On MSNBC Live, David Shuster stated that Social Security "will run out of money unless we make some major changes, at least in the next several years." In fact, according to the 2008 reports by the Social Security and Medicare Boards of Trustees, Social Security will be able to pay full benefits until 2041, at which point it will be able to cover 78 percent of benefits if no legislative changes are made. It will not "run out of money ... in the next several years," or in 2041.
Yes, there's stuff we actually like. From the Wall Street Journal, this incisive and descriptive paragraph from a prize-winning caliber article describing the financial meltdown:
The U.S. financial system resembles a patient in intensive care. The body is trying to fight off a disease that is spreading, and as it does so, the body convulses, settles for a time and then convulses again. The illness seems to be overwhelming the self-healing tendencies of markets. The doctors in charge are resorting to ever-more invasive treatment, and are now experimenting with remedies that have never before been applied. Fed Chairman Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, walking into a hastily arranged meeting with congressional leaders Tuesday night to brief them on the government's unprecedented rescue of AIG, looked like exhausted surgeons delivering grim news to the family.
Here's Scherer's initial claim that an Obama ad distorted McCain's position on Social Security: "it is not true that McCain is running for president on a platform of turning Social Security over to Wall Street."
Now here's Scherer's update: "Read what I have written above, and decide if I am trying to hide the fact that McCain wants to pursue a plan to invest Social Security funds in the markets, which is the main allegation by Media Matters. I make this fact very clear."
Ok. Um ... if Scherer acknowledges "McCain wants to pursue a plan to invest Social Security funds in the markets," what exactly is his problem with the statement that "McCain is running for president on a platform of turning Social Security over to Wall Street"?
The ad says McCain favors "risking social security on the stock market," which is what I paraphrased as Obama's claim that McCain wants to "turn social security over to Wall Street," which the unbiased folks at Media Matters calls a strawman. I think it's a fair--though not exactly precise--characterization of the Obama claim.
Ok. Let's review:
According to Michael Scherer, "McCain wants to pursue a plan to invest Social Security funds in the markets."
But, according to Micahel Scherer, Obama's ad's statement that "McCain favors 'risking social security on the stock market'" is a distortion of McCain's position.
The post mentions three ads that all share the same problem, which is clearly identified in the first paragraph. To wit, instead of talking about the opponents' plans, the ads talk about the opponents' past votes. This process obstructs the debate that should be happening about the candidate's plans. The Obama social security ad says McCain wants to do what Bush did. This is not what McCain now says he wants to do. That's the point.
The problem is, that point is wrong. Scherer supports it with nothing more than a vague statement from McCain's web page (a statement that actually undermines Scherer's point, as it endorses "personal accounts") and a slightly less vague statement from Mark Salter. He ignores John McCain's repeated comments this year in support of private accounts -- comments that a simple Google search for "McCain Social Security privatization" will unearth in seconds. Comments that I linked in my earlier post. And Scherer ignores his own statement -- just a few sentances earlier -- that "McCain wants to pursue a plan to invest Social Security funds in the markets."
Scherer says there should be a debate about the candidates' plans. I agree. But his post obscures McCain's plans; it doesn't clarify them. For instance, Scherer keeps suggesting that McCain's current statements contradict (and moot) his previous votes -- but he hasn't explained how they do so.
When he does get around to explaining -- perhaps in his next update? -- maybe Scherer can also explain why he dismisses the votes cited in the ad, one of which occured in 2006, as having taken place "a decade ago."
On CNN's American Morning, John Roberts did not challenge Mitt Romney's suggestion that, with "an economy in trouble," Sen. Barack Obama will raise taxes. Roberts did not note that, in fact, Obama has proposed tax cuts for low- and middle-income families and for those making less than $250,000 per year.
Anchor Erin Burnett questioning the patriotism of short sellers? Analyst Jim Cramer wondering if terrorists are behind the financial madness that continues to unfold on Wall Street?
CJR thinks it's time for the CNBC team to regroup.
Contessa Brewer cited the Tax Policy Center's finding that Sen. Barack Obama's spending and tax plan would add $3.4 trillion to the national debt while ignoring its finding that Sen. John McCain's plan would increase the debt by more than $5 trillion.
Sean Hannity asked if there was "danger" in Sen. Barack Obama's speaking of "economic crisis"; but Hannity did not mention that Sen. John McCain has also said, in a speech and in a campaign ad, that the "economy is in crisis."
On his radio show, Chris Baker stated in response to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's comments on the Wall Street crisis: "Another reason why it's very rare to find a woman worthy of serving in political office." Moments before, Baker said, referring to Pelosi, "Get another facelift, lady."
ABC's David Wright aired a quote of Sen. John McCain saying during a September 16 speech that "[o]ur economy is broken." But Wright did not note that the previous day -- and many times before that -- McCain made a remark that was flatly inconsistent with that comment, saying that "the fundamentals of our economy are strong."
