The latest GOP Debate provided a whopper of a media myth for NCPSSM’s Equal Time to debunk.
“Social Security is projected to run out of money within 20 years.”
Dana Bash, CNN Congressional Correspondent. GOP Debate, March 10, 2016
Wrong. Social Security will pay 79% of benefits in twenty years even if nothing is done to close the actuarial gap. No one projects Social Security will run out of money; in fact, the only way the Social Security program can “run out of money” is if the American people all lose their jobs or quit contributing payroll taxes. However, the Social Security Trust Fund will be eventually be depleted (as it was designed to do) now that the baby boom generation is retiring.
This distinction is not nitpicking or inconsequential. A 21% benefit cut is not the same as “Social Security is projected to run out of money.” Look at it this way, if CNN cut Dana Bash’s salary by 21% does that mean she has no income at all? Of course not. She hasn’t “run out of money” she’s taken a big cut. No one wants that to happen to America’s seniors so a 21% benefit cut must be avoided. However, a national correspondent should understand the difference between the Trust Fund, built up to handle the baby boomer bulge and the entire Social Security program, a benefit cut and “running out of money.”
This is an all too common error by journalists and one perpetuated by politicians who know the only way to get support for their plans to cut Social Security is to convince America the program is going down the tubes anyway. Workers have enough reasons to worry about their fiscal futures. As long as some in the media continue to hawk this type of misinformation, a legitimate conversation about how to address the 21% shortfall will remain virtually impossible.