Can WAMU Say "Cut Social Security?"

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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).