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FOX Host Terry Keenan cheerleads for Bush on Social Security

Reported by Ellen - December 19, 2004

Yesterday's Cashin' In showcased Bush's proposal to start privatizing Social Security in its introductory segment. While I was glad to see the panel scrutinizing the plan and providing some real criticism to it, the same could not be said for host Terry Keenan who had nothing but good things to say about Bush and his plan.

Keenan's bias showed in her opening question, "Is the president's fix for Social Security also the secret weapon for a new bull market?" She then showed the results of a recent FOX opinion poll showing (Surprise! Surprise!) that "most people want to see President Bush's plan put into action."

In fact, the poll did not ask about Bush's plan, but whether or not people "should have the choice to invest privately up to five percent of their Social Security contributions." The respondents were not asked whether they would favor this even if it means increasing the national deficit by a trillion dollars or more (as Bush's plan would) or whether they would favor this over a small increase in payroll taxes and/or benefit change, such as increasing the age for retirement. See Question 6 of the poll and third to last paragraph of FOXNews.com article indicating that Bush's plan would likely require additional government borrowing of one to two trillion dollars.

Also unmentioned by Keenan, but shown clearly in the poll, is that the support for privatization has dropped seven percent in the past year.

As noted, several of the guests expressed strong reservations about Bush's plan, including FOX Business News Contributor Stuart Varney who said that there ought to be some aspect of our financial lives that we can be certain of and that Social Security, the way it is now, offers that security.

In response, Keenan said, "But the system is going to go bust." That is not an accurate reflection of the problem. According to FOXNews.com's article (which, presumably, Keenan has no argument with), "Social Security will start paying out more than it takes in in 2018. By 2042, the system will be able to cover only 73 percent of promised benefits, according to Social Security's trustees." Not being able to pay 27% percent of its promised benefits is certainly a problem but is not exactly bust. And 2042 is not exactly imminent.

But no one on the five-person panel of business experts challenged her comment. Did all of them, including Gretchen Morgensen, NY Times Business editor, agree with Keenan's/Bush's characterization of the problem? Or did each of them prefer not to make waves about it?

Comment: Having people debate Bush's plan without anyone questioning whether we need reform at all is a typical FOX discussion of the issues. FOX frames the issue and has people argue back and forth about it without anyone ever questioning the framework. It's a FOX sleight of hand that keeps the focus on Bush's initiative and away from his premise. It keeps happening yet no one on the air ever seems to notice.

Also unmentioned: Wouldn't FOX stand to gain in advertising revenues from financial institutions looking for all that new money if privatization came about?

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