As I said before, I was moving furniture yesterday morning when the Sunday chat shows were on, but a couple of emailers have described to me a chart that went up on This Week which George Stephanopoulos used to challenge Nancy Pelosi. Assuming my correspondents are describing the chart accurately, it was what I would describe in terms that aren't appropriate for a family blog. To make a long story short, it compared benefits under the Pozen plan to the benefits people will get if we do nothing to change Social Security and concluded that almost everybody will get more money under Pozen/Bush.
Now since the Pozen plan cuts benefits for most people and leaves benefits unchanged for others, you may be wondering how that could be possible. Well, it's possible because for the "do nothing" scenario they were using benefits payable rather than scheduled benefits. In other words, it's how much you can get if we assume that the Trust Fund runs out of oney in 2041 and benefits thereafter need to be cut down to what can be paid for out of current tax revenues. As you might be able to guess, the cuts are not small. But since the Pozen plan achieves solvency without any changes to the retirement age or any tax increases, how could it possibly cut benefits by less than just doing nothing and then cutting benefits when the Trust Fund runs out of cash?
Good question. The answer is that Pozen's cuts are smaller because the Pozen plan doesn't achieve solvency. It only gets you 70 percent there. With the modifications Bush is propsing, it gets you about 50 percent of the way there.
So what the chart proves is that a plan that only gets you halfway to solvency can be more generous than a plan that gets you all the way there. Which is obvious. And a rather stupid thing to be pointing out. But it only looks stupid if you bother to inform your readers that you're making a pointless apples and oranges comparison. Which, it seems, ABC didn't.
I used to get mad at the administration for trying to manipulate people all the time. I don't anymore. You can hardly blame them. Everyone would act this way if the media were so casual about letting them get away with it. But now we're well beyond letting them get away and deep into aiding-and-abetting territoriy.