The media haven’t reported much about how the nuts and bolts of proposals to fix Social Security would affect ordinary people, but they’ve done a super job of showing how Social Security’s opponents have brought one of the biggest segments around to their way of thinking—Congressional Democrats, including the second ranking member of the Senate, Dick Durbin, who is often the media’s go-to guy for the progressive perspective. It’s kind of a validation of Cato’s manifesto. As Politico reported, though Durbin had long allied himself with Social Security supporters, he said he’s been convinced that action is vital. “If we don’t do something and do it quickly bad things can happen in a hurry,” he said.
“We used to have Democrats speaking out (in support of the program) which we don’t have today, “ says Eric Kingson, co-director of the advocacy group Social Security Works. It was the Democrats who pushed for the payroll tax holiday—helped along by the media, which have passed along their quotes about assisting working people. Too often the reportage has glossed over the negatives of the tax cut, without noting what would happen if the tax is not restored. Kingson’s group and others, including some Republicans, argued that if the payroll tax is not restored and the government must borrow money from the Treasury to pay benefits to current recipients, Social Security will contribute to the deficit, which it doesn’t do now. That will produce more reasons to change the program. “Once the dominant view on each side of the aisle was that seniors need Social Security, and it was fair to everyone,” said Kingson. “Generations were not in conflict.”
This month, Esquire published a lengthy piece titled “The War Against Youth.” Part of the headline proclaimed: “The recession didn’t gut the prospects of American young people. The Baby Boomers took care of that.” The argument that fat-cat elders are shafting young people follows from there. The author, Stephen Marche, writes: “The biggest boondoggle of all is Social Security,” and he goes on to explain that the Baby Boomers are to blame.
What readers of Esquire may not know is that, two years ago, the magazine assembled a bipartisan commission, similar to Obama’s Simpson-Bowles Commission, that—in three days’ time—came up with a plan to balance the federal budget. The Esquire group’s recommendation were similar to those made by Simpson-Bowles. At the end of its report, the Esquire panel thanked the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget and its president, Maya MacGuineas, “for their invaluable assistance in providing the commission with accurate data and budget options.” That committee has received support from Peter G. Peterson, an arch-foe of Social Security who has tried to get the media to see things his way. The media consensus continues to build.