Washington Post Uses Headline to Cover Up Republican Efforts to Cut Social Security and Medicare

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Friday, 07 December 2012 04:53

The Washington Post used a headline to help conceal the efforts of Republicans to cut Social Security and Medicare, telling readers that:

"some in GOP urge lawmakers to back tax hikes for changes in safety-net programs."

Of course the Republicans actually want cuts to these programs, not random changes. The piece itself also refers to "changes" in these programs. Newspapers are supposed to be trying to inform readers of what politicians are doing, not helping them advance an unpopular agenda (polls consistently show that cuts to these programs are even opposed by the vast majority of Republicans) by concealing its impact from readers.

The piece also failed to point out that several of the statements from Republicans quoted in the article did not make sense. For example, it quotes David Camp, the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee telling readers:

"But House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) said he was reluctant to draft such a plan unless the White House agreed to a tax-revenue target well below the $1.6 trillion Obama has demanded over the next decade.

"'Despite dancing in the end zone, which he’s doing, he keeps moving the goal posts. His revenue number keeps changing,' Camp said. 'There is a point that the economy can only sustain so much revenue being taken out of it.'"

It would have been worth pointing out to readers that President Obama has not moved the goal post one iota. The deficit reduction proposal put forward by Morgan Stanley director Erskine Bowles and former Senator Alan Simpson, the co-chairs of President Obama's deficit commission, called for $1.8 trillion in additional revenue. (It assumes a return to the Clinton era tax rates as part of its baseline and then added on $1 trillion in revenue over a decade.)

This report was widely praised by many Republicans at the time and continues to be praised by many Republicans even now. This means that when Mr. Camp accuses President Obama of moving the goal posts, the chairman of the Ways and Means committee is either completely ignorant of the budget debate that has taken place over the last two years or is not being honest. Since many readers may be less familiar with the history of the budget debate it would have been useful to point out this fact in the article.

The piece also includes a misleading quote from Rep. Thomas J. Rooney (R-Fla.):

“If there are truly real entitlement reforms that are going to preserve Social Security and Medicare for generations to come, it’s going to be very difficult for me to oppose” higher rates for the rich."

Actually, if nothing is done the Congressional Budget Office projects that Social Security can pay full scheduled benefits through the year 2034 and close to 80 percent of scheduled benefits for the rest of the century. Most Republican plans would cut Social Security payments by a comparable or larger amount so it is difficult to know what Mr. Rooney means by "preserve" in this context.

In the case of Medicare, the program is projected to be able to pay full benefits through the year 2024. The cost controls put in place by the Affordable Care Act pushed this date out from 2016 and reduced the long-term projected shortfall by more than two-thirds. This would have been helpful information to provide to readers.

 

Correction: An earlier version put the date when CBO projects that Social Security will first face a shortfall as 2035. Thanks to Robert Salzberg for calling this to my attention.