Fox hyped the high number of people receiving federal disability benefit payments to push myths about the program and suggest many recipients are "moochers" and "takers." In fact, a majority of applicants are denied benefits, and experts agree the higher levels of disability recipients are a direct result of the recession and an increased number of women receiving benefits.
A Fox News guest falsely claimed that payments received by dependent children and divorced spouses of retired wage earners are bankrupting Social Security. In fact there is no major problem with Social Security's finances and the benefits Fox criticized make up a miniscule portion of the benefits Social Security pays out.
Despite evidence to the contrary, right-wing media have frequently questioned the financial health of Social Security. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that Social Security spending will not rise sharply in the future, only rising from 4.87 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2011 to 6.63 percent of GDP over the next 75 years. The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities noted that Social Security's shortfall over the next 75 years can be almost completely made up by simply allowing the tax cuts passed during the Bush administration to expire for the wealthiest Americans.
On Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy asked if payments received by dependent children and former spouses of retirees is "why [Social Security] could be going broke." Doocy called these payments part of a "great big gravy train." His guest, Michael Huffman of the Daily Caller, said that these payments are part of "what's wrong with Social Security," and added that these payments have "got to be contributing to bankrupting the system."
In fact, these old-age payments to dependent children and ex-spouses do not account for a sizable number of Social Security recipients or payments.
Ted Nugent called for the suspension of the right to vote for "any American who is on welfare" as part of his proposal to reduce federal budget deficits outlined in his latest Washington Times column.
The National Rifle Association board member also called for "slaughtering the three sacred entitlement cows" of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, and called for tax increases on "the nearly 50 percent of Americans who pay zero federal income taxes." Nugent wrote that these policies should be instituted "before taxes are raised on the producers, which will further choke the economy."
From Nugent's column:
The three sacred entitlement cows in the room that no politician wants to poke are Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. A blinding statement of the obvious is that we are never going to get our financial house in order until these sacred entitlement cows are not only poked, but slaughtered. Until the slaughter is over, everything else is just taxation window dressing.
In addition to slaughtering the three sacred entitlement cows that consume a vast majority of the federal budget (and I use the term budget generously), let's truly spread the pain around and raise taxes on everyone, including the nearly 50 percent of Americans who pay zero federal income taxes. Those Americans need to have some skin in the game, too. I recommend at least a 5 percent federal income tax bracket for them. The insane free ride needs to end. [...]
Let's also stop the insanity by suspending the right to vote of any American who is on welfare. Once they get off welfare and are self-sustaining, they get their right to vote restored. No American on welfare should have the right to vote for tax increases on those Americans who are working and paying taxes to support them. That's insane. [...]
It shouldn't take a Motown guitar slayer to come up with these common-sense bargaining chips before taxes are raised on the producers, which will further choke the economy. How about it, GOP?
The Wall Street Journal advised Republicans to insist on certain Medicare and Social Security cuts -- such as raising the Medicare eligibility age and cutting future Social Security benefits -- as part of a deficit reduction deal with Democrats. But the Journal's proposals would harm retirees without providing much savings to the federal government.
From the December 1 edition of Fox News' Forbes on Fox:
Loading the player ...
A Wall Street Journal editorial hid the relative health of Social Security, in order to argue that immediate cuts to the program should be part of any deficit reduction deal. In fact, economists say that Social Security is not a major driver of deficits. Unfortunately, mainstream media have not reported this fact, which has given the Journal cover to push for Social Security cuts.
Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman has pointed out: "While the United States does have a long-run budget problem, Social Security is not a major factor in that problem." Social Security does face a shortfall between the revenue the program receives and the estimated benefits it will pay out beginning in 2034. But Center for Budget and Policy Priorities economist Kathy Ruffing has also noted that, far from being in crisis, Social Security's shortfall over the next 75 years would be almost completely restored by letting the Bush tax cuts expire for the wealthiest Americans.
Furthermore, the Congressional Budget Office has said that Social Security spending, which amounted to 4.69 percent of Gross Domestic Product, will rise only to 6.63 percent of GDP by 2086 if the program pays out full benefits. These facts have led economist Dean Baker to conclude that with regards to Social Security that "there is no plausible story in which our children or grandchildren will have to worry that there won't be anything there for them."
