But, then, maybe it won’t matter anyway. Was the message really buried in the kicker of Bernard’s story? It quoted a Michigan financial planner, one George Papadopoulos, who advised that he will continue to tell his clients “not to highly rely on Social Security and think of any money coming their way as gravy.” Social Security as gravy, not the meat of retirement income, which it was always meant to be? If people are starting to think that way, then the Times and other news outlets need to examine what the sources of red meat will be—good employer pensions are now on life support; 401(k) plans are too small for millions of workers to provide significant income anyway; personal savings are hard to amass. Only then will any cut in Social Security benefits have contextual meaning.

Trudy Lieberman is a fellow at the Center for Advancing Health and a longtime contributing editor to the Columbia Journalism Review. She is the lead writer for The Second Opinion, CJR’s healthcare desk, which is part of our United States Project on the coverage of politics and policy. Follow her on Twitter @Trudy_Lieberman.