When a powerful politician makes a serious error in discussing public policy it is known as a "gaffe." It is the sort of thing that reporters are supposed to call to the public's attention, pressing the politician to explain if he/she really doesn't understand the issue on which they were speaking.
This leaves readers wondering why the Congressional Quarterly (no link) didn't call attention to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's obvious error when it quoted him saying:
"Last week, the Social Security trustees issued a report saying Social Security and Medicare are not sustainable under their current structure."
Of course the trustees did not say that "Social Security and Medicare are not sustainable under their current structure," they said:
"Projected long-run program costs for both Medicare and Social Security are not sustainable under currently scheduled financing."
This is a crucial distinction. McConnell's statement implies that the trustees said that the programs had to be changed in some fundamental way. The trustees statement in fact means that at some point that the programs will either need more revenue or that benefits have to be cut.
This would be like driving from Chicago to Detroit and determining that at some point you will need more gas to complete the trip. That would mean stopping at a gas station and refilling your tank. By contrast, McConnell's comment implies that the car is about to breakdown and will not make the trip.
CQ should have called attention to McConnell's misrepresentation of the trustees report and pressed the Senator to determine whether he really does not understand the trustees statement or whether he is deliberately misrepresenting it for political purposes.
Hat tip to Paul Van de Water.
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