NY Times misrepresents Obama op-ed on Social Security

››› ››› TOM ALLISON

In a blog post, New York Times reporter Larry Rohter claimed that in a statement in a September 2007 op-ed that "[i]f we kept the payroll tax exactly the same but applied it to all earnings and not just the first $97,500, we could virtually eliminate the entire Social Security shortfall," Sen. Barack Obama was laying out his plan to address future shortfalls in Social Security. Rohter misrepresented the statement, claiming that Obama has now changed his position. But in the op-ed, Obama did not present removing the payroll tax income cap as his "plan" but, rather, as "[o]ne possible option."

In an August 15 post on The New York Times blog The Caucus, headlined "Obama pulls back on Social Security Plan," reporter Larry Rohter falsely asserted that in a September 21, 2007, op-ed in Iowa's Quad City Times on tax reform for seniors, Sen. Barack Obama laid out a proposal to remove the cap on income subject to payroll tax. Rohter reported that aides to Obama have recently made statements that have "made more modest" Obama's payroll and Social Security tax plans and that Obama's plan "[i]n its original form" was "far more ambitious" than recent iterations of the plan. But contrary to Rohter's assertion, in the op-ed, Obama did not offer removal of the income cap as his "plan"; he merely stated that removing the cap on income on which the payroll tax is assessed was "[o]ne possible option" in addressing future shortfalls in Social Security.

Specifically, Rohter quoted from the op-ed as follows:

In its original form, though, Mr. Obama's plan was far more ambitious. "If we kept the payroll tax exactly the same but applied it to all earnings and not just the first $97,500, we could virtually eliminate the entire Social Security shortfall," he wrote in an op-ed piece that appeared in the Quad City Times, an Iowa daily newspaper, in September 2007.

But that is not what Obama wrote in the op-ed. Obama did not present removing the payroll tax income cap as his "plan"; rather, he simply wrote that doing so was "[o]ne possible option":

First, I will fight against efforts to privatize Social Security, as I and others did when President Bush proposed private accounts a few years ago. Privatization is wrong. It tears at the fabric of Social Security -- the idea of mutual responsibility -- by subjecting a secure retirement to the whims of the market.

Second, I do not want to cut benefits or raise the retirement age. I believe there are a number of ways we can make Social Security solvent that do not involve placing these added burdens on our seniors. One possible option, for example, is to raise the cap on the amount of income subject to the Social Security tax. If we kept the payroll tax rate exactly the same but applied it to all earnings and not just the first $97,500, we could virtually eliminate the entire Social Security shortfall. [Emphasis added.]

Posted In
Economy, Social Security
Network/Outlet
The New York Times
Stories/Interests
Barack Obama, 2008 Elections
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