Don’t Take It to the Bank

Add the Atlanta Journal Constitution to the list of papers unable to nail down the basic facts about the president’s proposal to partially privatize Social Security.

Yesterday, the Bush administration tapped U.S. Treasurer Anna Escobedo Cabral to head out to Smyrna, Georgia to sell the president’s Social Security overhaul.

Breaking down the details, the AJC reported, “The combined Social Security payroll contribution for most workers and employers is 12.4 percent of income. Cabral said the president proposes that younger workers be allowed to invest up to 4 percent into ‘personal retirement accounts.’”

The AJC gets the first part correct, but misses the mark on the fraction of funds Bush proposes to divert into private accounts. On many occasions CJR Daily has pointed out that 4 percent of 12.4 and 4 percentage points of those 12.4 are not equal amounts of money. Bush’s plan calls for 4 percentage points to be invested — about 30 percent of the total currently paid into the system.

It’s also possible that Cabral got it wrong and the AJC just mimicked her error. After all, she wouldn’t be the first politician that we’ve caught tripping over the facts. (The Treasury Department did not immediately return our calls requesting a transcript.) Of course, in that case, the AJC would be guilty of just transcribing Cabral without checking her facts.

Either way, it’s a poor return on a reader’s 50 cents.


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Thomas Lang was a writer at CJR Daily.