In February, Wall Street Journal editorial board member Stephen Moore compared Social Security to "a big Ponzi scheme." Today, the AP's Tom Raum agreed, writing that the current Social Security system is "pretty much" a "giant federal Ponzi scheme":
As Congress agonizes over health care, an even more daunting and dangerous challenge is bearing down: how to shore up Social Security to keep it from burying the nation ever deeper in debt.
What to do about mushrooming government payments as millions of baby boomers retire? How about a giant federal Ponzi scheme? That might work for a while.
But wait. That's pretty much the current system. Social Security takes contributions from today's workers and uses them to pay the old-age benefits that were promised to retirees. But there are serious concerns how long that can last.
Although calling Social Security a Ponzi scheme - think of the huge frauds that sent billionaires Bernard Madoff and R. Allen Stanford to prison - may be a bit of a stretch, there is one clear similarity.
As in a Ponzi scheme, the concept works fine at first. So long as there are more new "investors" pumping money into the system to pay off the earlier ones, everyone is happy. But at some point not enough new money is coming in and the scheme collapses.
Raum then falsely asserted that according to the Social Security trustees, "Social Security will be completely depleted in 2037":
With baby boomers working, Social Security - the biggest social spending program - has produced a surplus that has helped finance the rest of the government for the past quarter century. But that will change within a decade.
Trustees of the system recently said that in 2016 - a year earlier than previously forecast - money paid out in benefits will start exceeding the tax dollars flowing in. With no changes, Social Security will be completely depleted in 2037, the trustees said.
What the trustees actually said in their May 2009 report was that the Social Security trust fund -- not Social Security itself -- will be completely depleted in 2037. And after that happens, according to the trustees, revenue from payroll taxes will be sufficient to pay about three-quarters of scheduled Social Security benefits through 2083:
Under the intermediate assumptions, the OASDI cost rate is projected to increase rapidly and first exceed the income rate in 2016, producing cash-flow deficits thereafter. Redemption of trust fund assets will allow continuation of full benefit payments on a timely basis until 2037, when the trust funds are projected to become exhausted. This redemption process will require a flow of cash from the General Fund of the Treasury. Pressures on the Federal Budget will thus emerge well before 2037. Even if a trust fund's assets are exhausted, however, tax income will continue to flow into the fund. Present tax rates are projected to be sufficient to pay 76 percent of scheduled benefits after trust fund exhaustion in 2037 and 74 percent of scheduled benefits in 2083.
In contrast to Raum, AP economics writer Martin Crutsinger made this clear in a May 13 article:
The trustees report projected that Social Security's annual surpluses would "fall sharply this year," then remain at a reduced level in 2010 and be lower in the following years than last year's projections. The report said that the Social Security annual surplus would be eliminated entirely in 2016, reflecting increased demands from the wave of 78 million baby boomers retiring.
That means Social Security will have to turn to its trust fund to make up the difference between Social Security taxes and the benefits being paid out beginning in 2016. The trustees projected the trust fund would be depleted in 2037, four years earlier than the 2041 date in last year's report.
At that point, the annual Social Security taxes collected would be enough to pay for three-fourths of current benefits through 2083. To tap the trust fund, the government would have to increase borrowing or raise taxes because Social Security bonds exist only as bookkeeping entries.
The print edition of the August 12 Washington Examiner contained a version of a Heritage Foundation chart purporting to offer a selected state-by-state breakdown of how an "independent analysis by the nonpartisan Lewin Group" showed that health-care reform "could shift 88 million Americans out of existing employer-based plans" and into the proposed public plan.
But the Examiner failed to note that the "nonpartisan" Lewin Group is owned by the insurance company UnitedHealth Group, which has a stake in not wanting people to switch from private insurance. Nor did the Examiner mention that, by contrast, the Congressional Budget Office found that only 2 million people would switch from employer coverage to the public plan.
Heritage didn't mention any of that either, of course -- but then, it commissioned the Lewin Group report.
This email sent out by national Tea Party coordinator seems to suggest that CNBC was shopping around looking for a GOP mini-mob to cover, and wanted the Tea Party's help in scouting out a location with "lots of anger."
Question: Are CNBC producers also in contact with Democrats and progressives in planning the news channel's town hall coverage, or just the Tea Party?
I don't know if because Murdoch's the boss now, or because of staff cut backs, or because reporters and editors just don't care any more, but it's sad to watch the once proud and powerful news team reduced to being Politico-wannabe's, typing up absurd articles that, on their face, make no sense, and are made even worse by lazy execution.
That's another way of saying, this A1 article makes my head hurt:
A President as Micromanager: How Much Detail Is Enough?
Obama's bogged down in the details, suggest the Journal's Neil King and Jonathan Weisman, who even claim the president's intellectual curiosity is what's driving down his polling numbers. (I kid you not.)
Set aside the absurd premise of the article (don't Americans just hate it when the POTUS is familiar with the facts? See Dan Froomkin for more), and let's just look at the execution; the Journalism 101 involved.
First, if you're going to build an entire piece based on the sweeping generalization that Obama is getting lost in "the weeds," as Weisman says on an accompanying WSJ.com video interview, than the Journal ought to have tons of evidence to back it up. It ought be blindingly obvious that Obama is just up to his chin in useless facts in a way that no previous president was, right?
Wrong. The Journal provided exactly one fact to establish definitively that Obama is a micromanager. The smoking gun? Obama asks pointed questions during his morning meeting with economic advisers. (Busted!)
Next, the headline's use of "Micromanager" conjures up the image of not just somebody who's knee-deep in details, but someone who's unnecessarily meddling in the process; a president who's obsessively controlling. For that, the Journal produces zero anecdotes to back up its claim.
