I sometimes wonder -- genuinely wonder -- how often some folks on the rightward side of the privatization debate simply repeat claims they know to be false or whether they simply shovel them up from the noise machine and dish them back out without making any attempt to find out whether what they're repeating is true or not.
A few moments ago, a TPM Reader sent me a link to this post on the site of Roger L. Simon.
He says many things in it on the Social Security debate which one may agree or disagree with. But what pops out to me is his flat claim that both Sen. Harry Reid and President Bill Clinton supported private Social Security accounts in the late 1990s. The point being that the two men are transparently hypocritical since they now attack President Bush for supporting what they endorsed less than a decade ago.
This is simply false, presumably because Simon simply isn't familiar with the subject. It's not an issue up for debate or a question of interpretation. It's simply a matter of the difference between what did happen and what did not happen.
There's no particular reason to pick on Simon. This stuff is ubiquitous. One might just as easily have chosen from a thousand other examples -- not a few of them on cable networks and other places that are supposed to have checks in place to prevent egregious error and misstatement of fact.
What Bill Clinton proposed was that rather than having the Social Security Trust Fund invest all its assets in Treasury bonds that it invest a relatively small portion of those assets in private securities. Again, no point of interpretation here: that's not private accounts, period. The president also proposed so-called USA Accounts, a universal 401k available to all Americans, but not part of Social Security. Again, completely different from what the president is proposing.
I am close to certain that this is exactly what Sen. Reid endorsed or proposed as well. My only reason for the slight qualification is that I cannot say that I am familiar with every quotation or press release that the senator put out in the 90s, though the ones I've seen purporting to show his support for private accounts are just what I described above in the case of Clinton. I can't say it in his case, but I can say it in Clinton's.
The pattern here is pretty much just the same with the intentional misconstrual or distortion of the quote from FDR which purports to show him supporting a transition to private accounts. Kevin Drum has a good run-down on that one here.
In both cases, the misinformation or lies continue to cycle through the echo chamber, apparently with no penalty for their falsehood or attempt to correct.
I'm not sure what there is to say about this really other than to observe the relative half-life of misinformation on the right today. But it seems worth noting it for the record.
Late Update: The specific target of this post, Roger Simon, quickly updated his post, correcting the error. So good for him. Nobody can keep up with every angle of every topic without sometimes hitting a false note. So correction is the key. The general point stands, however, since such timely, good faith correction is not the norm. Has Brit Hume corrected his whopper yet? Even though his tendentious error has now been pointed out probably as many times as his fellow chirpers have repeated it? Didn't think so.