Jun
17
2011

NYT Quotes a Social Security Defender, Only Bashes Him Indirectly

A New York Times piece (6/17/11) on Social Security actually quotes a defender of Social Security–but as that source notes, "the context looks designed to refute me."

In a story about the AARP suggesting that maybe Social Security benefits will have to be cut, the Times' Erich Lichtblau writes:

But other advocacy groups that are pushing to preserve Social Security benefits accused AARP of effectively abandoning its core constituency.

Doug Henwood, the Brooklyn editor of a liberal business blog and Internet radio program who has written on Social Security, said AARP's willingness to consider cuts in benefits "reads like a sign that this former lobby for the interest of older Americans has now transformed itself completely into an insurance company." He continued, "Surely they can't be persuaded by the merits of the arguments, since the alleged Social Security crisis is a phantom that can't survive a serious round of factchecking."

The most recent estimates from the Social Security Administration, issued last month, indicate that under current law the program's trust funds will be exhausted by 2036, and that $6.5 trillion in additional money will be needed over a 75-year period to pay all scheduled benefits.

In other words, it can too survive a serious round of factchecking!

Or maybe not so serious. Is it nicer to assume that New York Times reporters can't use calculators, or that they count on their readers not being able to? That enormous $6.5 trillion number, divided by 75 years, gives you the not-so-enormous sum of $87 billion–a figure no one would blink an eye at if you suggested it was necessary to subdue some possibly terrorist-harboring rebels in Central Asia. This amount should be even less daunting in 2036, when it will begin to be required, and will likely be rather trivial in 2111–assuming things keep going on in the future roughly the way they have in the past, which is a necessary assumption to make if you're going to pretend that making economic projections for a century in the future is in any way a meaningful endeavor.

About Jim Naureckas

Extra! Magazine Editor Since 1990, Jim Naureckas has been the editor of Extra!, FAIR's monthly journal of media criticism. He is the co-author of The Way Things Aren't: Rush Limbaugh's Reign of Error, and co-editor of The FAIR Reader: An Extra! Review of Press and Politics in the '90s. He is also the co-manager of FAIR's website. He has worked as an investigative reporter for the newspaper In These Times, where he covered the Iran-Contra scandal, and was managing editor of the Washington Report on the Hemisphere, a newsletter on Latin America. Jim was born in Libertyville, Illinois, in 1964, and graduated from Stanford University in 1985 with a bachelor's degree in political science. Since 1997 he has been married to Janine Jackson, FAIR's program director. You can follow Jim on Twitter at @JNaureckas.