Fox & Friends distorts news on Social Security benefits to suggest "Washington waging a war against seniors"


On Fox News, Steve Doocy asked whether the fact that "for the first time since 1975, there will be no COLA -- no cost-of-living increase -- for Social Security recipients" indicated that "Washington [is] waging a war against seniors," continuing Fox & Friends' pattern of repeatedly fearmongering about how health care reform will harm senior citizens. In fact, the Social Security Administration has used the same formula to index benefits to inflation since the 1970s, and although 2009 reportedly marks the first time the formula will translate into no cost-of-living increase, the Obama administration is urging Congress to provide seniors with tax rebates that are equal to a cost-of-living adjustment, as the hosts of Fox & Friends themselves reported.

Doocy suggests absence of increase in benefits is part of Washington's "war against seniors"

From the October 15 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:

DOOCY: And today we know, for the first time since 1975, there will be no COLA -- no cost-of-living increase -- for Social Security recipients. So is Washington waging a war against seniors?

Michelle Malkin, you're listening to Robert Rubin [sic] and what is going on in Washington. What up with that?

Doocy undermined by facts: Same formula used to calculate annual benefits since 1975

Social Security Administration has tied benefits to Consumer Price Index (CPI) every year since 1975. According to the Social Security Administration, "Since 1975, Social Security's general benefit increases have been based on increases in the cost of living, as measured by the Consumer Price Index. We call such increases Cost-Of-Living Adjustments, or COLAs."

SSA: "[B]enefits will not automatically increase in 2010 as there was no increase in the Consumer Price Index ... from the third quarter of 2008 to the third quarter of 2009." The cost-of-living adjustment for Social Security benefits is calculated by comparing third-quarter CPI with that of the previous year. Third-quarter CPI for 2009 was 211.001, down from the third-quarter CPI for 2008 of 215.495. Referring to changes to Social Security for 2010, the Social Security Administration stated that "benefits will not automatically increase in 2010 as there was no increase in the Consumer Price Index (CPI-W) from the third quarter of 2008 to the third quarter of 2009."

Wash. Post: 2009 marks "first time that the federal formula used since" 1975 "will translate into no increase at all." An October 15 Washington Post article headlined, "Stagnant prices prevent Social Security increase," reported:

An increase in benefit checks each January has been a yearly ritual since the mid-1970s, when the government moved to ensure that its subsidies to retirees, pension recipients and others who receive Social Security benefits kept pace with inflation. Thursday's announcement by the Labor Department will mark the first time that the federal formula used since then, which is tied to the consumer price index, will translate into no increase at all. That is because consumer prices have remained stagnant in the weak economy -- a sharp reversal from this past year, when Social Security checks grew by 5.8 percent, an unusually large amount.

Obama supports $250 payments to seniors -- the equivalent of a 2 percent increase. On October 14, President Obama announced support for $250 in recovery checks for 49 million Social Security beneficiaries, which the administration estimated would be the equivalent to a 2 percent increase in benefits. Indeed, during the discussion of a purported "war against seniors," Fox & Friends noted Obama's support for the payments, and co-host Gretchen Carlson stated, "I hate to be the political cynic, but I am wondering if in fact this stimulus plan for seniors is a way to coddle them back into liking Obama's health care reform plan, since by large numbers, they are the ones who oppose it."

Fox & Friends has repeatedly engaged in egregious fearmongering about the impact of health care reform on seniors

Death panels, rationing, other misinformation finds a home on Fox & Friends. Fox & Friends has previously advanced a bonanza of health care reform misinformation, including the falsehood that the bill requires the elderly to go before a "death panel," the falsehood that the House bill would force people into a "government-designed plan," the claim that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) called health care reform opponents "un-American," the suggestion that a section of the bill that would provide Medicare reimbursement to doctors for end-of-life counseling would create "end-of-life consultants" other than doctors consulting with families, and the prediction that the bill would create a system of rationing that would result in the disappearance of medical procedures such as dialysis for the elderly.

Posted In
Economy, Social Security, Government
Fox News Channel
Steve Doocy
FOX & Friends
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