New York Times Wages War on Medicare and Social Security
by Stephen Lendman
The record of America’s newspaper of record is deplorable. It supports wealth, power, privilege and dominance. It backs corporate interests. It spurns popular ones. It endorses imperial wars.
It’s comfortable about toppling independently elected governments. It’s silent about propping up friendly despots. It’s quiet about disappearing democratic freedoms. It ignores US duopoly power.
It endorses sham elections. It’s waging war on America’s social contract. ObamaCare rationed healthcare to enrich insurers, drug companies, and large hospital chains.
In March 2010, a Times editorial headlined “Health Care Reform, at last.” It praised what it should have condemned.
Ralph Nader called it “a pay-or-die system that’s the disgrace of the Western world.”
Obama’s financial reform was a Wall Street giveaway. It was old wine in new bottles. It was more scam than reform. A Times July editorial headlined “Congress Passes Financial Reform.”
It “merit(s) broad support,” it said. It established “consumer protection(s).”
“The bill is a milestone,” it claimed. Wall Street malfeasance today is worse than ever. Government complicity permits it. Media scoundrels don’t explain.
A previous article discussed Times’ support for austerity harshness. Imposing it eases pain, it claimed.
In August 2010, a New York Times editorial headlined, “The Latest on Medicare and Social Security,” saying:
“Of course, neither program is sound for the long run. (Yet there’s) time for lawmakers to reform and strengthen both (for) the long haul.”
“(A) combination of benefits cuts and tax increases is required. (It) could be distributed fairly and phased in over decades.”
Times editors lied. When properly administered, both programs are sound. More on that below.
In November 2011, a Times editorial headline “Fixing Medicare,” saying:
“There is no way to wrestle down the deficit without reigning in Medicare costs.”
“The only way to make Medicare sustainable is to have it grow at the same rate as the economy that provides the tax base to support it.”
“The solution, most experts agree, is to have Medicare pay doctors and other health care providers fixed sums to manage a patient’s care and then let the doctors decide which services are truly necessary.”
In other words, let providers and bureaucrats choose who gets care, how much, under what circumstances, at what cost, and perhaps leave out those requiring expensive treatment.
In April 2012, a Times editorial headlined “A Year in the Life of Social Security,” saying:
Without “reforms,” full benefits can only be paid “until 2033 – versus 2036 in last year’s report – and three-fourths of benefits after that.”
“(L)awmakers should act soon to bolster the system’s financing….What is needed is a balanced mix of modest benefit cuts and moderate tax increases (to ensure) solvency (and) fair (burden) sharing.”
On January 5, The Times called Social Security “worse than you think.” Saying so belies reality. More on its duplicitous scaremongering below.
On August 14, 1935, the Social Security Act became law. It’s called the federal Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance program (OASDI).
It provides retirement, disability, survivorship, and death benefits. It’s America’s most effective poverty reduction program. It’s worked remarkably well since inception.
It provides secure inflation-adjusted retirement or disability income. Personal savings aren’t risked.
It’s sound and secure. It’s not going bankrupt. When properly administered, modest adjustments alone assure it. The same holds for Medicare.
It’s “the nation’s largest health insurance program.” Payroll deductions defray costs. Tens of millions rely on it. It covers eligible recipients aged 65 or older, some disabled ones under age 65, and people of all ages with End-Stage Renal Disease.
Duplicitous scaremongering claims both programs face bankruptcy.
Republicans never wanted them in the first place. Obama and most Democrats support killing them. They favor death by a 1,000 cuts. Perhaps The New York Times agrees.
On January 5, it claimed Social Security is “Worse Than You Think.” Saying so turned truth on its head.
America must “confront” a “huge cliff,” it said. In 2010, “$49 billion dollars more in (Social Security) benefits” were paid than received. Doing so will exhaust Trust Fund revenues “by 2033.”
“Those facts are widely known,” claimed The Times. If remedial action isn’t taken, benefits no longer will be paid.
False! The Times omitted key facts. In 1968, Lyndon Johnson adopted a “unified budget.” He combined Social Security Trust Fund (SSTF) receipts with general revenues. He did so to defray Great Society and Southeast Asia war costs.
Henceforth, SSTF surpluses (“Intra-Governmental Holdings of Debt”) concealed the true national debt. At the same time, SSTF revenues used annually for federal expenditures reduce Washington’s ability to pay future beneficiaries.
SSTF exists in name only. All sources of retirement income and security are under siege. Social Security works well as mandated. It’s Washington’s most successful program. It could easily be made structurally sound in perpetuity.
Active workers and employers support eligible retirees, their dependents, and the disabled. Steady income is assured. Marketplace uncertainty is avoided.
Critics falsely claim it’s going broke. It’s sound and secure. Modest adjustments only are needed to keep it that way. Separating Trust Fund receipts from general revenues would strengthen it.
Contractual federal obligations would be assured. Benefits could increase, not decline. The New York Times didn’t explain. It claimed otherwise.
“To save Social Security,” it said, “tough choices have to be made. One option is (keep) raising the retirement age.” Doing so combines a stealth tax increase/benefit decline.
“A second option is increase payroll taxes.” Wages are taxed up to $113,700. Low/middle income earners are disproptionately taxed. Most of what high-income ones earn escapes entirely.
All income should be taxed equitably. None should be exempted. A simple fix would change things. Progressive taxes, a modest Tobin one on speculation, combined with making corporations pay their fair share would raise hundreds of billions annually.
Taxing hundreds of trillions in annual derivatives trades one-tenth of one percent would raise $500 billion alone. Sweeping progressive tax reform would at least double the amount. Cutting defense spending responsibly would triple or quadruple it.
Payroll taxes could be eliminated. Deficit-cutting hysteria would end. Benefits could be raised, not cut. Retirements would be secure. Medicare for all could follow. So could other benefits. America’s social contract would be strengthened.
The Times highlighted a third option instead. Limit annual cost-of-living adjustments, it urged. Inflation-adjusted benefits currently decline annually. They do it substantially. The Times suggests cutting more.
A fourth option stresses it. Lower “initial benefits for workers whose lifetime wages (exceed) the national ($43,000 a year) average.”
Perhaps discourage retirement. Make it “an option.” Delaying “reform” assures “more disruptive” changes ahead.
Times readers are betrayed. Social security didn’t cause deficit problems. Benefits shouldn’t be cut to address it. Privatization should be ruled out. So should means-testing. Retirement age shouldn’t be increased.
Greater revenues are easily raised. Institute progressive taxation. Make everyone pay their fair share. Make corporations do it. Increase benefits. Don’t cut them.
Prioritize helping those most in need. Assure no one retires impoverished. Provide Medicare for all. Everyone in. No one left out.
Good governance isn’t rocket science. It’s as simple as doing the right thing. Times editors didn’t explain.
Wealth, power and privilege alone matter. Let popular needs go begging. Bipartisan complicity plans it. Media scoundrels support what they should condemn.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com.
His new book is titled “Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity.”
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.