On Austerity, USA Today Allows Only One View

USA Today typically pairs an editorial today with an opposing view–as it did with its recent editorials on redistricting and NFL rules.

When it editorializedyesterday (10/25/10) on the need for the United States to adopt austerity measures similar to those of France and Britain, however, only one view was allowed: “The French are addressing their problems. So are the British. American leaders are not.”

It’s not that other credible views aren’t out there–see Mark Weisbrot (Huffington Post, 10/21/10) questioning the need for France’s retirement rollbacks, and Dean Baker (Guardian, 10/25/10) and Paul Krugman (New York Times, 10/22/10) on the economic foolishness of the British cutbacks. If an opposing voice had been allowed in, they might have pointed out the twisted reasoning behind USA Today‘s call for Social Security benefit cuts:

Social Security is projected to get better once the economy recovers, but only temporarily. The system is forecast to go into the red again in 2015 and then get steadily worse. That means more borrowing until U.S. politicians acquire the courage–so far lacking–to make benefits match payroll tax revenues at the risk of French-like protests. The argument that the system can simply spend its huge trust fund is nonsense, unfortunately. The trust fund’s cash was spent long ago. It is a moral and political obligation, but the money still has to come from somewhere else.

One more time: Social Security is “in the red” exactly the way you would be in the red if you loaned money to a wealthy friend and expected it to be paid back. If your friend said, “That cash was spent long ago,” you’d be unlikely to find that a satisfactory answer; money that is lent, after all, is rarely placed in a vault waiting for the time that it’s due to be paid back. As to where the money might come from: When it was originally lent it was used to lower tax rates for the rich, so the obvious answer as to where it would come from would be to raise them back up again.

That’s an answer, apparently, that USA Today didn’t want its readers to hear.

About Jim Naureckas

Extra! Magazine Editor Since 1990, Jim Naureckas has been the editor of Extra!, FAIR's monthly journal of media criticism. He is the co-author of The Way Things Aren't: Rush Limbaugh's Reign of Error, and co-editor of The FAIR Reader: An Extra! Review of Press and Politics in the '90s. He is also the co-manager of FAIR's website. He has worked as an investigative reporter for the newspaper In These Times, where he covered the Iran-Contra scandal, and was managing editor of the Washington Report on the Hemisphere, a newsletter on Latin America. Jim was born in Libertyville, Illinois, in 1964, and graduated from Stanford University in 1985 with a bachelor's degree in political science. Since 1997 he has been married to Janine Jackson, FAIR's program director. You can follow Jim on Twitter at @JNaureckas.