Aug
10
2011

Barney Frank Questions the Questions at NPR

It's an article of faith in mainstream media discussions of the budget: Social Security and Medicare are the "entitlements" driving our debt problems. That's not really true, but that's overwhelmingly the starting point for these discussions. Occasionally, perhaps by accident, someone questions that assumption. That's what happened on NPR's Morning Edition on Monday (8/8/11), when Rep. Barney Frank (D.-Mass.) was interviewed by Steve Inskeep about, among other things, the entitlement burden. Read what happened–or listen to the excerpt below: INSKEEP: Congressman, if I can, we've just got a few seconds. You have mentioned defense spending. You've mentioned tax increases. Those […]

Aug
02
2011

Action Alert: David Gregory Misinforms on Social Security

Amid tough competition from his corporate media colleagues, Meet the Press host David Gregory has stood out as a journalist who has consistently misinformed the public about the impact of Social Security and other entitlement programs on the deficit. To find out how he's been wrong and to tell him to correct his errors, see FAIR latest Action Alert. Please use the comments thread of this blog post to leave copies of your messages, or to discuss the alert.

Aug
02
2011

Debt Ceilings and the 'Balance' Bias

There's been plenty written about how reporters skew reality by treating "both sides" as equally intransigent or inflexible when it comes to the budget deficit battle. Another example, from the L.A. Times today (8/2/11): For Republicans, it was preventing any tax increase to upper-income families. For Democrats, it was ensuring no cuts to Social Security, Medicaid and a handful of other programs that aid the elderly and the poor. And for Obama, it was getting a deal that would end the threat of an economy-shaking default until after the 2012 presidential election. None of the key players was willing to […]

Jul
29
2011

Robert Samuelson: We Have Met the Enemy, and He Is Old

When your column is headlined "It's the Elderly, Stupid," I guess readers should know what to expect. Robert Samuelson delivers in today's Washington Post (a column that will appear elsewhere around the country, unfortunately), in a nasty diatribe about the kind of debt debate he thinks the country should be having–one that blames older people: Older Americans do not intend to ruin America, but as a group, that's what they're about. On average, the federal government supports each American 65 and over by about $26,000 a year (about $14,000 through Social Security, $12,000 through Medicare). At 65, the average American […]

Jul
15
2011

The Brave World of Boehner/Obama Bipartisanship

Media love the "middle" in politics–where leaders of the two major parties come together to find common ground, renew the national spirit and/or live up to the ideals of the Founders. Time magazine (7/14/11) has a soppy piece about Barack Obama and Republican leader John Boehner's attempt to reach a budget deal. Those efforts–some of which happened in secret–are, according to reporters Jay Newton-Small and Michael Scherer, the story of two self-described dealmakers in a town where dealing is often a synonym for surrender, who ran up against the limits of their roles, their powers and their colleagues. Boehner and […]

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 […]

Mar
25
2011

WaPo Invents Dems' Social Security Split

The Washington Post's Lori Montgomery has what sounds like a pretty important story in today's paper (3/25/11). Theheadline: Democrats Splinter Over Strategy for Reducing Deficit Battle Lines Drawn as More Are Willing to Put Entitlements on Table The piece leads off: Democrats are sharply divided over whether to tackle popular but increasingly expensive safety-net programs for the elderly, particularly Social Security. According to Montgomery, a "growing number of Democratic lawmakers say they are willing to consider controversial measures such as raising the retirement age and reducing benefits for wealthier seniors." That wouldbebig. Who are they? She tells us who they […]

Feb
18
2011

Chris Christie's Not Telling the Truth–Ugly or Otherwise

New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie is the object of intense devotion among some on the right (Glenn Beck in particular). No surprise, then, that he'd get a lot of attention for going to Washington and delivering a stern lecture about how to fix the deficit. And no surprise that he'd talk about Social Security. It has nothing to do with the deficit, but that's another matter. Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank was on hand to cheer on Christie's message (2/16/11). Christie pokes fun at his weight, which apparently makes his truth-telling even more appealing: But his physique also works […]

Feb
14
2011

USA Today's 'Nonpartisan Experts' Agree: Obama Not Tough Enough on Elderly, Poor

The subhead sums up the point of USA Today's lead story today (2/14/11) about Barack Obama's budget proposal: Obama Proposes Cuts to Trim Deficit; GOP, Others Want More The piece by Richard Wolf and Mimi Hall begins, "President Obama will send Congress a 2012 budget today that would trim the budget deficit by $1.1 trillion over the next decade, but Republicans and nonpartisan budget experts are already saying that's not enough." And that's how the story is framed: You've got the White House vs. the Republicans, and "nonpartisan budget experts" who agree with the Republicans. "We're going to make tough […]

Feb
14
2011

David Gregory's Social Security Challenge

From his Meetthe Press interview withHouse Speaker John Boehner (2/13/11): On entitlements, like Social Security, you said the retirement age should be raised, but you said you don't want to get into negotiating how that happens just now until the problem is better defined. Again, when it comes to leadership, when it comes to the need to, you know, have no limit on cutting, don't you think Americans understand what the problem with Social Security is? What will it take for you to join with the White House to make real reform to deal with this piece of the budget? […]

Jan
25
2011

Bob Herbert Slams Social Security Dishonesty; Times Reporters, on the Other Hand…

Bob Herbert, today in the New York Times (1/25/11): There has always been feverish opposition on the right to Social Security. What is happening now, in a period of deficit hysteria, is that this crucial retirement program is being dishonestly lumped together with Medicare as an entitlement program that is driving federal deficits. He's right. Where did I last readsomeone trying to pull off thatdishonest accounting? Oh yeah–it was in yesterday's New York Times. Sheryl Gay Stolberg reported on a poll that found people unwilling to support cuts to Medicare and Social Security, the programs that directly touch millions of […]

Jan
24
2011

NYT Disappears Public Support for Military Spending Cuts

Today the New York Times reports on the debate over spending, deficits and the State of the Union (1/24/11): The public itself seems split, or perhaps confused. Americans overwhelmingly say that in general, they prefer cutting government spending to paying higher taxes, according to a New York Times/CBS News poll published last week. Yet their preference for spending cuts, even in programs that benefit them, dissolves when they are presented with specific options related to Medicare and Social Security, the programs that directly touch millions of lives and are the biggest drivers of the long-term deficit. Social Security is not […]

Jan
21
2011

NYT Hits Deficit Panic Button (Again)

Big news in the New York Times today (1/21/11): According to their new poll, Americans overwhelmingly support slashing military spending. Wait–that's not the news. According to the story by Jackie Calmes and Dalia Sussman (headlined "Poll Finds Willingness to Cut Spending, Just Not Medicare or Social Security"), the real story is that people don't like the idea of cutting these entitlement programs, but arereally worried about the budget deficit: While Americans are near-unanimous in calling deficits a problem–a "very serious" problem, say 7 out of 10–a majority believes it should not be necessary for them to pay higher taxes to […]