For the record: the debt is the sum of all the government’s prior deficits. The deficit is the change in the debt over a period of time. As the president and his budget director have said, Social Security is not the cause of the deficit. “Social Security is a designated fund. It cannot spend more money than it has in the trust fund, so in that sense it cannot contribute to the deficit,” explained Dean Baker, co-director of the progressive Center for Economic and Policy Research. Medicare is another matter. Costs will continue to rise because of the inability to control the price of medical care, the causes of which have escaped most journalistic discourse. Perhaps Gregory might want to tackle that in the short run.

For the record: McCaskill voted the other day for the law that lifts the debt ceiling and sets in motion a process that could well result in substantial cuts to Medicare and Social Security. Given that possibility, it would be great if the people of Missouri knew what exactly their senator supports. Perhaps Gregory can tell them next time around.

For more from Trudy Lieberman on Social Security and entitlement reform, click here.

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.