May
21
2012

Why It Matters That There's No Such Thing as Simpson-Bowles

Dan Balz, the Washington Post's chief correspondent (5/20/12), complains that President Barack Obama hasn't solved America's fiscal problems: Obama has drawn criticism for failing to offer more forceful leadership. He established the Simpson-Bowles commission but declined opportunities at key moments to push and prod for its consideration and enactment. There's an odd syntax here that reflects some slippery thinking. Grammatically, "its" in the second sentence seems like it would refer to the Simpson-Bowles commission, but that would be nonsensical. You're presumably supposed to think it means the commission's plan, but that's a trick–there was no plan passed by the commission […]

Apr
30
2012

For WaPo, Promises to the Elderly Have 'No Economic Significance'

I gave my daughter a tip on being a media critic: "If you see a newspaper article with the words 'Social Security' in the title," I told her, "it's probably bad." Sure enough, the article we were looking at–"Fixing Social Security," by Washington Post columnist Allan Sloan (4/29/12)–was pretty terrible. Sloan's argument is that cuts in Social Security benefits are "inevitable" because of "projections that Social Security's cash expenses will exceed its cash income as far as the eye can see." Note the important qualifier: "cash income." That means excluding Social Security's investment income. Including that income, Social Security is […]

Apr
10
2012

Samuelson's Social Security Screed

Washington Post columnist Robert Samuelson really doesn't like Social Security and Medicare. And he'll go a long way to argue that they're wasteful, inefficient forms of welfare. (See Extra!, 10/11.) But his arguments rarely hold up. His most recent column (4/9/12) is no exception; in fact, it recycles a totally misleading factoid from a column he wrote last year. Samuelson's column has problems from top to bottom–you can read Dean Baker's dismantling of it at his Beat the Press blog: There is no trust fund, benefits cuts are necessary and inevitable, there are too many retirees supported by not very […]

Mar
20
2012

Our One Percent Media

From Politico (3/20/12): David Gregory, host of NBC's Meet the Press, and Bret Baier, host of Fox News's Special Report, are among the latest applicants to the Chevy Chase Club, the historic social club that has catered to Washington's wealthiest for over a century. The Club's recent "Membership Report" shows that both Gregory and Baier are up for consideration as "newly proposed candidates for membership." Gregory is being sponsored by Joseph Stettinius and William M. Walker. Baier is being sponsored Burke F. Hayes and by Brit Hume, the former anchor of Fox News' Special Report. The Chevy Chase Club would […]

Feb
21
2012

Money Rules Politics? Robert Samuelson Busts That 'Myth'

It's possible that someone could write a column arguing that efforts to restrict the influence of big money on our political system do more harm than good. Washington Post columnist Robert Samuelson tried to pull it off on Monday (2/20/12), but the results were pretty ugly. You don't need to read the whole column. All you need to read is his "Myth One," which appears about halfway through the piece: Myth One: The rich and corporate interests rule government through campaign contributions and lobbying. This is absurd. In 2009, $2.1 trillion (60 percent) of federal spending went for "payments for […]

Jan
30
2012

David Gregory's House of Pain

At a time when millions of Americans are are experiencing massive unemployment, a painfully slow economic recovery, wage stagnation and the after-effects of the bursting of a multi-trillion dollar housing bubble, isn't it time someone demanded that they suffer a little bit? Of course not, you might say. But that's why you don't work in the media big leagues. Here's NBC Meet the Press host David Gregory yesterday (1/29/12), speaking to Obama adviser David Axlerod: But if you look at how dire the fiscal situation is in the country, we just came off a debt debacle this past summer. Alan […]

Nov
04
2011

ABC Exclusive: Greek Fatcat Retirees Stealing From American Workers!

