Imagine trying to tell students who are up in arms about the draconian cuts being made to public education these days that to their precarious futures should be added reduced Medicare benefits and cutback benefits or a privatized Social Security system turned over to Wall Street.
Actually, there is no Simpson-Bowles deficit commission report and Brooks knows that. The commission was a failure. It never produced a plan for dealing with the deficit or anything else. When it became apparent that the 14 out of 17 votes necessary were not there, the co-chairs, Republican, former Sen. Alan Simpson and a Democrat, former Clinton Administration Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles released their own proposals in their own names.
Reality? Who said anything about reality?
This Monday on MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell Report, host Nora O’Donnell ripped into President Obama, accusing him of ignoring the recommendations of “his own fiscal commission” in his budget proposal. What “is he really doing about our deficit?” she sputtered. After saying, “we’ve got to get this clear,” she put up the above quoted David Brooks erroneous allegation about Social Security and the deficit.
Take this from the prestigious UK-based magazine The Economist:
“A year ago Mr. Obama set up a deficit-reduction commission, which duly produced a sensible report at the end of last year. He has failed previously, and failed again this week, to endorse the commission’s conclusions. He offered no specific proposals for cutting the cost of the biggest drains on the federal purse: health care, Social Security (pensions) and defense.”
Again, Social Security pays for itself.
Again, the commission reached no conclusion. It didn’t even take a formal vote.
That last bit about defense is interesting. A lot of people in our country favor reducing the bloated and mostly irrelevant military budget. But you won’t get any support for that from the leading deficit hawks, nor from any of Brooks’ Congressional “heroes.”
While Social Security and Medicare are usually linked in these discussions, the problems are not the same. The latter actually is linked to federal expenditures. But the problem is not Medicare itself; it the inexorable rise in medical costs. Don’t hold your breath waiting for anything to be done about that. Affect the huge profits of the pharmaceutical and medical devise industries, or the corporate hospital chains? Give me a break.
Because of demographic changes, sometime in the future Social Security is going to need more money to meet the needs of retiring seniors. There is something that can be done about it. When President Obama was candidate, Obama he said: “I do not want to cut benefits or raise the retirement age. I believe there are a number of ways we can make Social Security solvent that do not involve placing these added burdens on our seniors.”
And, “Currently, the Social Security payroll tax applies to only the first $102,000 a worker makes. If we kept the payroll tax exactly the same but applied it to all earnings and not just the first $97,500, we could virtually eliminate the entire Social Security shortfall.”
Why can’t that be put on the table? Because it doesn’t fit the larger object Les Leopold wrote about recently on the Huffington Post :
“Wall Street has a plan and a new logic that is quietly infiltrating the media and policy circles. It’s called `structural reform.’ Although it is likely to involve some additional pain and suffering, it’s being sold as the new magic bullet for our ailing economy.”
Leopold continued, “Structural reform is Wall Street speak for reducing what is often called the `social wage’ for working people in every way possible: increasing the retirement age and cutting Social Security benefits, government employment and benefits, funds for public education, defined benefit pensions, and health care expenditures….and of course, extended unemployment benefits as well.”
Sometimes this business can get downright cynical and heartless. What is being promoted is not just to change Social Security and Medicare. It is to diminish them. It is – by any means necessary — to devote fewer resources to the sick and elderly.
Last July, columnist Michel Gerson wrote in the Washington Post: “Devoting resources to the sick and elderly counts many achievements and benefits. But we are reaching a point where these important priorities threaten to overwhelm everything else.”
That’s utter nonsense. But Larson’s protagonist missed one important point. Writers write but editors edit and publishers publish. They all ought to be accountable.
“Media coverage reflects what sells, and the political arena is no exception,” Tarsi Dunlop, who is the Director of Operations at the Roosevelt Institute Campus Network wrote February 10 on the new deal 2.0 site. “Conflict and hypocrisy reign supreme, while the realities of policy are often left to fend for themselves. Social Security is a poignant example of such casualties. It is often the victim of misinformation and political agendas, which are designed to obscure the fact that a majority of Americans support the program. Most recently, Social Security was hijacked by the conversation about the national debt, yet another attempt by conservatives to reframe the narrative and detract from the facts. Consequently, the program’s fundamentals were once again lost to media spin, which sees no profitable advantage in telling a non-partisan story. The media’s reluctance to move beyond Republican sound bites is a fundamental disservice to Americans across the country. How else are they supposed to get the full story?”
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