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Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press The Washington Consensus That Excludes the Overwhelming Majority of the Public

The Washington Consensus That Excludes the Overwhelming Majority of the Public

Monday, 22 November 2010 05:35

A front page Washington Post editorial touted the "accord seen in debate over deficit." It begins by telling readers that: "the sacrifices necessary to achieve those goals are coming into sharp focus."

Included in the Post's list of sacrifices are cuts to Social Security. It never mentions the fact that poll after poll continue to show that the vast majority of the public strongly opposes cuts to Social Security. It is only the select group of Washington insiders that the Post chose to cite that is agreeing on the "sacrifices necessary."

It is also worth noting that the Post did not even mention plans by the Bowles-Simpson and the Pew-Peterson deficit commission to cut the annual cost of living adjustment. This change would reduce benefits by an average of 0.3 percentage point for each year that a worker receives benefits. This means that after 10 years their benefits will be 3 percent lower as a result of this cut. After 20 years the cut will be close to 6 percent. If the average beneficiary receives benefits for 20 years this means that the average benefit cut will be close to 3 percent.

For most retirees Social Security is most of their income. For the bottom 20 percent of the income distribution, it is almost their entire income. This means that the change in the Social Security indexation formula proposed by these deficit cutters would have almost as much effect on after-tax income for many retirees as the proposed ending of the Bush tax cuts for high income households, which would increase their tax rate by 4.6 percentage points on income above $200,000. While the Post has devoted endless news stories to the consequence of this change in the tax code, it did not even think it was worth mentioning the proposed cut in Social Security benefits. 

It is also worth mentioning that the Post's consensus on reducing the deficit excludes the proposal from the IMF for more taxes on the financial sector. Insofar as taxes on the financial sector are not being considered it is likely attributable to the fact that financial interests are playing such a central role in the debate. A newspaper would call attention to this fact.

Comments (4)Add Comment
Cut Social Security the Wyoming Way: Trade It for Food Stamps
written by izzatzo, November 22, 2010 8:13
It is only the select group of Washington insiders that the Post chose to cite that is agreeing on the "sacrifices necessary."

Not quite. MSM did manage to report on one notable Washington Outsider, Alan Simpson and his red state of Wyoming that takes in benefits of more federal spending than taxes sent back to Washington, for example as demonstrated in the recent 40% increase in food stamps for the state.

When combined with Welfare Cowboys who squat on heavily discounted federal lands as Socialist Stewards, there's no limit to what Rugged Individualists can do to overcome cuts in SS.

Join Alan Simpson to stop socialism and crippling debt now. Move to Wyoming, cut SS while signing up for substitute government subsidies and reduce deficits all at the same time.
What's in it for the WAPO to cut SS
written by ljm, November 22, 2010 4:34
It's like this is their signature issue. Do they win something if they succeed? Is there something like the Pulitzer for writers who are adept at truthiness?
Making the middle class suffer
written by deanx, November 23, 2010 4:49
It seems to me a concerted effort to 'Make the Middle Class Suffer'. It started with the undersized bailout, repeated attempts to cut unemployment benefits, whacking away at Social Security and Medicaid. Capital interests want Obama to be viewed as a failure, meanwhile they would like to be able to rehire workers at half wages.

Even Congress is getting in the act, from the NYT "Last week, one House conservative announced legislation to strip the Fed of its mandate to promote jobs and have it focus solely on containing inflation." Thank you Mr. Pence.

Wow is all I can say to that, we've gone public on the War on the Middle Class.
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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.