Here is one of many comparisons and observations we'll be making to provide some counterweight to the White House's efforts to deceive the American people about Social Security.
The Social Security Trustees estimate that over the next 75 years the program faces a budget shortfall of $3.7 trillion.
As we've noted previously and will again, the Trustees use a very pessimistic estimate of future economic growth to arrive at that figure. But, for the moment, let's stipulate to that amount.
$3.7 trillion is a lot of money.
But how much will the president's Medicare drug benefit plan cost over the next 75 years?
$8.1 trillion, say the Trustees of that program.
And over the next 75 years how much will the president's 2001 and 2003 tax cuts cost if made permanent, as the president wants?
So you add that up and you get $3.7 trillion we need to cover Social Security's shortfall and $19.7 trillion we need just to cover the costs of the two major domestic policy initiatives of the president's first term.
And yet Social Security, says the president, is in crisis and destined to chew through the rest of the federal budget.
(These statistics are noted in this budgeting summary from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.)
I would submit to you that in any reasonable universe this simple comparison shatters the president's credibility on fiscal 'icebergs' and spending crises. And yet these basic facts seem to garner little notice.
That is because, in the last couple decades, in the culture of Washington -- particularly among the elite commentators and reporters (just watch Meet the Press) -- presuming that Social Security is financially unviable has become an ready shorthand for public policy seriousness, much as many use a basic knowledge of imported wines or a familiarity with classical music to signal refinement.
This is something the president is exploiting. And the defenders of Social Security must find ways to overcome it.