Social Insecurity

A reader questions our side column, but Media Matters proves anew that it has earned its place of honor.

Amidst the hate mail and profanity-laden diatribes that grace our inbox, we received a more thoughtful critique from "K", who brought us some good news...
...some of the points you raise, particularly about the newshounds, are correct. There is too much personal interpretation used in their dissection of fox, and they see bad in everything while never reporting instances of fairness etc, and mis-quote and paraphrase too much....

...and some bad news:
Your "Disinformation" sidebar has Mediamatters on there. I know B. O'Reilly constantly derides them, but it is seriously hard to find fault with what they report. They only use transcripts of the shows concerned, never paraphrasing like newshounds. They also provide context, i.e. never one or two sentences alone. They provide the preceding discussion, and highlight the bits they have a problem with in bold. They have caught so many fox and conservative commentators telling bare-faced lies, that it is hard for any intelligent person to dismiss them.

To praise David Brock's MediaMatters for catching "bare-faced lies", when that site is run by a self-admitted liar, is a bit ironic. And we disagree with "K" that it's hard to find fault with their work. How about their unequivocal statement that incumbents always break to the challenger? Or their twisty wording to impugn Brian Wilson? MediaMatters resorts to such trickery as rewriting what a reporter said, or claiming that a study they like is the only study on point--just to come up with a nice straw man they can pretend to topple.

All this is merely a prelude to the latest bit of arrogance from Brock's Brigade:
In State of the Union preview, FOX's Cameron falsely claimed Social Security "insolvent" in 2018

The headline on the site's main page omits "falsely", but that word is in bold print on the article's page. It is intriguing to wonder why this disparity, but apparently someone was giving some thought to whether that word should be there. And rightly so.
In an effort to contradict Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid's (D-NV) claim that "Social Security is not in crisis" and bolster President Bush's claim that "the crisis is now," FOX News chief White House correspondent Carl Cameron falsely claimed that Social Security "becomes insolvent" in 2018.

It seems Brock's Bridage also specializes in mind-reading. Not only can they "report" what Cameron said, they can also divine his motivations. Even more amazing than The Amazing Kreskin.
The truth is that according to the Social Security trustees' report, prepared by Bush administration political appointees, the system will have enough money to pay all scheduled benefits with no changes until 2042.

OK, but who says it won't?
In fact, 2018 is simply the year when Social Security will begin to pay out more in benefits than it collects in revenue through payroll taxes.

In a typical MediaMatters spin, they provide a lengthy quote from an authoritative source as their coup de grace--a New York Times editorial! It's not the first time Mr Brock's outfit has cited opinion columns as "evidence"; one could just as easily rebut with an editorial from the Wall Street Journal or an expert like Dorcus Hardy. What makes Brock's editorial definitive? The fact that it agrees with his political agenda?

Consider this: MediaMatters specifically cites the word "insolvent" as false. Yet despite all the stats they spout, and the cherry-picked opinion column they use as evidence, they have forgotten one small detail. Incredible as it may seem, at no point does Brock's Brigade ever tackle the central question: what is the meaning of the term "insolvent"?

Once again, J$P will tell you what they don't want you to know. According to the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (Fourth Edition):
Insufficient to meet all debts, as an estate or fund.

Perhaps they would prefer a more strict definition, from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary of Law:
Having liabilities in excess of a reasonable market value of assets held.

How exactly do either of those definitions make Carl Cameron's use of the term "insolvent" false? MediaMatters admits that the fund will have to "pay out more in benefits than it collects in revenue through payroll taxes". Doesn't that mean they will not have enough funds to "meet all debts"? And that their liabilities will exceed the value of their assets?

MediaMatters may be careful to use accurate transcripts. But their use of misleading spin is purely to promote a partisan agenda. Political hackery exemplified--and a lot closer to "false" than anything Mr Cameron said.

posted: Thu - February 3, 2005 at 03:38 PM       j$p  send 

The Genral fund has borrowed from the Social Security fund and has provided T Bills as payment for that borrowing. SS can call those and will be able to make payments till 2042. 
Many company have their cash invested in tBills so it considered a very liquid asset.
Therefore the fund will not be insolvent in 2018.
February 4, 2005, 5:13:12 PM EST – Like – Reply

johnny dollar
The ability to pay current bills is not the question. Once it starts having to pay out more than it is taking in, it has insufficient assets to meet all its liabilities--which include not only the bills you have to pay this week but all the ones you owe. That is the definition of "insolvent" as I read it.
February 4, 2005, 6:56:08 PM EST – Like – Reply

The TBills the Social Security Organization has are assets Johnny. They are considered receivables and are due back to the SSO becasue the general fund has borrowed the money.
February 4, 2005, 7:15:56 PM EST – Like – Reply

johnny dollar
The Concord Coalition's report seems to think otherwise, that these are just IOUs from one arm of the government to another. They're a respected, non-partisan organization. Also, former SS Commission Dorcus Hardy doesn't agree with your thesis either. I think I would trust either one of them before I'd trust David Brock, but that's just me.
February 4, 2005, 7:32:10 PM EST – Like – Reply

You know what Johnny
You can find all the Newsmax articles you want to support your arguement, but general accepted accounting principles support mine.
It doesn;t matter if it comes from two distinct areas of the government. They are still Distinct. And if an entity loans money to another entity, then they need to pay in back.
If one entity is not able to pay back such loan, they default. Given that these are TBills, I don;t think the government will default on them-do you?
February 4, 2005, 7:45:01 PM EST – Like – Reply

johnny dollar
The money has to come from somewhere, doesn't it? I'm not a financial expert, you know, but neither do I play one on the internet, like MediaMatters does. They used the term "false" and applied it to a statement that is, at most, disputed. I don't know the intricacies of financial finaggling--mathematics are not my skill--but I can read and I can see that others besides Carl Cameron have made the claim. Like so many MediaMatters claims, it is not a lie, it is not a falsehood, it is a difference of opinion.
February 4, 2005, 8:20:01 PM EST – Like – Reply

I am a financial expert, and it at worst a lie and at bext a misused lexicon to fool people.
February 4, 2005, 9:19:59 PM EST – Like – Reply

johnny dollar
That would mean there are a lot of liars out there. But you're certainly entitled to your opinion.
February 4, 2005, 9:35:39 PM EST – Like – Reply

Pretty scary huh?
February 5, 2005, 10:07:57 AM EST – Like – Reply

johnny dollar
Which? All those liars? Or the fact that you are entitled to your own opinion?
February 5, 2005, 10:49:16 AM EST – Like – Reply