So this happened over the weekend: The Washington Post printed a spectacularly dishonest front-page "news" story about the looming doom of Social Security, with the Halloween-inspired doomsday title "The debt fallout: How Social Security went 'cash negative' earlier than expected." The scary part for Washington, D.C:
Now, Social Security is sucking money out of the Treasury. This year, it will add a projected $46 billion to the nation’s budget problems, according to projections by system trustees. Replacing cash lost to a one-year payroll tax holiday will require an additional $105 billion. If the payroll tax break is expanded next year, as President Obama has proposed, Social Security will need an extra $267 billion to pay promised benefits. [...]
Social Security is hardly the biggest drain on the budget. But unless Congress acts, its finances will continue to deteriorate as the rising tide of baby boomers begins claiming benefits. The $2.6 trillion Social Security trust fund will provide little relief. The government has borrowed every cent and now must raise taxes, cut spending or borrow more heavily from outside investors to keep benefit checks flowing.
Many Democrats have largely chosen to ignore the shortfall, insisting the program is flush, citing the existence of the trust fund. They argue that fixing Social Security can wait, perhaps for years.
A regular vampire, Social Security is, in WaPo's world, and Democrats are enabling its evil plan to destroy America. The story has been ably debunked for the gazillioneth time by Krugman:
What you can’t do is insist that the trust fund is meaningless, because SS is just part of the budget, then claim that some crisis arises when receipts fall short of payments, because SS is a standalone program. Yet that’s exactly what the WaPo claims.
This is what you call negative journalistic value added.
This "treacherous milestone" is entirely the Post's invention, it has absolutely nothing to do with the law that governs Social Security benefit payments. Under the law, as long as their is money in the trust fund, then Social Security is able to pay full benefiits. There is literally no other possible interpretation of the law. [...]
This article also repeatedly refers to the debate over cutting benefits as being an "ideological battle." There is no evidence presented in this piece that there is any ideological issue at stake. On the one hand are hundreds of millions of workers who want to see the benefits that they paid for. On the other hand are many wealthy people, exemplified by people like Peter Peterson and Erskine Bowles who would rather use Social Security money to keep their own taxes low or to serve other purposes.
This is a battle over who gets the money. The references to ideology just confuse the situation.
And Atrios, who picks up Baker's theme, and nails it.
And, no, sensible liberals, there is no way to make this "debate" go away with some "grand compromise." Fake news articles like this should make that clear. The rich want that Social Security money, it's how they guarantee themselves a lovely tax cut.
This was The Village, comprised entirely of the 1 percent, in attitude if not actual dollar worth, telling the Catfood Commission II that it expects Social Security to be part of the mix when it comes to slashing and burning. If the plan offered by Sen. Max Baucus and a majority of the Democrats on the committee is any indication, they already are far too influenced to keeping their friends rich.
They should be hearing from the 99 percent, too. Here are those Democrats: Senators Patty Murray, Max Baucus and John Kerry; and Reps. Xavier Becerra, James Clyburn and Chris Van Hollen. They also should read Dean Baker's reality check. Send it to them. Here's the contact page for the Senate and the House.