Dems Didn’t Start Social Security — and Other False Factchecks From

Under the headline “Democratic Disinformation From Charlotte,” the website (9/5/12) took aim at this “dubious or misleading claim”:

Rep. James Clyburn (SEIU)

Rep. James Clyburn

Rep. James Clyburn engaged in partisan myth-making when he said “Democrats created Social Security” while Republicans “cursed the darkness.” History records strong bipartisan support in both House and Senate for the measure President Roosevelt signed in 1935.

Later, in explaining this judgment, Factcheck wrote:

For sure, there was opposition to the legislation. Sen. Daniel Hastings, a Delaware Republican, warned that it would “end the progress of a great country,” as the New York Times reported. But Hastings was in the minority, even within his own party, when it came to voting on the bill.

Well, let’s factcheck Factcheck. According to the Congressional Research Service’s legislative history of Social Security (12/19/86), Hastings didn’t just warn against Social Security, he offered an amendment to the Social Security Act “to strike out the old-age benefits provisions from the bill.” The amendment was defeated 15 to 63–but with 12 Republicans in favor and just seven opposed.

So while a majority of Republicans voted for the final bill–which also included assistance for the blind and abandoned children, among other things–most of them had already gone on record as opposing the Social Security part of the Social Security Act.

Likewise, in the House, Rep. Allen Treadway (R.-Mass.), arguing that “business and industry are already operating under very heavy burdens,” offered an amendment to send the bill back to committee in order to kill it. That amendment failed–with 95 Republicans voting for it and one Republican voting against it.

So is it fair to say that Democrats created Social Security? Certainly. Is it accurate to say that it had strong bipartisan support? No, that’s entirely misleading.

Factcheck‘s other observations from the DNC largely offered more spin and special pleading.  “Democrats who accuse [Romney] of proposing a middle-income tax increase are misrepresenting what he’s said”–because “he could choose, for example, to renege on his promise to cut rates or to keep the amount of revenue neutral rather than violate his promise not to raise taxes on those in the middle.”

Gov. Pat Quinn (photo by Chris Eaves)

Gov. Pat Quinn (photo by Chris Eaves)

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn “made the misleading claim that Romney ‘added $2.6 billion in debt.’…  To be sure, long-term debt increased by $2.7 billion during Romney’s tenure. But that’s nothing out of the ordinary.”

Factcheck claims to be “holding Democrats to the same standards we applied in last week’s coverage of the Republican convention.” That’s true in the sense that Factcheck‘s real standard is that it will always find roughly the same degree of dishonesty on both sides–because otherwise it would not be seen as a neutral, nonpartisan arbiter by the very serious people.


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.