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Instead Of Debating Social Security Expert’s Argument, Neil Cavuto Attacks Him Over Health Care Reform

Reported by Ellen - January 5, 2011 -

Co-authored by Brian

On Your World yesterday (1/4/11), one suspects that host Neil Cavuto knew he didn’t have the facts on his side when he suggested that Social Security was in imminent danger of catastrophe. So instead he attacked his Social Security expert, Eric Kingson, co-director of Social Security Works, for being “inconsistent” about health care reform – as if that had anything to do with the matter at hand.

Cavuto asked Kingson about the "long term direction" of the program. "With fewer people paying in, and more taking benefits out, that’s not going to last long."

Kingson answered, "That's wrong. I appreciate your opinion but…"

"It's not my opinion," Cavuto interrupted.

Kingson, who remained calm throughout, replied, "It’s not the opinion of the trustees of Social Security, the actuaries. The best estimates that the government has used and everyone has used say that the program has sufficient funds to meet all obligations to 2036. After that, it’s about 25 cents short on every dollar promised." (Kingson is correct.)

Cavuto countered, "We had the debt commission co-chairs here not too long ago who said this trust fund who everyone sort of swears by …isn't there, that it's been blown… There’s no lockbox. …Your comfort in thinking that the money's there, …it ain't."

"I'm sorry, you're just plain wrong, my friend,” Kingson said. (Kingson seems to be right about that, too) “They made clear that Social Security does not contribute to the federal debt, not a penny."

Cavuto aruged that the commission said the "long-term …growth projection" of Social Security, Medicare and Medicare is in "dire shape.” He asked, “You're saying there is no problem?"

Actually, no. Kingson was saying there’s no catastrophic emergency. Kingson answered, “I’m saying that we have a very manageable problem. It’s modest. It can be fixed by, for example, simply scrapping the (income) cap." He also advocated for open hearings.

Rather than debate the solution Kingson was offering, Cavuto attacked him for not objecting to “closed door meeting(s) on health care… That was fine then, it’s not fine now? …You're not being consistent."

It’s too bad Kingson didn’t confront Cavuto on this change-the-topic sleight-of-hand. But he did stick to his guns. "Historically, we’ve never addressed Social Security financing behind closed doors and outside the normal order of Congress."

Cavuto pressed, "But a big thing like health care, that’s fine to do behind closed doors."

Kingson responded by saying that Social Security was a "promise to Americans… If we cut it, they cut it at their own peril."

Kudos to Kingson for not allowing himself to be thrown off his stride by Cavuto. But it would have been even better if he had exposed Cavuto’s tactics and challenged him to dispute the facts.

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