are more discretionary and based on means testing and qualifications. They are not really entitlements. Also, 70% of medicaid spending is spent on the elderly, much of it on nursing homes and long term care facilities after a person's assets are exhausted. Ironically, a likely unforeseen consequence of cutting social security and cost shifting medicare will be an increase in elderly poverty which will mean an unexpected increase Medicaid expense. So unless overall U.S. health care costs are controlled, there may not be much in the way of budget saving after all the pain. http://www.ahrq.gov/research/ria19/expendria.htm

"The elderly and disabled, who constituted around 25 percent of the Medicaid population, accounted for about 70 percent of Medicaid spending on services in 2003. People with disabilities accounted for 43 percent of Medicaid spending and the elderly for 26 percent.19 The remaining 75 percent of the Medicaid population, who were not elderly or disabled, accounted for only 30 percent of spending."

As we drift toward a more Latin American style inequality, we should look to the states south of the border (Mexico, Central America outside of Costa Rica, Columbia, Venezuela, Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Peru come to mind) as for the type of society we will increasingly evolve into with a small superrich elite, the majority impoverished or in constant fear of immiseration, with public functions privatized, and with low paid and pensionless civil servants who will be incerasingly tempted by the cost benefity analysis of corruption when doing their jobs. It will John Galt's vision come to pass, with everything measured by whether it brings $.
Easy Fix
written by jumpinjezebel, November 03, 2011 12:21
Too easy to fix this mess. Lift the cap on Social Security payments and call ALL income to be subject to FICA and Medicare. Let's not go back to where 30% of the elderly lived in poverty.
written by Calgacus, November 03, 2011 6:00
Econimonium: There is NO WAY this country will allow seniors to go without medical care, food, heat, housing, and a pension.

I disagree. I don't think Thief Thieferson et al will succeed in destroying SS, but he might, or might succeed partially. Once upon a time there were no homeless people in the USA. But everyone adjusted to that.

Once upon a time, everyone understood that the government is responsible for full employment. But with the aid of innumerate, moronic mainstream economics, everyone forgot that.
Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
written by Zach Burton, November 03, 2011 6:31
We gave up welfare, and we will never get it back. With the crash of our economic system, we will need welfare. When we give up Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, we will never get them back.

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Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books, his latest being The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. Read more about Dean.