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11.15 The long read: The plastic backlash: what's behind our sudden rage – and will it make a difference? [the world wants to throw-up...]
11.15 Claws out: crab fishermen sue 30 oil firms over climate change [workers are waking-up...]
11.15 Trump administration to cut air pollution from heavy-duty trucks [behaving ignorantly again...]
11.12 This Land is Your Land: The Zinke effect: how the US interior department became a tool of industry [behaving ignorantly again...]
11.11 Trump responds to worst fires in California’s history by threatening to withhold federal aid [behaving ignorantly again...]
11.11 Interior department sued for ‘secretive process’ in at-risk species assessment [behaving ignorantly again...]
11.11 Keystone XL pipeline: judge rules government 'jumped the gun' and orders halt [behaving ignorantly again...]
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11.15 Democrats Won Big. Can They Go Bold, Too? [it's about suppressing the influence and leadership by Republican-like Democrats who counsel 'íncremental' (no) change, such as Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, Hillary Clinton, Chuck Shumer and Joe Biden]
11.15 Pentagon Officials Forced to Make Fewer Public Appearances to Avoid Provoking Trump [...by revealing Trump's huuuge ignorance]
11.15 REPUBLICANS USED A BILL ABOUT WOLVES TO AVOID A VOTE ON YEMEN WAR [if there are 'defense industry' profits to be made—including congress-critter insider-trading—and political 'donations' to be had, we mustn't stop killing innocent civilians!]
11.09 Trump administration blocks asylum claims by those crossing border illegally [Making America Less Great Again...]
11.14 The Guardian view on Yemen’s misery: the west is complicit [WAR CRIMES]
11.10 US stops refuelling of Saudi-led coalition aircraft in Yemen war [But there are a few children still alive. It's too soon!]
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11.15 The Earth is in a death spiral. It will take radical action to save us [fossil fuel burning, un-recyclable plastic production/use and methane gas release must cease ASAP.]
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11.15 Cuba to pull doctors out of Brazil after President-elect Bolsonaro comments [terms must be negotiated for fairness to Cuba's health professionals without disruption of healthcare for Brazil's poor]
11.14 'Appalling' Khashoggi audio shocked Saudi intelligence – Erdogan [Exposing a psychopath?]
USA Today's Social Security Scaremongering
With No Fairness Doctrine Safeguarding Our News, Malinformed & Unprofessional Journalists Can Be Dangerously Misleading
Originally published on the FAIR.org site earlier today, 9 February 2010
If USA Today were to present facts clearly, the headline might read, "Social Security Continues to Pay Benefits as Expected." That would be much less alarmist--and more accurate.
Under the headline "Social Security Races to 'Negative': Rash of Retirements Push Fund to Brink," USA Today's February 8 front page presented an alarmist view on a story that is regularly misreported in the corporate media (Extra!, 7-8/95, 1-2/05; FAIR Action Alert, 10/19/07).
Reporter Richard Wolf leads with this warning: "Social Security's annual surplus nearly evaporated in 2009 for the first time in 25 years." But several paragraphs later, readers are told that the program has been "accumulating a $2.5 trillion trust fund"--which certainly sounds less ominous than the headline's warning about being on a "brink." And by a "nearly evaporated" surplus, USA Today means that Social Security "took in only $3 billion more in taxes last year than it paid out in benefits."
The story tries to justify the alarm nonetheless by pointing out that "because the government uses the trust fund to pay for other programs, tax increases, spending cuts or new borrowing will be required to make up the difference between taxes collected and benefits owed." Two "experts" are quoted to endorse that view, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) and Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget's Maya MacGuineas, a former adviser to the McCain campaign.
Actually, the fact that Social Security would begin paying out more in benefits is neither alarming nor particularly surprising. In the 1980s, Social Security taxes were raised and benefits cut in the name of covering the retirement of the Baby Boomers--and, not incidentally, so that the system could loan its surplus to the Treasury Department to cover for Reagan's income tax slashing (Extra!, 1-2/88; Nation, 3/2/09). That money was to be paid back with interest, just like the U.S. Treasury's debts to China, Japan, private U.S. citizens and everyone else who owns Treasury bonds. If Social Security fails to collect the money that is owed to it by the Treasury, that would amount to a massive fraud and transfer of wealth, as trillions of dollars specifically collected to pay for workers' retirement benefits would never be used for that purpose, and instead would merely transfer the general cost of government from progressive income taxes to the regressive payroll tax (Center for Economic and Policy Research, 1/27/05).
The money borrowed from Social Security is currently scheduled to be paid back by 2037, at which point the program will have an actual deficit. But many experts have argued for years that this projected future shortfall is not a short-term crisis, and can be addressed with minor changes like eliminating the cap on taxable income, so that the wealthy would pay the same percentage of their income as middle-income and poor workers (Social Security: The Phony Crisis, 1999).
A story that presents Social Security as on the "brink," then, is giving readers a decidely skewed perspective on an important matter of public policy. As economist Dean Baker noted recently on his Beat the Press blog (2/8/10): "If nothing is ever done to change the program, the projections still show that it will be able to pay close to 80 percent of scheduled benefits. This will still provide future retirees with a benefit that is considerably larger than what current retirees receive."
If USA Today were to present these less-alarming facts, the headline might read, "Social Security Continues to Pay Benefits as Expected." That would be much less alarmist--and more accurate.
ACTION: Ask USA Today why it presented such a one-sided report on Social Security. Encourage the paper to include experts who would disagree with the notion that Social Security is in some sort of crisis.
Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting is a nonpartisan media watchdog organization. Visit http://fair.org for more information, or share your opinion about this story by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org. Republished in the Chronicle with permission from F.A.I.R.
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This story was published on February 9, 2010.