After FAIR’s October 19 action alert criticized coverage of Social Security in the Washington Post and on ABC News, Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank responded to one FAIR activist with this message:
Don’t you think it a bit unfair of “FAIR,” in complaining about my “context,” to ignore the fact that I was writing about the combined impact of Medicare and Social Security?
While most of Milbank’s column (10/16/07) obviously concerned Social Security (the headline “Smile, Smile–You’re on Social Security!” was no accident), he did link the Social Security and Medicare programs in explaining how baby boomers would “begin to bankrupt the nation.” But treating the two as though they are similar does not make Milbank’s argument any more persuasive; in fact, it makes it more deceptive.
As economist Dean Baker has long argued, Social Security is financially sound for the next several decades. Medicare, by comparison, faces a more immediate problem due to rising healthcare costs (CEPR, 9/03). Baker (10/19/06) once critiqued media attempts to link the two programs by noting that reporters could do this with almost any government program; one could write about the coming budget crunch due to the “combined cost of Medicare, Medicaid and maintaining the roads and sidewalks in front of the Washington Post.”
Economist Paul Krugman made a similar point in his New York Times column (3/26/04):