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Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press President Obama and the Gang of Six Want to Cut Social Security and Medicare, but Readers of the NYT Probably Wouldn't Notice

President Obama and the Gang of Six Want to Cut Social Security and Medicare, but Readers of the NYT Probably Wouldn't Notice

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Wednesday, 20 July 2011 20:28

It is understandable that politicians would use euphemisms to conceal the true nature of their actions. But what serious newspaper would use the same euphemisms? Newspapers are not supposed to be assisting politicians in their deceptions, they are supposed to be informing readers.

Apparently this fact is not understood at the NYT. In an article on President Obama's redoubled effort to push the budget program of the gang of six, the NYT referred to "cost-saving changes to entitlement programs." How many of the NYT's readers would understand that this statement means CUTS TO SOCIAL SECURITY, MEDICARE AND MEDICAID?

Of course this is EXACTLY what this phrase means. The politicians who are pushing cuts to these programs know that such cuts are incredibly unpopular. This is why they try to use obscure and convoluted language to describe their plans. The job of a newspaper is get beyond these efforts and to clearly explain to readers what is at issue. 

The cut that Gang of Six proposed to Social Security would reduce benefits by roughly 6 percent to new retirees. They want further cuts to workers who retire in future years. The cuts to Medicare are likely to be even larger, although they have not been spelled out in any detail. The cuts in Medicaid could result in millions of people losing health care coverage.

Comments (4)Add Comment
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written by Melissa, July 21, 2011 3:33
Hmmm..."cost-savings changes to entitlement programs." Let me think, I don't have a college degree, but I'm pretty sure it means exactly whagt it says...cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Some of us normal folks in America are a lot smarter than you give us credit for and understand this "convoluted" language.
Credit where credit is due
written by Jeff Z, July 21, 2011 2:00
Melissa is partially right. There are a lot of folks out there who can see through this.

There are however, a lot of folks who apparently can't see it for what it is. Otherwise, why do the same yahoos keep getting voted into office to pull this crap?

Journalism has largely abandoned its function of evaluating the truth of claims, as opposed to proving "balance" by quoting Republicans (Capitalist party #1 - in this corner mining, oil small business) then giving a competing quote from Democrats (Capitalist party #2 - in this corner Finance, entertainment, trial lawyers). Little evaluation or even fact checking enters.

I would like to see a headline in any paper that reads as follows. "Republicrats: Capital Gains tax cuts stimulate the economy. Evidence: Not So!"

Or: "Republicrats: Government Spending a drain. Evidence: Two Wars"
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written by apeescape, July 21, 2011 10:13
I don't know, I think "cost-savings" would mean that it will save money given the same level of benefits. That would be qualitatively different from "cuts to benefits," which would save money sure, but it will also cut benefits (duh).

I think reporters would be more likely to call it "cutting benefits" if the method of cuts were more obvious like raising the eligibility age. I think the financially illiterate just like to say "chained CPI" and be proud of themselves.
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written by Procopius, July 22, 2011 5:30
I keep seeing these complaints about the terrible "journalism" we suffer. Glennzilla goes on about it almost every day, and Brad DeLong has at least one "Why Can't We Have A Better Press Corps" article almost every day. But. you know, I'm 74 years old and I remember the press always being like this, since I was a child. From old newspapers I've read when doing research I don't think they were any better in 1895, or 1845, or 1775, for that matter. Some have been better than others. Bloomberg isn't bad, and the Christian Science Monitor is usually OK. Now we have access to Al Jazeera English, which might encourage American media to do a better job, but that will probably turn out the same as Detroit competing with the Japanese auto makers. I enjoy your rants, but I think it's like bailing a boat with a sieve.

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About Beat the Press

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.

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