The insidious ways that conservative narratives bleed into our mainstream economic discourse as objective truths is a dominant theme in my book, and this story by the Associated Press’s Stephen Ohlemacher — ostensibly a piece of reporting rather than opinion — is one of the most egregious examples I’ve encountered. Check out the lede:
Sick and getting sicker, Social Security will run at a deficit this year and keep on running in the red until its trust funds are drained by about 2037, congressional budget experts said Wednesday in bleaker-than-previous estimates.
Is it “sick”? Social Security has $2.5 trillion in T-Bills sitting in a trust fund, is financed through 2037 and if nothing were to change it would still be able to pay out higher benefits than it does today, indefinitely.
Is it getting sicker? Well, the 2000 Social Security Trustees’s report (PDF) projected that the trust fund would run out in … 2037. But the 1997 report (PDF) expected the trust fund to be depleted by 2029 — 8 years earlier than currently projected. So in that sense, it’s “healthier” today than it was 13 years ago. More from the AP’s thinly veiled editorial:
The massive retirement program has been suffering from the effects of the struggling economy for several years. It first went into deficit last year but had been projected to post surpluses for a few more years before permanently slipping into the red in 2016.
This year alone, Social Security will pay out $45 billion more in retirement, disability and survivors’ benefits than it collects in payroll taxes, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said.
OK, this is just incredibly dishonest. Let me explain why.
Read more from Alternet: AP Passes Off Dishonest Editorial About Social Security’s Finances as a News Story