STRAIGHT OUTTA ETHER! Bush has a fake, phony figure to pimp. Gail Collins deftly debunks it:
TUESDAY, JANUARY 4, 2005
STRAIGHT OUTTA ETHER: Is anything on earth so phony and fake that Bush wont say it to the press? In the recent campaign, Bush promised to cut the federal deficit in half by the year 2009. In Sundays Times, Edmund Andrews explained how the great man plans to do it:
ANDREWS (1/2/05): To make Mr. Bush's goal easier to reach, administration officials have decided to measure their progress against a $521 billion deficit they predicted last February rather than last year's actual shortfall of $413 billion.Incredible, isnt it? Rather than cut the actual deficit in half, Bush will tackle an imaginary deficit—a projected deficit, one that never existed, one he pulled straight outta his keister. We truly do live in fictitious times—when a sitting president can even dream of making such an absurd presentation. But dont worry! The press corps has glugged down gallons of budget cant from the Bush Admin over the years. Result? You live at a time when a White House has made a clear decision—that there is nothing so phony and fake that the press will refuse to accept it.
Which brings us back to yesterdays editorial in the New York Times. To her vast credit, Gail Collins debunked one of the many fake spin-points your White House is pimping on Social Security. You need to understand them all. So lets review what Collins said:
NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL (1/3/05): If you've lent even one ear to the administration's recent comments on Social Security, you have no doubt heard President Bush and his aides asserting that a $10 trillion shortfall threatens the retirement system —and the economy itself. That $10 trillion hole is the basis of the president's claim last month that ''the [Social Security] crisis is now....In fact, youre likely to hear Bushs shills use a larger figure: $10.4 trillion. On the December 5 This Week, for example, Senate majority leader Bill Frist cited the figure again and again (transcript below). As the Times notes, that frightening figure has been pulled from thin air—and Frist was eager to mislead you with it. Indeede, youre going to hear that figure pimped in the future, and its important that you know how to explain it. Where did that frightening figure come from? Collins explained in her ed:
NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL (continuing directly): Starting last year, as the groundwork was being set for the emerging debate, the Social Security trustees took the liberty of projecting the system's solvency over infinity, rather than sticking to the traditional 75-year time horizon. That world-without-end assumption generates the scary $10 trillion estimate, and with it, Mr. Bush's putative rationale for dismantling Social Security in favor of a system centered on private savings accounts.In short, that frightening, $10 trillion shortfall is what you get if you go to infinity, not to the ether—if you abandon the traditional 75-year horizon used in such calculations. This produces a scary-sounding number, but one which is essentially worthless. The American Academy of Actuaries, the profession's premier trade association, objected to the change, Collins wrote. In a letter to the trustees, the actuaries wrote that infinite projections provide little if any useful information about the program's long-range finances and indeed are likely to mislead any [nonexpert] into believing that the program is in far worse financial condition than is actually indicated.
But that is exactly why men like Frist go on TV and recite this number; Frist is trying to mislead non-experts (that is, the voters), scaring them into thinking that a horrible funding shortfall exists. But how large is the projected shortfall if we stick to the normal, lengthy framework? Its important that you know these facts when you hear Bushs Scare Figure bruited:
NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL: Over a 75-year time frame, Social Security's shortfall is estimated by the Congressional Budget Office at $2 trillion and by the Social Security trustees at $3.7 trillion, a manageable sliver of the economy in each case.How large is the traditional, 75-year shortfall? A silver of the economy, Collins says. Paul Krugman explains in more detail in his important column this morning: The long-term cost of the Bush tax cuts is five times the budget office's estimate of Social Security's deficit over the next 75 years. In his December 7 column, Krugman offered a similar stat. According to a CBO study, extending the life of the trust fund into the 22nd century, with no change in benefits, would require additional revenues equal to...only about one-quarter of the revenue lost each year because of President Bush's tax cuts.
So be sure you understand when you hear them pimping that $10.4 trillion. Over the next 75 years, the projected shortfall is much less than that, and the projected shortfall can be made whole for a quarter the cost of Bushs tax cuts. As theyve repeatedly shown in the past, the Bush Admin will do and say anything when it comes to budget matters, and the press corps has always allowed them to engage in their faking. Regarding that scary $10.4 trillion, Collins and Krugman have offered you facts. Its important that you understand them.
FRIST, DO NO HARM: Bill Frist was eager to mislead non-experts when he went on ABCs This Week. Over and over, the phony man just kept reciting that phony $10.4 trillion figure. He never explained where the figure came from—nor did George Stephanopoulos ever ask. Here are some groaning excerpts:
FRIST (12/5/04): Well, what we have is a promise in the future that we have made and that promise is $10.4 trillion, it's called unfunded liability but it's basically something we have promised the next generation and we can't deliver it the way it is structured now so what do you do? One way and I agree with Senator Grassley, we have to have a comprehensive look and solicit ideas from the outside, listen, debate. Talk about. A lot of people making suggestions.The noble Christian mans orders were clear—keep reciting that misleading figure. But Stephanopoulos never questioned the number, and later, the noble Frist pimped it again. We have over-promised, the great Christian man piously said. Everybody agrees we've over-promised to the tune of, as I said, $10.4 trillion. But of course, everybody doesnt agree with that scary, misleading figure, although Frists host didnt seem to know that. But so what? Frist—presented with a mark—just kept misleading the voters.
Yes, Frist was eager to mislead non-experts when he played the pimp on This Week. But then, its something the press corps has allowed Bush to do on every sort of budget matter—a fact which explains why hes willing to pimp that ludicrous plan for halving the deficit. Yesterday, Collins laid out important facts. But how strange—that these facts show up in a Times editorial, not in the papers news pages.
BUSH GETS SULLIED: Congratulations to Andrew Sullivan for trashing the Bush Admins fake, phony folkways. How can anyone take this administration's fiscal intentions seriously when it engages in this kind of flim-flam? Sully asks. You know what to do—just click here, then scroll to BUSH AND MORAL VALUES.
TOMORROW (AND TOMORROW): More facts you must know.