Barney Frank Questions the Questions at NPR

It’s an article of faith in mainstream media discussions of the budget: Social Security and Medicare are the “entitlements” driving our debt problems. That’s not really true, but that’s overwhelmingly the starting point for these discussions. Occasionally, perhaps by accident, someone questions that assumption.

That’s what happened on NPR‘s Morning Edition on Monday (8/8/11), when Rep. Barney Frank (D.-Mass.) was interviewed by Steve Inskeep about, among other things, the entitlement burden.

Read what happened–or listen to the excerpt below:

INSKEEP: Congressman, if I can, we’ve just got a few seconds. You have mentioned defense spending. You’ve mentioned tax increases. Those are two areas of disagreement. The biggest part of the federal budget is entitlements…

FRANK: No, wrong. I’m sorry. The Defense budget is bigger than Medicare, and Social Security is, in fact, self-financing, still is.

INSKEEP: Let’s stipulate for this conversation: a very, very, very, very, very big part of the budget is entitlements. Democrats are seen as resisting cuts. Is your side–in a couple of seconds–going to appoint people to the special committee who are ready to make a deal?

FRANK: I am not going to tell an 80-year-old woman living on $19,000 a year that she gets no cost-of-living, or that a man who has been doing physical labor all his life and is now at a 67-year-old retirement–which is where Social Security will be soon–that he has to work four or five more years.

But I disagree with you that in terms of draining on the budget, Social Security is largely as self-financed…


FRANK: …and the military budget is larger than Medicare. So demonizing entitlements and saying that–in fact, here’s the deal…

INSKEEP: Congressman, I really have to cut you off there. But I do…

FRANK: Well, I wish you wouldn’t ask these complicated questions with five seconds to go.

INSKEEP: We’ll come back and bring you back for more. Always a pleasure to talk with you.

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.