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SAVE THE CHILDREN! Why are voters so under-informed about SS? Four words—Chris Matthews, Anne Kornblut: // link // print // previous // next //
SATURDAY, MARCH 5, 2005

SAVE THE CHILDREN: Where are voters so under-informed about the workings of Social Security? Four words—Chris Matthews, Anne Kornblut.

Kornblut writes about the SS debate on page one of today’s New York Times. Why are voters so under-informed? Try to believe that she wrote it:

KORNBLUT (3/5/05): [T]he personal accounts [that Bush has proposed] would offset a portion of the existing Social Security benefit and, its proponents argue, enhance it. Mr. Bush has proposed letting younger workers divert up to 4 percent of their taxable income into personal accounts—a move that detractors say would cost trillions in transition costs and ruin the underpinnings of the system.
Detractors say that the private accounts “would cost trillions in transition costs?” In fact, Dick Cheney said the same thing four weeks ago, on a major Sunday program. In short, it’s an established fact, disputed by no one—transition costs will run in the trillions. And yet Kornblut, writing for the paper of record, still thinks it’s a point of dispute. Her editors are clueless as well.

Why are voters so under-informed? In part, because of Kornblut and her hapless eds. And then there’s cable clown Chris Matthews, who devoted a segment of last night’s Hardball to the SS debate. Matthews interviewed AARP spokesman David Certner about the group’s opposition to private accounts. Matthews’ utterly foolish performance helps us see why the public is uninformed.

Matthews spent a total of eight minutes and 25 seconds on the air with Certner. But he devoted almost all of that time to silly procedural and political questions; he badgered Certner about the claim that the AARP is “non-partisan,” and demanded to know why the AARP won’t debate another group, the trash-talking USA Next, on his program. Certner was scripted, robotic, and at times disingenuous; he dealt rather poorly with Matthews’ attacks. But Matthews displayed almost no interest in debating the AARP’s actual views. And uh-oh! Viewers may be better off if Matthews avoids matters of substance altogether! In the one brief segment he devoted to substance, it became clear, as it so often does, that Matthews was grossly unprepared—that he simply doesn’t know very much about this ongoing debate.

How inept is the loudmouth talker? The AARP has proposed raising the cap on payroll taxes from the current $90,000 up to $140,000. But Certner expressed this point arcanely, saying, “We think it’s appropriate to raise the wage cap back to the 90-percent-of-wages level where it has been previously.” (This means that the payroll tax would extend to 90 percent of total wages in the economy, not to 90 percent of each individual’s wages.) No, most citizens wouldn’t know what Certner meant—but Matthews, as usual, didn’t know either. Instantly, he went on a rant about how wrong it would be to ask a person who earns $500,000 to pay payroll taxes on $450,000 of his income. Once the red-faced ranter finally calmed down, Certner explained what his arcane phraseology meant—but not before Matthews had wasted most of the limited time he devoted to matters of substance.

All told, Matthews devoted two minutes and 23 seconds to actual matters of substance—about a quarter of his time with Certner—and yes, he burned up most of that time with a rant that stemmed from his general ignorance about the AARP and the SS debate. Why are voters so under-informed? Simple. Matthews wastes time and is unprepared; Kornblut can’t even get simple facts straight. Our suggestion: Escort young people out of the room when clowns like this come on the air. Their civics texts describe a press corps quite different from the one that we have.

KEY POINT: Private accounts “would cost trillions in transition costs.” Everyone agrees on this—except, of course, for Barack Obama! See THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/4/05, and ask yourselves why liberals and Dems tolerate such inept spokesmen.