Recession Practicalities
The Cultural Perception of Aging

The Continuing Plot to Kill Social Security

category_bug_politics.gif Suppose a right-wing billionaire, who has never had to choose between paying the mortgage and feeding the kids, or has never foregone medical treatment due to lack of health coverage, wanted to kill Social Security and Medicare.

Now suppose that right-wing billionaire spent some of his fortune creating a “news agency” that would distribute stories supporting his pet project and hired a handful of seasoned reporters from respected news organizations.

Now further suppose that one of those respected news organizations published the agency's first piece as a normal news story.

That's what happened when the Washington Post, on 31 December, published Support Grows for Tackling Nation's Debt from The Fiscal Times news agency, funded by Nixon administration cabinet member and retired founder of the Blackstone Group, Peter G. Peterson. The “news story” promotes

“...legislation to create an 18-member task force consisting of 16 members of Congress and two administration officials. Under the proposal, if at least 14 of the panel members reached agreement on how to rein in skyrocketing spending on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security and reform the tax code, Congress would have to consider it immediately and give it an up or down vote, without amendments.”

Peterson – and now, the Washington Post - blame Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security for the growing budget deficit with no mention that two wars and Wall Street bailouts may have contributed to the problem, and have decided to take the money out of the hides of old people.

What is so dangerous about this proposal is that it removes the only clout American citizens have with their federal legislators – the right to personally petition them.

Economist Dean Baker was the first to expose the Post's irresponsible “journalism” in his Beat the Press blog where he noted:

“No serious newspaper would publish a piece from an obviously interested party like the Peterson Foundation as a news story.”

Following Baker's expose, the Post published a “correction” on 5 January but only about the mis-attribution of a quote, still leaving the story bereft of any context in regard to Peterson's involvement in the attack on Medicare et al or his two-decade-long crusade to kill those programs.

It was up to The New York Times the same day to provide some of that context and extract this comment from the Post's executive editor, Marcus W. Brauchli:

“We wouldn't put anything in the paper that we didn't believe was independent journalism,” Brauchli told the Times. “We had complete editorial control. Our editors conceived the story. We asked if The Fiscal Times was interested in producing the story. We edited the story.”

That statement makes it even worse. There is not a citation for any “fact” in the story that is riddled with exaggerations, omissions and an outright fib or two. So much for the Post's journalism.

The next day, Wednesday, FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting) issued an Action Alert detailing the ideological agenda contained in the story and concluding:

“Far from 'unbiased journalism,' the Fiscal Times article reads like the smoothly written propaganda you'd expect to get from a well-funded lobbying outlet. The Post's 'partnership' with this outfit is an ill-advised experiment that ought to be brought to a swift conclusion.”

On the same day, journalist William Greider tackled the Washington Post's connection to Peterson with a righteous tirade against the paper and Peterson's regressive agenda, noting:

“He has flogged Social Security as a blight on our future for at least 20 years. He is a nut on the subject. His 'facts' are wildly distorted or simply not true. Never mind, the establishment press portrays him as a disinterested statesmen.”

Thirty-four Democratic and Republican senators support the legislation and, according to The Fiscal Times (non)story, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has “signaled” support and the White House is involved in talks about such legislation. (Or not; these are a dubious assertions without citation.)

This latest legislation (S.2853 - full text) was introduced by Senator Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) on 9 December 2009, and has a long list of co-sponsors, about a third of the entire Senate (click “show co-sponsor” under Conrad's photo to see if your senator is included).

Why am I banging on about this? Two reasons:

  1. It shows clearly why we must be hyper-vigilant about the “news” we read. The Washington Post story is a near-perfect example of propaganda masquerading as news.

  2. Peter G. Peterson's plot to kill Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid is being listened to in Washington because, as is so obvious with health care reform, money talks in Congress.

Should Senator Conrad's bill succeed, responsibility for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid would be removed from our representatives whom we hired for the job and be placed in the hands of a commission that would deny debate, amendments and public discussion of any changes to the programs.

What worries me most right now is that I sense a drift toward acceptance of this idea without much thought. It would be good to let your representatives know how you feel about it. You can do that here.

[There are more details about this issue in my previous stories about Peter G. Peterson and his efforts to kill Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid here, here and here.]


