Los Angeles Times columnist Michael Hiltzik sent similar signals Sunday, warning that Obama’s tax deal spells trouble ahead. He reports that some conservatives and liberals say it will be hard to restore the old payroll tax rate in the foreseeable future. Restoring the tax in a single swipe would mean a sudden tax increase of almost fifty percent, which pols could paint as a tax hike on the middle class, he says. Increasing the rate to its former levels might get tangled in a deal to extend the Bush-era tax cuts for the rich, or give supporters of privatization their opening by channeling a portion of the tax increase to privatized accounts—something they have championed for years and that would, some experts say, undermine the program.

It’s topsy-turvy politics, alright. Dems portraying themselves as angels delivering middle class tax cuts; Republicans casting themselves as saviors of social insurance. Election politics swirling around Social Security could get really interesting, as this recent press coverage suggests. Eric Kingson, co-director of the advocacy group Social Security Works, told Hiltzik: “You’re risking long-term economic security for a short term economic gain, however important that is. We hope people understand that.” They might if there’s more reporting like we saw last week.

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.