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FOX News Helps Spin Bush's Social Security "Reform"

Reported by Ellen - December 17, 2004

FOX News helped the Bush Administration float its plans to "reform" Social Security by pretending, along with the administration, that Social Security is in a crisis, that Bush's plan will save it and by screening the facts as carefully as the participants in the economic forum where Bush spoke on the subject yesterday.

The FOXNews.com report quotes Richard Parsons, chairman and chief executive of Time Warner Inc. as saying "We're on a train-wreck course" without mentioning until 14 paragraphs later that the so-called "train wreck" won't occur until 2042, 37 years from now. And while an LA Times story (free with registration) on the same subject mentions that the shortfall could be fixed "with some combination of modest payroll tax increases, benefit reductions and other adjustments," FOX largely ignores this possibility by burying in the third-to-last paragraph that "Bush has ruled out an increase in payroll taxes to pay for the overhaul." There is also no mention on FOX that all the participants in the economic forum (including, presumably, Mr. Parsons) were "carefully screened," as reported by the LA Times. FOX merely says that "All participants on Thursday's panel, including financial service firm officials, supported Bush's Social Security plans." (Comment: Of course the financial execs will support the plans. They stand to make a killing on the new money in their accounts!)

Another buried-by-FOX (third-to-last paragraph) but highly relevant fact is that Bush's plan would increase the deficit by at least a TRILLION, possibly TWO TRILLION dollars in order to make up for the funds being diverted into private accounts. FOX can't quite bring itself to say "increase the deficit." It says, "Experts say (Bush) would have little choice but to borrow the funds."

Instead, FOX has the audacity to begin its story by saying that "President Bush... vowed to send Congress 'a tough budget' early next year to hold (sic) keep down federal spending. 'You will see fiscal discipline exercised inside the Oval Office this coming budget cycle,' the president told a White House economic conference."

Never mind that, according to the LA Times, Bush's approach "would widen the federal deficit for a decade or more before long-term savings began to accrue." Bush-shilling FOX reports with no evident skepticism that "The president, who credited his tax-cutting policies with reviving the economy, said his strategy would be 'to grow the economy with reasonable tax policy but to make sure the deficit is dealt with by being wise about how we spend money.'"

Furthermore, the LA Times says that, "Workers under the age of 55 or so would face a cut in future benefits below the levels promised by current law." The ever-incurious-when-it-comes-to-Bush FOX reports that "for an undefined group of seniors, 'nothing will change' in their benefit structure." "'Today's guaranteed benefits are an empty promise to our younger workers,'" (White House press secretary Scott) McClellan said... The transformation would be part of a 'comprehensive solution to strengthen Social Security.'"

Apparently, Bush's idea is to increase the deficit, reduce the beneficiaries' guarantees, hand them over to the financial services industry, and call it a solution.

I'd call it a fix.

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