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Fox News Promotes Scrapping Social Security Then Pretends Otherwise

Reported by Ellen - June 1, 2010 -

Co-authored by Brian

Fox News employed one of their favorite tactics for legitimizing extremist positions on their “business” show, Cashin’ In, on Saturday (5/29/10), by pretending to “just debate” whether Social Security should be scrapped. When panelist Jonathan Hoenig made his argument, Fox News ran a disclaimer saying participants views are “not a reflection of the opinions of Fox News.” Maybe not. But the way that the program showcased Hoenig’s views and the comments of the host saying that Hoenig “might be on to something” indicate that Fox was darned interested in promoting the position.

The hook for the discussion was the suggestion that raising the retirement age might be a way to “save” Social Security. But host Cheryl Casone largely ignored that proposal and moved immediately to focus on Hoenig’s proposal. Before he spoke, a Fox news banner on the screen read: Hoenig: Don’t raise retirement age: Scrap Social Security!

“Is that even possible?” host Cheryl Casone asked, suggesting right off the bat the biggest problem is not that it’s a bad idea but an unfeasible one.

"I hope so,” Hoenig said. “Social Security is by definition a Ponzi Scheme. I mean it is Bernie Madoff on the largest scale. They lock you up for things like this. There is no savings, there is no investment, there’s no ownership, there’s no account with your name on it. They're just looting you today with the promise they're going to loot future generations on your behalf."

As Hoenig spoke, a quick disclaimer on the screen read, “The following program contains the strong opinions of its participants, which are not a reflection of the opinions of Fox News and should not be relied upon as investment advice when making personal investment decisions.” As Frances Martel at Mediaite noted, this is standard language for business programs - during a political discussion. However, nearly all of Fox News so-called "Business Block" is more political than financial. Like Martel, we have not noticed this disclaimer on these programs previously. However, we could have blinked and missed it.

Despite the disclaimer, Casone said enthusiastically, "Jonathan might be onto something… There's something to be said for us living longer." She never challenged Hoenig’s extremist, inflammatory rhetoric that Social Security is “a Ponzi scheme” that is “looting” Americans.

Fortunately, guest Wayne Rogers did. "Jonathan's not on to something, Jonathan’s on something. He's smoking something that doesn't make any sense at all. That's about as politically reality as flying off to Mars… The time since retirement has doubled since 1965. People can afford to live longer, they can afford, therefore, to push this retirement age out 2 or 3 years at least, maybe longer."

Regular panelist Tracy Byrnes supported Hoenig's proposition. "Anyone in our generation is not even planning on receiving a Social Security check. If I get it, it’s going to be my candy money when I'm 70 and I have no teeth… I'm on the same drug Jonathan's on, I guess, because I think the whole thing should go. Transition people out, cut off a date. Forty five and under, no Social Security checks, so start planning."

Casone did make a nod toward balance by saying that Florida’s economy benefits from spending based on Social Security checks. But that was hardly a pushback on a proposal to eliminate a safety net for millions of Americans.

Mark Levine, liberal radio host, said, "Does anyone remember Al Gore's lockbox?... Take all the money people pay in Social Security taxes, and save it for, Social Security!... George Bush broke in(to) the lockbox, spent it all on his buddies in oil, in pharmaceuticals, and two wars, and tax cuts for the rich."

Casone did not give Levine the respect she gave Hoenig. She said sarcastically, "It's Bush's fault, awwwwwww!"

John Layfield spoke up for Social Security but he, too, legitimized Hoenig and Byrnes. "This has eradicated poverty among elderly people. This is a good thing. But… Tracy and Jonathan are right. There is no way this is going to be paid for. We are going to default on this debt."

Panelist Jonas Max Ferris said, "It's completely manageable without raising taxes by pushing the age up. I don’t see why this is such a big deal."

But after Hoenig rebutted, Casone gave him another imprimatur of legitimacy. "I don't think I'm going to have Social Security when I'm old and gray."

Video below via Mediaite.

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