Syndicated columnist and CNN host Robert Novak misquoted Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean in order to suggest that Dean supports the Bush administration's message that Social Security is in crisis.
From the February 26 edition of CNN's The Capital Gang:
NOVAK: The Democratic line that this isn't a problem -- Howard Dean gave a speech at Cornell on Thursday of this week in which he said that 80 percent -- over the years, 80 percent of the Social Security benefits will be lost. There is a problem. So, Howard sometimes tells the truth. He doesn't get the exact line.
In fact, Dean did not say "80 percent of the Social Security benefits will be lost," as Novak claimed, but rather that "if Social Security were left alone for 30 years, benefits would be reduced to 80 percent of what it is now," as The Cornell Daily Sun reported in its coverage of Dean's February 23 speech at the university. The article further noted that Dean "would not endorse" privatizing of Social Security, adding that "[h]e acknowledged that while there were indeed problems with the program, turning to Wall Street was not the answer."
As Media Matters for America has noted, the Social Security trustees projected in their 2004 report that the current system could pay out full benefits for 37 years, or until 2042; it could then pay 73 percent of currently scheduled benefits immediately thereafter and 68 percent of benefits in 2078. According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office's 2004 projections, the current system could pay out full benefits until 2052, 81 percent of currently scheduled benefits in 2053, and 71 percent in 2100.