NY Times misstated Republicans' Social Security proposal as attempt to "add" private accounts

››› ››› RAPHAEL SCHWEBER-KOREN

A New York Times article about new Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee radio advertisements on Social Security incorrectly stated that the ads "try to remind those who traditionally vote Republican of their party's plan to add private investment accounts" to the retirement program. In fact, President Bush did not propose adding accounts to the existing system; instead, he proposed allowing workers to divert up to 4 percent of wages (about one-third of their payroll taxes) into a private account, removing it from the money available to pay Social Security benefits for current retirees.

A May 17 New York Times article about new Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee radio advertisements on Social Security incorrectly stated that the ads "try to remind those who traditionally vote Republican of their party's plan to add private investment accounts" to the retirement program. In fact, the president did not propose adding accounts to the existing system; instead, he proposed allowing workers to divert up to 4 percent of wages (about one-third of their payroll taxes) into a private account, removing it from the money available to pay Social Security benefits for current retirees. This diversion creates large transition costs, which the government must cover in order to continue paying already-promised benefits while receiving less revenue from those currently working. As Media Matters has noted, Vice President Dick Cheney has acknowledged that those transition costs would be in the trillions of dollars.

In a February 2, 2005, briefing, a "senior administration official" explicitly contrasted "add-on" accounts with the president's proposed private accounts:

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I would hasten to point out that this [the president's private-account proposal] is distinct from something like an add-on account, where under an add-on account you actually would have a net new cost because you would have -- you would require resources up front to fund the accounts, but the accounts, themselves, would be creating additional -- or would be a part of an additional program or additional obligations on top of the current Social Security system, rather than addressing existing obligations.

In contrast to the May 17 article, an April 30, 2005, New York Times article described the president's proposal as such:

But in the Senate, where Mr. Bush faces his biggest hurdle on the issue, there was no sign that Democrats would join him in calling for benefit cuts or budge from their unified opposition to the core of the president's approach, his call to allow workers to divert part of their payroll taxes into investment accounts. And if Mr. Bush is relying on public opinion to sway at least a few Democrats and a vital handful of centrist Republicans to come to his side, he has his work cut out for him. Despite 60 days of intensive campaigning by Mr. Bush and other top administration officials, the president's approval rating on the issue has been falling in most polls and voters appear unenthusiastic about his solutions.

From the May 17 New York Times article titled "G.O.P. Voters to Be Target of Radio Ads by Democrats":

House Democrats, trying to capitalize on conservative dissatisfaction with Republicans, are reaching out to Christian voters with radio advertisements critical of Republican proposals to overhaul Social Security.

In a campaign tied to appearances by President Bush on behalf of House candidates later this week, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has bought time on stations with Christian and conservative audiences to try to remind those who traditionally vote Republican of their party's plan to add private investment accounts to Social Security.

While Republicans have stepped up efforts in recent years to cut into traditional Democratic strength among Catholics, Hispanics and older Americans, among other groups, the radio campaign is a rare effort by Democrats to appeal to a dependable Republican constituency.

Posted In
Economy, Social Security
Network/Outlet
The New York Times
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