Note that Weisman and King also claim matter-of-factly that, "Many presidents have directed policy from on high, shunning the details of most issues." Really? Like whom? Did Wilson shun details? Truman? Bush Sr.? Clinton? Bush Jr.? I'd sure be interested in knowing which presidents basically ignored details and instead sort of acted as symbolic heads of state, which is what the Journal clearly suggests has been the White House norm for years.
And lastly, the duo took a swipe at Jimmy Carter:
A president's management style can set the tone for an administration. Jimmy Carter was a famed micromanager, often at odds with his own advisers, and he caught a lot of Beltway criticism for his focus on policy details.
Proof? Quotes? Anecdotes to back up that sweeping critique of Carter? The Journal can't be bothered. Just like it can't be bothered to substantiate it's loopy premise about how it's totally weird that the president is curious and well-informed and (gasp!) hands-on.
That's the word from the insurance giant, whose representative posted in the comment section of a Media Matters research item today [emphasis added]:
In response to inquiries concerning State Farm's recent advertisements in the Glenn Beck program, I want to clarify this situation.
We have a policy of not advertising on political or opinion programming. We have corrected this issue and have taken steps to make sure it does not happen again.
Understanding our millions of customers and thousands of associates hold a full spectrum of views on political issues, State Farm has a long-standing practice of not advertising in political discussion programming regardless of a program's political point of view.
Because of the recent situation, State Farm is now evaluating its commercial placement practices to ensure its political issues advertising guidelines are maintained.
State Farm Insurance
TPM has an interesting item about how the editor of National Review offered to help the Bush White House spin when controversy erupted over its attempt to promote woefully under-qualified White House partisan Tim Griffin to become Arkansas' new Attorney General. The ill-fated move was part of Karl Rove's reported purge of AG's who weren't sufficiently political in their prosecutions.
It looks like Rick Lowry of National Review offered the White House his services in doing some positive P.R. on behalf of Rove protege Tim Griffin, who the administration had sought to sought to muscle into the U.S. attorney job in Arkansas as a replacement for the fired Bud Cummins.
TPM quotes a recently uncovered January 2007 email, in which White House political director Sara Taylor wrote:
Your thoughts? Rich Lowry offered to help Tim
[Sen. Mark] Prior is going after Griffin. He's made this his cause.... We need to find some folks to defend Tim and his credentials, not to mention our policy.
It might be nice to find out from Lowry himself if the National Review was in the habit of farming out its writers to the Bush White House for spin control. Would hate to think there was some sort of vast right-wing conspiracy afoot.
On the August 10 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, Glenn Beck and Bill O'Reilly "ha[d] a discussion whether" General Electric "is evil." Beck said, "I think there's a good chance":
GE ads have previously aired during Beck's Fox News show. From the July 10 edition of Fox News' Glenn Beck:
Last week I noted that it was not out of bounds to tie the birther movement with the town hall mini-mobs; that it was not a "conflation" as Politico and others claimed, as they tried to ding Democrats for bringing the birthers into the town hall story.
And guess what? This week the good folks who attended the town hall forum hosted by Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) pretty much proved my point when they roundly booed Specter's rather obvious observation that the President of the United States is "an American."
A Daily Kos diarist contacted the men's clothing chain and last night posted the response he received:
Thank you for contacting Men's Wearhouse and bringing to our attention your concerns with the Glenn Beck program on Fox News. While we support free speech and do not make advertising decisions based on our own personal ideologies, after reviewing his recent incendiary comments we have decided to remove our advertising from his program. We hope that this decision will allow you to continue to patronize Men's Wearhouse. I would encourage you to please share our decision with anyone else who may have expressed a similar concern.
Thank you again for contact Men's Wearhouse.
vp marketing/creative services
... Fantasizing about the Clintons' and their marriage.
Let's start with Dowd's description of Hillary Clinton's response to a question at a town hall in Africa:
Using tough hand gestures not seen since "The Sopranos" went off HBO, Hillary snapped back at an African college student who asked about the growing influence of China on Africa and then, according to the translator, wanted to know: "What does Mr. Clinton think?"
It turned out that the student was trying to ask how President Obama felt about it. But before he was able to clarify, the secretary of state flared: "Wait, you want me to tell you what my husband thinks? My husband is not the secretary of state. I am."
Yeah, the Secretary of State looked just like a gang of murderous thugs. If, that is, you're a delusional columnist bent on portraying her in the worst possible light. Now, did Clinton "snap back" and "flare" before the student was able to clarify? Well, she "paused nearly nine seconds" before responding to the question. When was this clarification Dowd imagines going to come? Nine minutes after the question had been asked?
Speaking of the question, Dowd's paraphrase of it seems more innocuous than it really was. Clinton wasn't simply asked "What does Mr. Clinton think?" She was asked "We have all heard about Chinese contracts in this country, the interferences from the World Bank about this contract. What does Mr. Clinton think through the mouth of Mrs. Clinton?"
A little more understandable how someone would have a negative reaction to that wording, isn't it?
Back to Dowd:
[W]e all know Hillary could just as well have made the same comment in Paris. (And looking unhinged about your marriage on an international stage hardly empowers women.) She may have been steamed about Bill celebrating his upcoming 63rd birthday in Las Vegas with his posse. The Times's Adam Nagourney irritated Clinton Inc. when he reported that Bill went to the pricey Craftsteak restaurant at the MGM Grand HoteltMonday night with Hollywood moguls Steve Bing and Haim Saban, and former advisers Terry McAuliffe and Paul Begala, among others.
"Unhinged" is quite clearly a wild exaggeration. And does Maureen Dowd really expect us to believe Hillary Clinton's reaction was a result of being "steamed" that Bill Clinton celebrated his birthday at a "pricey" restaurant? Craftsteak surely is expensive, but I'm pretty sure the Clintons can afford it.
This is pure fantasy.