Brian Beutler argues that, despite the focus by some media on how the present dire economic situation will "affect the electoral prospects of the presidential candidates," actual voters probably want more useful information:
From where I sit, though, we're witnessing a series of events that might lead to a fundamental restructuring of the financial sector--risk tolerance, jurisdictions of federal agencies, closing loopholes in existing regulations, etc--and voters might also want to know how these guys have voted on related issues, which one was best buds with Charles Keating, and so on.
Over at the Media Research Center's Newsbusters blog, Noel Sheppard takes issue with this exchange between CNN's Anderson Cooper and Candy Crowley:
ANDERSON COOPER: Candy, no doubt -- very quickly -- on the campaign trail, it obviously played a big role today. You anticipate, in the days ahead, issue number one, it's going to be front and center?
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN: Oh, absolutely.
I mean, listen, just as foreclosures were showing up on B-17, or in the real estate section, along comes this horrific headline out of Wall Street.
ANDERSON COOPER: Right.
CROWLEY: I mean, this is what they wanted. They believe, of course, that the economy is one of their strengths and that they can paint John McCain as George Bush.
Sheppard's complaint? "The nation's banking system is collapsing, and members of CNN are not only discussing how it helps Obama, but are admitting that this is what his campaign wanted. How disgraceful."
Crowley's comments are objectionable, all right -- but not for the reason Sheppard thinks. Read Crowley's comments again. She accused Barack Obama of rooting for economic difficulties. Sheppard thinks Crowley is "admitting" the Obama campaign wanted this. No, she's baselessly accusing them of wanting this.
Don't believe me? Try a little thought experiment. Imagine that Candy Crowley said in response to a terrorist attack that "this is what the McCain campaign wanted. They believe, of course, that fighting terrorism is one of their strengths." Do you think Noel Sheppard would say Candy Crowley "admitted" the McCain campaign wanted a terrorist attack? Of course not. He'd blast Crowley, saying she smeared McCain by saying he was rooting against America. And he would be right.
A Detroit News article quoted a McCain spokesman's claims that Obama would "raise taxes" without noting that Obama has proposed tax cuts for low- and middle-income families.
Today's Washington Post includes an article about voters' misperceptions about the presidential candidates' tax plans -- an article that fails to clarify much about their actual proposals. Here's how the Post explains the distribution of the candidates' tax cuts:
If voters hear any part of Obama's message, it's his vow to treat taxpayers differently depending on their income. Under his plan, lower- and middle-income workers would see large tax cuts, while families in the top 1 percent of the income scale would see an average annual tax increase of nearly $100,000, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.
McCain, by contrast, vows to cut taxes for all families, but his plan would concentrate those benefits among the same families who would suffer under Obama. While middle-income families would see an average tax cut of about $321 under McCain, according to the Tax Policy Center, families in the top 1 percent would see an average tax cut of nearly $49,000.
Notice anything missing? The Post tells us the "average tax cut" for "middle-income families" under McCain's plan: $321, according to the Tax Policy Center. Is that more or less than such families would get under Obama's plan? That's a fairly basic question, and one you would think an article about the candidates' tax plans would answer. But the Post says only that under Obama's plan, "lower- and middle-income workers would see large tax cuts." Well, great. How large? More than under McCain's plan? Less? The Post doesn't tell readers. Is it any wonder that voters don't understand the candidates' tax plans?
For the record, the Tax Policy Center -- the very organization the Post relied on for its information -- says Obama would give bigger tax cuts to middle income taxpayers than McCain would:
The Obama plan would reduce taxes for low- and moderate-income families, but raise them significantly for high-bracket taxpayers (see Figure 2). By 2012, middle-income taxpayers would see their after-tax income rise by about 5 percent, or nearly $2,200 annually. Those in the top 1 percent would face a $19,000 average tax increase—a 1.5 percent reduction in after-tax income.
McCain would lift after-tax incomes an average of about 3 percent, or $1,400 annually, for middle-income taxpayers by 2012. But, in sharp contrast to Obama, he would cut taxes for those in the top 1% by more than $125,000, raising their after-tax income an average 9.5 percent.
On Studio B, Carl Cameron said, "Fifty-eight days before the elections, and the Obama campaign is accusing the McCainiacs of lying about this 'bridge to nowhere' issue." He went on to claim of Gov. Sarah Palin, "Now, she didn't ask for the bridge, nor did she ask for the money. ... [W]hen people say, 'Sarah Palin asked for earmark money or pork,' it's just inaccurate." In fact, in an op-ed in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Palin wrote that in 2008, her administration "requested 31 earmarks, down from 54 in 2007" and that "the federal budget, in its various manifestations, is incredibly important to us, and congressional earmarks are one aspect of this relationship."
On CBS' The Early Show, Maggie Rodriguez did not challenge McCain campaign adviser Steve Schmidt's claim that "Senator [Barack] Obama has a plan to raise" taxes, even though McCain's own chief economic adviser has reportedly said it is inaccurate to say "Barack Obama raises taxes." Rodriguez did not point out that, in fact, Obama has proposed cutting taxes for low- and middle-income families and raising them only on households earning more than $250,000 per year.