Nevertheless, the Wall Street Journal editorial board demanded that Democrats make immediate cuts to Social Security as the price for any deficit deal that raises federal revenues:
President Obama's re-election means that taxes for upper-income earners are going up one way or another. The Bush rates expire on December 31 unless Mr. Obama signs an extension, and he shows no inclination to do so except for anyone earning less than $250,000 a year ($200,000 if you're single). The question is how Republicans should handle this reality while staying true to their principles and doing the least harm to the economy.
Speaker John Boehner deserves some leeway to try to mitigate the damage by negotiating a larger tax reform.
All the more so if Mr. Boehner can also get Mr. Obama to agree to significant spending and entitlement reform. This means more than the usual suspects of cuts to doctors and hospitals and means-testing benefits for the affluent.
It means reforms -- dotted-line commitments, not promises -- that immediately reduce Medicare and Social Security liabilities, that terminate some discretionary programs, and that rein in such scandals as runaway Social Security disability payments.
Unfortunately, the Journal is not the only media outlet hiding the relative health of the Social Security program.
A November 25 Washington Post article on progressive resistance to conservative demands for Social Security cuts falsely claimed that Social Security's costs are "skyrocketing" and "fast-growing." In addition, a New York Times article reported that Republicans were pushing for Social Security cuts to restrain the deficit while the White House said the program "is not currently a driver of the deficit," but made no attempt to ascertain whether Republicans or the White House were correct.
And the Post and Times misleading reporting on Social Security provided the Journal cover to push for major cuts to the program.
The Washington Post misled about the cost of Social Security to claim the program's costs are skyrocketing and will need to be restrained as part of any deal to curb federal deficits.
The Post asserted in a November 25 article: "Without a deal on taxes, there is not much hope for agreement on a broader strategy for restraining the national debt that also tackles the skyrocketing cost of federal retirement programs such as Social Security and Medicare." The Post later paired statements by Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) stating that Social Security is not a major problem with comments by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) saying Social Security benefit cuts are necessary. The Post, however, made no attempt to report the facts on Social Security:
Republicans want cuts to fast-growing federal retirement programs, projected to be the biggest driver of future borrowing. Their opening bid included a demand to apply a less-generous measure of inflation to Social Security, which would slow the rise of benefit payments.
Obama agreed to the idea in talks with Boehner during the summer of 2011. But since the election, liberal groups have mobilized against it and Reid has ruled it out. On Sunday, the No. 2 Senate Democrat, Sen. Richard J. Durbin (Ill.), appeared to endorse Reid's position, though he argued that Democrats should ignore calls to take Medicare off the table.
"Social Security does not add one penny to our debt -- not a penny. It's a separate funded operation," Durbin said on ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos." "Medicare's another story -- only 12 years of solvency if we do nothing. So those who say, 'Don't touch it. Don't change it,' are ignoring the obvious."
Durbin suggested higher payments for "high-income beneficiaries" but expressed concerns about another idea Obama has previously accepted -- raising the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67.
Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C) said on the same show that gradually raising the retirement age -- for both Medicare and Social Security -- is exactly the kind of "eminently reasonable" entitlement reform Republicans will demand.
"I don't expect Democrats to go for premium support or a voucher plan," Graham said, referring to a Medicare proposal championed by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). "But I do expect them to adjust these entitlement programs before they bankrupt the country."
Contrary to the Post's assertions that Social Security costs are "skyrocketing" and "fast-growing," the Congressional Budget Office has estimated that Social Security spending is not projected to rise sharply, especially in contrast to Medicare. According to CBO, Social Security spending as of 2011 is equal to 4.69 percent of Gross Domestic Product. Seventy-five years later, CBO estimates that Social Security spending as a share of GDP will rise only to 6.63 percent of GDP.
Furthermore, as Durbin noted, Social Security is prohibited from running a deficit. So if Congress does not act, beginning in 2034, Social Security will pay out 81 percent of its promised benefits but won't add a penny to the deficit.
