WaPo Tells Liberals That They Have No Political Power: The Case of Social Security

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Saturday, 22 February 2014 09:39

The WaPo gets infuriated at the thought that anyone who doesn't have lots of money could affect political outcomes in the United States. Hence it was quick to run a piece with the headline:

"Liberals didn't kill Obama's Social Security cuts: Republicans did."

The reference is to President Obama's decision to remove the proposal to reduce the annual cost of living adjustment to Social Security benefits. The proposal would have reduced benefits by roughly 0.3 percentage points annually against current law. This cut is cumulative so that after ten years it implies a cut of roughly 3.0 percent, after twenty years, 6.0 percent, and for someone who lives to collect benefits for thirty years the cut would be 9.0 percent. (Obama's proposal includes some offsets, so the actual cuts would be somewhat less, especially for the oldest elderly.)

The point of the piece is that Obama would have gone with this proposal, and probably still would today, if the Republicans were prepared to make some concessions on revenue. This is the logic of saying that the Republicans killed the plan, not liberals.

However this is just half the picture. The Republicans did not force President Obama to take the proposal out of his budget, liberals did. Because of a massive outpouring of opposition from across the country, Democratic members of Congress, who have to run for re-election, urged President Obama not to include the proposal in his 2015 budget.

Otherwise, this might have been a case where you just leave the Christmas lights out all year. Why bother to take them down? It's of course painful at the Post to acknowledge that progressive groups without big bucks can make a difference in national politics, but it does happen from time to time. 

The piece also tells readers:

"many of his advisers believed that chained CPI [the cut to the annual Social Security cost-of-living adjustment], with protections for poor seniors, was a good policy that used a more accurate measure of inflation."

Actually, the Post doesn't know what President Obama's advisers believed. The Post knows what they said. President Obama's advisers hold their positions because they are thought to be good at spinning reporters. Part of that spin means telling reporters that they really "believe" that President Obama's positions are the best possible policy.

It is possible that President Obama's advisers really do believe that seniors living on $1,300 a month (the average Social Security benefit, which is more than 90 percent of the income for almost 40 percent of retirees) have too much money, but they would say this to Washington Post reporters regardless of what they actually believed. That is a job requirement.

If a Post reporter claims that they know an Obama official well enough to ascertain their true beliefs then they are probably too close to that person to be able to report on them objectively.