Social Security 'Whoppers' and the Compliant Media

It's bad enough that year after year career politicians shamelessly perpetuate the same untruths, but when the media don't call them on it it's intolerable. Journalists are supposed to be guardians of the truth; they comprise one of just three professions mentioned in the Constitution.

Democrats continue to tell whoppers about Social Security, and so-called journalists continue to let them get away with it. In his April 13 speech, President Obama said that: "Social Security is not the cause of our deficit." Which mirrored what Sen. Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, said Feb.20 on NBC's Meet the Press:

MR. GREGORY:  Senator Durbin?

SEN. DURBIN:  David, if I could say this about Social Security.


SEN. DURBIN:  I -- first, I want to thank my colleague for the kind words. Social Security does not add one penny to the deficit.  Social Security untouched will make every promised payment for more than 25 years. ... We need to move on Social Security, but let's put it on a track that runs parallel but separate to deficit reduction.  The Social Security program, as it's currently put together, does not have any impact on the deficit. [Emphasis added.]

Because of our unified budget, the only way Social Security would not "impact" the deficit, either up or down, is if the benefits it paid out were equal to its revenue.

Also on Feb. 20 at The Green Room (ABC's This Week webcast), Democratic strategist Donna Brazile said: "Look, everything should be on the table. ... Although, I think Social Security is solvent until 2037." And on CBS's Face the Nation that same day, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) said: "Social Security is not a driver of these deficits and debt. ... It is solvent, a hundred percent, until the year 2037."

These people just aren't paying attention -- it was widely reported that Social Security went into deficit in 2010. On Jan.28, The Trumpet had reported:

The Congressional Budget Office ... now projects that Social Security will run deficits every year for the rest of the fund's life. In essence, the CBO admits that Social Security is officially insolvent.

Despite the fact that Congress can repeal Social Security, leaving those who paid into the system without recourse, career politicians perpetuate the myth that Social Security benefits are a "legal right," a debt. At New American, Raven Clabough reports:

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders insists, "It's an IOU that is backed by Treasury bonds and the faith and credit of the United States government. It is the same faith and credit that enables us to borrow from rich people and from China and from other countries. As you well know, in the history of this country, the United States has never defaulted on one penny owed to a creditor."

But payroll taxpayers aren't "creditors." What Sen. Sanders is doing here is conflating public bonds with intra-governmental bonds. But they are distinct instruments governed by separate rules. It is a mistake (at best) to equate other U.S. bonds with those of Social Security. Bonds freely purchased by willing parties are unlike bonds issued for surplus tax revenue. The one is acquired by choice while the other is issued for demanded assets (taxes). Social Security's "bonds" are held by an agency of the very government that issues them. Nevertheless, Sanders and his fellow progressives perpetuate this nonsense and the establishment media doesn't call them on it (video).

The bottom line is that Congress spent all the payroll tax surpluses. For instance, Social Security surpluses were used from 1998 through 2001 to pay down public debt, to the tune of more than $400 billion. But an honest accounting of those monies cannot claim both a retirement of debt and an accrual to the so-called "trust funds." But that's what the Dems do, just as they're double counting in ObamaCare.

So to "redeem" Social Security's bonds, money must be raised a second time. Which is why the current insufficiency of the payroll tax to fully pay benefits negatively impacts the deficit. And it is why all the politicos I've mentioned aren't telling the truth.

It would be so healthy for our republic if journalists began to challenge politicians who lie. The next time some Congressman speaks of the Social Security "trust fund" as though it had actual funds in it, the press might show some independence by asking him: If the trust fund really contains $2.6 trillion of real money, then why was this year's "payroll tax holiday" scored as adding billions to the deficit?

But just like Social Security, journalism in America is running a deficit.

Jon N. Hall is a programmer/analyst from Kansas City
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