The November 1 broadcast of ABC World News couldn't have been any clearer about what's happening in Greece: Their pampered, early-retiring workforce is stealing from Americans. Anchor Diane Sawyer explained: If you were watching your stocks today, you saw a nosedive. The Dow down nearly 300 points, so, what changed? Well, blame it on the country of Greece, long criticized for being undisciplined, and now threatening American retirements. OK, since we probably were all "watching our stocks" on Tuesday–like any other day–why is Greece doing this to us? ABC correspondent Dan Harris explains how this all works by introducing us […]

Nov
01
2011

To WaPo, Social Security Is a Treacherous Money Sucker

On its Sunday front-page, the Washington Post published an incredibly dishonest attack on Social Security. Under the headline, "Social Security Adding Billions to U.S. Budget Woes," reporter Lori Montgomery reported that "Social Security passed a treacherous milestone"–a moment where the program, largely because of the recession, spent more in benefits than it took in. What does this mean? Montgomery tells readers: "Social Security is sucking money out of the Treasury." Montgomery complains that "fixing Social Security has largely vanished from the conversation" about the country's fiscal crisis, and politicians are "ducking the issue." She adds: "Many Democrats have largely chosen […]

Oct
18
2011

Tea Party Makes News–Even With Nonsense

Today the New York Times (1/18/11) reports a big scoop. A "Tea Party commission" convened by Freedom Works is set to announce its crowd-sourced $6 trillion debt reduction plan–"A copy of the preliminary findings was provided to the New York Times," Kate Zernike reports. The story's second paragraph critiques the plan from the right for not doing enough about Social Security and Medicare, which Zernike asserts "are two of the biggest contributors to the nation's deficit." This is not true, especially when it comes to Social Security–but corporate media prefer to have discussions of the deficit that bash Social Security. […]

Sep
19
2011

Rick Perry, Social Security Straight Shooter?

A Washington Post story onSunday (9/18/11)argues that many recipients of Social Security aren't really paying attention to what the GOP presidential front-runners are saying about Social Security. The real story, then, is what kind of narrative the candidates are trying to establish. As reporter Amy Gardner puts it: In many ways, it doesn't matter to the candidates whether people are attuned to what they are actually saying about Social Security. For them, the issue is instead serving as a proxy for the narrative each is trying to establish about himself. For Perry, standing by his brash statements on Social Security–he […]

Sep
09
2011

What Do You Call a Guy Like Rick Perry?

Frontrunner-of-the-moment Rick Perry is getting a lot of press for his performance at the recent Republican debate–especially because he's standing by his belief that Social Security is a "monstrous lie" and a Ponzi scheme, and that climate change is an untested theory advanced by corrupt, discredited scientists. You can call such ideas a lot of things. "False" or "untrue," for example, would work. But a lot of reporters characterized Perry's performance in positive terms. In today's New York Times (9/9/11), Michael Shear writes that Perry made clear in his first national appearance that he would campaign as an unabashed Southern […]

Aug
15
2011

Bipartisan Robot Bashing

There was one moment in last Thursday's GOP presidential debate that seemed to sum things up. The candidates were asked if they would agree to a long-term budget/deficit reduction deal that was tilted 10 to 1 in favor of spending cuts over tax increases. This would be an unbelievably favorable outcome for anti-tax Republicans. Every candidate said they'd reject it. This got plenty of attention in the Saturday New York Times. Guest columnist and radio host Kurt Andersen wrote: And the most surprising, depressing moment was when former Gov. Jon Huntsman, along with the seven others, raised his hand after […]

Aug
10
2011

WaPo Misleads on Dem's 'Super Committee' Picks

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has named his picks to the "super committee" charged with making deficit reduction recommendations. Reid named Washington Sen. Patty Murray and center-right Max Baucus, who the Post's Rosalind Helderman today (8/10/11) calls a "natural choice," given that he chairs the Finance Committee. The New York Times is a little more helpful, pointing out that Baucus broke with other Democrats and supported tax cuts enacted in 2001 under President George W. Bush. He also worked with Republicans in 2003 to pass legislation that added a prescription drug benefit to Medicare. This is important for anyone who […]