Friday, March 14, 2008

Media Perpetuates Social Security Myths

Social Security isn’t bankrupt. Unfortunately, too many in our national media just don’t seem to understand that basic truth.

We’ve written about this before so won’t rehash it again (not too much, anyway). But the latest oversimplified, sky-is-falling and propaganda-laden coverage from Debra Saunders in the San Francisco Chronicle just can’t be ignored. And we’re not the only ones who think so. End of the Echo blog has a nice response and so did our President, Barbara Kennelly. Here is her Letter to the Chronicle, since you probably won’t ever see it published.

Dear Editor,

If Debra Saunders really wants to have an honest discussion about our nation’s current fiscal mess (Everyman’s Mortgage Crisis, 3/11/08), let’s start with the facts. Comments like “Washington has promised benefits...without funding them” and “Washington continues to authorize...benefits without putting aside money for them” are certainly provocative but the problem is those statements just aren’t true. American workers (not Washington) have contributed $2 trillion dollars to the Social Security trust fund in the past two decades leading to a $187 billion surplus. Those contributions will continue to build the surplus to $4.2 trillion over the next decade.

Washington does face a crisis; however, it’s a budget crisis not an entitlement crisis. President Bush inherited a budget surplus and a Social Security trust fund built-up in preparation for baby boomers’ retirements. Now, after billions of dollars in tax cuts, an underfunded war in Iraq and six years of a Republican-led Congress following the President’s “borrow and spend” lead, we face record debt and budget deficits. These deficits are now being used as the primary argument for cutting programs like Social Security and Medicare, while tax cuts for the wealthy continue and billions in subsidies to the drug and insurance industry are protected.

Washington will have to make difficult choices to repair the fiscal damage done by this administration. But serious health care reform and strengthening Social Security for the long term should be the priorities rather than destroying the very programs so critically needed by millions of Americans.


Barbara B. Kennelly, former Member of Congress
President and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare

Mark Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research and he’s also written a wonderful piece on Media accountability, false information and its affect on political progress.

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