Politico executive editor Jim VandeHei misrepresented a poll to claim that progressive Democrats are out of step with most people who voted for President Obama over how to deal with Social Security and Medicare.
VandeHei stated on the November 20 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe that Obama voters are "at odds with the liberal base" of the Democratic Party on Social Security and Medicare:
VANDEHEI: [T]here's a lot of divisions inside the Democratic Party over what to do on entitlement reform. You're not going to get any Republican votes for an increase in taxes unless you have some changes to Medicare and to Social Security. And inside the Democratic Party, there's a big divide. Third Way, which is a group that represents centrists Democrats, they're out with a poll of Obama supporters this morning that show the vast majority of Obama supporters actually support changes to Medicare and Social Security, which puts them at odds with the liberal base of the party in the House and in the Senate."
VandeHei was echoing a Politico article that stated "a Third Way poll of 800 Obama voters set for release Tuesday found that efforts to fix Medicare and Social Security enjoy broader support than liberals suggest."
The Third Way poll asked Obama voters to rate on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the highest) how important it was for the president to take action that "fixes Social Security and Medicare" during his second term. Eighty-five percent responded with at least a six and 48% responded with a nine or 10 rating.
But the poll does not show a split between Obama voters and progressive Democrats as VandeHei claimed because progressives do not oppose proposals to strengthen Social Security and Medicare. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said she is open to reforms that "strengthen Social Security" and Medicare as long as they don't include benefit cuts, and as long as the reforms are not used as part of a deal to subsidize tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. Similarly, the Congressional Progressive Caucus has said that "decisions to change Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security 'must be based on what is best for their beneficiaries' " provided there are no cuts to Medicare and Social Security benefits.
Progressive economist and Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman has also embraced reforms to Medicare that do not involve benefit cuts. He also pointed out that Social Security is not a long-term drag on the nation's finances and therefore does not need major reform.
From the November 3 edition of Sirius XM's Media Matters Radio:
Loading the player ...
Fox News and conservative blogs are hyping a dishonest chart that shows employment decreasing while the numbers of people receiving government aid increasing since the end of 2008. However, an honest look at these figures would show that employment is on an upswing and enrollment in government aid programs has been increasing for decades.
The Weekly Standard and Fox Nation both put the chart, which is sourced to Republican Senator Jeff Sessions, on their websites. And Fox News aired the chart as well. The Standard said that the chart "details the alarming fact that enrollment in federal social welfare programs like Food Stamps, Medicaid, and Disability have far outpaced job growth over the last four years."
But this chart is incredibly dishonest. The chart uses December 2008 as its starting point, a date in the middle of a very deep recession. Employment began decreasing at the beginning of 2008 soon after the U.S. economy went into recession and was still decreasing in December 2008. But jobs have been increasing since in early 2010, resulting in the addition of more than 4 million jobs:
Furthermore, the increase in people receiving Social Security Disability benefits is not new. The number has been surging since the 1990s:
From the September 30 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends Sunday:
Loading the player ...
From the September 18 edition of Fox Business' Varney & Company:
Loading the player ...
Fox's Gretchen Carlson and Jonah Goldberg attacked people who receive Social Security, Medicare, unemployment and other benefits, claiming that they are receiving "government handouts." In fact, Americans pay for (or, in the case of retirees, have paid for) such benefits directly out of their paychecks.
During the segment, Fox displayed the below graph showing the rise in spending, which echoes numbers recently released by the American Enterprise Institute:
According to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, in 2010, the federal government paid $718 billion on Social Security and another $489 billion on Medicare. The Congressional Budget Office found that $120 billion was spent on unemployment insurance. This $1.327 trillion accounts for 60.3 percent of the spending identified by Fox.
But Social Security, Medicare and unemployment benefits are not "handouts." Americans pay for these benefits directly from their paychecks.
From the August 27 edition of Christian Broadcasting Network's The 700 Club:
Loading the player ...
Amid reports of rising poverty, two Fox News contributors claimed that anti-poverty programs have done nothing to alleviate poverty. In fact, federal government programs such as food stamps, Social Security, and other measures created or boosted by the stimulus billhave kept millions out of poverty and lowered the poverty rate.