Social Security Scaremongering, Washington Post Style

Yesterday the Social Security and Medicare trustees’ reports were released. This annual ritual often gives reporters a chance to exaggerate the long-term problems of the Social Security system. This year, the news was more or less what folks were expecting: By the trustees’ forecasting, Social Security’s trust fund will be depleted in 2037, while Medicare’s hospital fund will run out of money in 2017.

Somehow, the Washington Post decided that Social Security was the real concern–its page-one story is headlined “Alarm Sounded on Social Security.”

The lead rings the same bells:

The financial health of the Social Security system has eroded more sharply in the past year than at any time since the mid-1990s, according to a government forecast that ratchets up pressure on the Obama administration and Congress to stabilize the retirement system that keeps many older Americans out of poverty.

Much less attention is given to Medicare, which the Post does tell us deep in the piece “remains the more urgent problem.” The paper sure has a funny way of showing its urgent concern, though.

As FAIR noted, former Fed chair Alan Greenspan tried to provide some perspective about Social Security and Medicare two years ago. When NBC‘s Tim Russert asked him about the health of Social Security and Medicare, Greenspan said that Social Security’s problems were minor. Economist and former Social Security trustee Robert Reich writes, “Don’t be confused by these alarms from the Social Security and Medicare trustees. Social Security is a tiny problem. Medicare is a terrible one.”

The Washington Post, for reasons that aren’t entirely clear,are sending a very different message. As Dean Baker has documented for some time, the paper just seems to have something against the program.

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.