SCHIEFFER (2/27/05): Senator Sununu, you have said the structural weakness of the president's Social Security plan is the greatest long-term threat to the federal budget. Yet critics say that the plan to create these personal savings accounts will cost $1 trillion to $2 trillion down the line and does nothing to resolve the problem of solvency with the system. How do you react to that?Why so amazing? Even Dick Cheney has acknowledged that the transition costs would be $800 billion in the next ten years, then trillions more after that (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/2/05). Meanwhile, what have Bushs critics actually said? As weve noted again and again, Paul Krugman said this the New York Times, citing a CBO study:
KRUGMAN (1/11/05): Advocates of privatization almost always pretend that all we have to do is borrow a bit of money up front, and then the system will become self-sustaining. The Wehner memo talks of borrowing $1 trillion to $2 trillion ''to cover transition costs.'' Similar numbers have been widely reported in the news media.Laughable, isnt it? As Krugman noted, [a]dvocates of privatization pretend that transition will cost one to two trillion dollars. But six weeks later, there was Schieffer, citing those very same numbers—and pretending that those shrunken digits were what Bush critics have said! Lets face it—if you couldnt see our millionaire journalists offering up such astonishing work, you wouldnt really believe it could happen. But guess what? In this country, they put such work on network TV, confident that fiery liberals on the web wont say even one word about it. More on that problem next week.
But that's just the borrowing over the next decade. Privatization would cost an additional $3 trillion in its second decade, $5 trillion in the decade after that and another $5 trillion in the decade after that. By the time privatization started to save money, if it ever did, the federal government would have run up around $15 trillion in extra debt.
In part, we cant blame Schieffer for this consummate clowning. First, consider the failure of the larger press corps to report on this critical matter. It has now been five years since Candidate Bush began promoting these private accounts; and it has now been several months since a re-elected President Bush began actively promoting this overhaul. And in that time, have you ever seen a single big paper devote a story to an obvious question—how much the transition to private accounts is actually going to cost? Whats the answer? Was the CBO right when it said the transition would cost $15 trillion over five decades? How accurate was the CBPP when it said that the first two decades alone would cost some $4.9 trillion? Readers, doesnt this seem like an obvious topic—a question any big paper would tackle? But we havent seen a single paper devote a stand-alone story to this. Its just as weve told you for year after year: The culture of our modern press corps is almost totally fact-averse. They flee from facts as saints avoid sin. If Schieffer wanted to review this question, we wouldnt have the slightest idea where to send him. His perfumed colleagues have completely refused to analyze this basic question.
So yes, as always, the larger press corps has utterly failed in its most basic task. But then, another big organization has rolled over too—and that is the Democratic Party. Dear readers! Why should we rail against hapless Schieffer when Big Dems use Bushs fake figures too? For example, check Charlie Rangel on last nights Special Report. Rangel was reacting to Alan Greenspans testimony to the House Budget Committee:
RANGEL (3/2/05): Is this the same Greenspan that said not too long ago that we should move cautiously, as it relates to the $2 trillion it would cost to support the president's program?Can that possibly mean what it seems to mean? (Rangels remarks were presented on tape.) Did Rangel say that the transition costs would only be $2 trillion? Youd think no Big Dem could be that inept—but then, thats precisely the figure Joe Biden used on Meet the Press just this Sunday! (See THE DAILY HOWLER, 2/28/05.) Laughably, Biden used the very figure that advocates of privatization use to pretend—a number thats smaller than the one Cheney used! Is there any real reason to doubt that Rangel used this under-cooked number too?
Its hard to find appropriate words to describe the Democrats endless malfeasance—to describe the lazy indifference that led to Bidens statement, and apparently to the statement by Rangel. But as weve shown you for the past several weeks, Big Dems routinely go on the air and use the fake data that Bush wants them using. Lazy; indifferent; uncaring; unprepared—how many words can we find for these people? And by the way, lets ask the obvious question: If Rangel is willing to pimp Bushs numbers, why shouldnt Bob Schieffer pimp them too?
THE LIBERAL NETWORK STRIKES AGAIN: By the way, heres the idiot Joie Chen on The Early Show (once again, CBS):
CHEN (2/14/05): Mr. Bush's plan for private retirement accounts is being attacked on several fronts. Too risky. Democrats charge future generations of seniors will actually lose benefits. Too costly. The price of transition to a new system could reach $2 trillion. And while the White House insists Social Security is nearing bankruptcy, critics say it's too soon to panic.The price of transition could reach $2 trillion! Eight days before, Cheney himself had copped to a much higher figure.
BREATH-TAKING: Incredible. This comes from Warren Vieths report about Social Security in todays Los Angeles Times:
VIETH (3/3/05): Bush says the accounts on their own would not address the future funding shortfall facing Social Security, but that they should be part of a broader discussion of fixes that might include benefit cuts.What an amazing statement! Of course, if Biden is willing to pimp Bushs fake numbers, why should the Times do things different?
Democrats and other critics say private accounts would force the government to borrow more than $1 trillion to replace the diverted tax money, while doing nothing to improve the system's future shortfall. A number of Republican lawmakers fear that embracing Bush's plan would spark a voter backlash, especially among senior citizens.