Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Social Security and Medicare: Behind the Numbers and the Spin

By Richard RJ Eskow

Here are some headlines you won't see after the government releases new figures on Social Security and Medicare later today

"Social Security Trust Fund Even Larger Than It Was Last Year"

 "Growing Wealth Inequity Will Lead to Social Security Imbalance Later This Century"

"For-Profit Healthcare Poses Threat to Medicare, Federal Deficit, and Overall Economy in Coming Decades"

"Public Consensus Grows For Taxing Wealthy to Restore Long-Term Entitlement Imbalance"

Instead here's what we've already seen:
 "Aging workforce strains Social Security, Medicare"

That headline's completely wrong, and yet it's been repeated in dozens of different news outlets (sometimes with minor variations) as they run an improved, but still misleading, news story on Social Security and Medicare from Stephen Ohlemacher at the Associated Press.

Perhaps Trudy Lieberman's Columbia Journalism Review analysis of misleading Social Security reporting had some impact.

Whatever the reason, it's good to see that Ohlemacher's article acknowledges the role that our ongoing economic difficulties have had in slowing revenues for these programs, and that he quotes critics of the Social Security-cutting consensus (although with far less prominence than he does a little-known figure repeating right-wing talking points.)

Even the Washington Post, which is the nation's worst journalistic offender on these subjects, shifted the emphasis with their headline this time. Today they're running the AP article with the header "Social Security, Medicare strained by slow economic recovery, aging workforce."
That headline is 50 percent right—which is a 50 percent improvement.   READ MORE

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