Syndicated columnist and CNN host Robert Novak again misquoted Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean in order to assert that Dean believes the Bush administration's claim that Social Security is in crisis. Novak first made this false claim on the February 26 edition of CNN's The Capital Gang.
From the February 28 edition of CNN's Inside Politics:
NOVAK: He [Dean] spoke at Cornell University last week, and the only paper that covered this was the Cornell daily student paper. And he said, yes, Social Security has a big problem, over the years it's going to lose about 80 percent of the benefits. That, Judy, is not the Democratic line. The Democratic line is, "There is no problem." So Howard Dean says what he thinks is the truth. Often it is the truth. He's going to be a lot of fun as national chairman.
In fact, as The Cornell Daily Sun reported in its coverage of Dean's February 23 speech at the university, Dean did not say of Social Security that "over the years it's going to lose about 80 percent of the benefits," as Novak claimed, but rather that "if Social Security were left alone for 30 years, benefits would be reduced to 80 percent of what it is now," meaning that the program would lose about 20 percent of benefits. The Daily Sun article further noted that Dean "would not endorse" privatizing of Social Security, adding that "[h]e acknowledged that while there were indeed problems with the program, turning to Wall Street was not the answer."
The Republican National Committee quickly picked up Novak's lie and promoted it on the RNC website, complete with a transcript and video.
The Social Security trustees projected in their 2004 report that the current system could pay out full benefits for 37 years, or until 2042; it could then pay 73 percent of currently scheduled benefits immediately thereafter and 68 percent of benefits in 2078. According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office's 2004 projections, the current system could pay out full benefits until 2052, 81 percent of currently scheduled benefits in 2053, and 71 percent in 2100.
Novak is a regular guest on Inside Politics during a segment called "Novak's Notebook."