My friend and fellow elderblogger, Cowtown Pattie of Texas Trifles, has a deep love for her native state and a knack for finding its interesting characters. This week, she's highlighting a local artist, photographer and poet, Rick Vanderpool. And she's got a terrific offer for you. Read about it all here.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson: My Chinese Boyfriends

Comments

I think it very unlikely they can bring Nancy Pelosi over to supporting this -- she'd have a hard time coming into town if she did. Despite being the Speaker, she does have constituents.

On the other hand, she did trade anti-abortion language for "health care reform," so I could be wrong.

Why are we losing so badly?

P.S. Maybe we're not. Ronni, I see no cosponsors when I go the "Show co-sponsors" link under Conrad's photo. ???

Mary...

You're right. This morning there are zero co-sponsors listed; yesterday there were 34. I don't know and can't find anything about what has happened - whether all 34 decided to withdraw (I can't imagine that) or if there is a computer glitch.

UPDATE to Mary's question:

OpenCongress emails to tell me that listings of co-sponsors are missing on all bills on their site and other sites that use the same data service.

It is being looked into.

We can all let them know but not sure it will change anything. They did this with their automatic pay raises; so they can keep their hands off it for getting votes. It's a revolting system we have today-- and that's putting it politely

Appreciate all that you do to keep us up to date on the trickery of the fringe right and the "paid for by ..." congressional members. A big thank you. --barbara

Here is a link to the Washington Post's ombudsman, Andy Alexander:

CONTACT:
Andy Alexander, Washington Post Ombud
202-334-7582
ombudsman@washpost.com

I've already sent an email to him requesting a full retraction and apology to the readers of the Washington Post.

Now, emails for my own Congressional clowns...

Thanks for keeping us informed. You do a great job.

(And many thanks for the kind link and words!)

PS: It's freakin' cold way down here in Cowtown!

That bill is a death sentence for me a and many other elders and handicapped people across the country.

Will the government refund (with interest) the monies we and our families paid into Social Security?

No, Social Security and Medicare is not a perfect program but it's better than nothing.

I want to know who the other 34 senators supporting this are.

Peterson's next travesty could well be mandatory euthanasia for for anyone whose income is below the poverty line.

How old is Peterson? Perhaps his family should have a doctor check him. He's obviously lost his mind.


Just emailed my letters to my two Senators and one Congresswoman. Also, emailed the Washington Post.

For all the good it will do me. My beloved home state's political power has fallen off into some kind of black holed uber-conservative abyss.

Sucks big time.

There is another side to this story. Back in 1982 the bipartisan commission headed by Greenspan (remember he is a Ayn Run devotee) made changes to the social security system, It caused rates to go up to generate a surplus. The congress and semate has consistently raided this surplus over the years.

The current surplus funds are US Bonds sitting in binders in a file cabinet in Virginia. When this surplus is required, in about seven years, They will be cashed in. Another words added to the annual deficit.

Now I am not in favor of another commission but we will be forced to deal with the Social Security shortfall one way or another. I also don't trust either the congress or senate either based on their track record. They will just protect their donors.

My personal choice would be to surtax Peterson and his brethren. They have done so well recently driving our country in a ditch.

Tried commenting on Saul Friedman's post the other day questioning the sanity of the South, but there was a glitch. I live in SC and have trouble holding my head up in the other 49 states and my mouth shut in this one. Jim DeMint (R-SC) is in favor of S.2853. My motto is: if DeMint's for it, I'm virtually guaranteed to be opposed. Thank you so much for the heads up; my emails are sent to the usual suspects.

Thank you for your vigilance, Ronni. It's good to know someone is keeping track of the nasty jokers.

Social Security and Medicare are my life line along with millions of other elders.
Without those programs I would head for the ice floe.

Ronni, the link to the text of the bill is not working but I found another link here:

http://www.govtrack.us/congress/billtext.xpd?bill=s111-2853

I'm with you - Darlene...Thank you, Ronni for keeping us informed.

Thanks, la peregrina. The link is also fixed in the text now.

Go to http://thomas.loc.gov to access legislation.

The purpose of the bill is to KEEP Social Security and Medicare so it doesn't go bankrupt in the coming years.

Senator DeMint supports the idea... and so does President Obama.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Working...
Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.

Working...

Post a comment

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)