Where Does Social Security Misinformation Come From?

USA Today‘s Susan Page has a front-page piece (7/20/10) headlined “Faith in Social Security Tanking: Most Expect Cuts or Lose Hope for Funds.” The piece notes:

A USA Today/Gallup Poll finds that a majority of retirees say they expect their current benefits to be cut, a dramatic increase in the number who hold that view. And a record six of 10 non-retirees predict Social Security won’t be able to pay them benefits when they stop working.

Page seems a bit puzzled about why the public holds these views, since they are “more dire than the calculations of Social Security’s trustees.” She points out that even if the trust fund were exhausted by 2037, the system “could finance about three-fourths of current benefits through the payroll tax.” Page quotes one expert who points out that public misperceptions might be a result of “all the attacks on Social Security that we have this total crisis in the program.”

True enough. Take, for example, a USA Today front-page article from February of this year (2/8/10) that was headlined, “Social Security Races to ‘Negative’: Rash of Retirements Push Fund to Brink.” That piece sounded the fear alarm by reporting that Social Security’s “annual surplus nearly evaporated in 2009 for the first time in 25 years.” Read FAIR’s February 9 alert for all the details.

Where do people get these wrong ideas about Social Security? They read them in the newspaper, and believe them.

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.