“I propose a Social Security system in the future where benefits for low-income workers will grow faster than benefits for people who are better off,” President Bush said at his news conference last night. “This reform would solve most of the funding challenges facing Social Security.”
Democrats claim that Bush’s plan constitutes a “cut” in future benefits for upper-income workers. That claim is being uncritically echoed by most MSM outlets:
New York Times, “Bush Cites Plan That Would Cut Social Security Benefits,”
President Bush called Thursday night for cutting Social Security benefits for future retirees to put the system on sound financial footing, and he proposed doing so in a way that would demand the most sacrifice from higher-income people while insulating low-income workers.
Washington Post, “Bush Social Security Plan Would Cut Future Benefits,”
President Bush called on Congress last night to curtail future Social Security benefits for all but low-income retirees in an urgent new effort to address the popular program’s shaky finances.
ABC News / Associated Press, “Bush Offers New Social Security Plan,”
After nearly 60 days on the road pitching Social Security changes, President Bush is offering a new plan to fix its finances by cutting benefits of more prosperous future retirees. Democrats still aren’t buying it.
Not surprsingly, liberal blogger Josh Marshall loves this slanted coverage: “The Post pretty much nails the new Bush plan on the front page of tomorrow’s paper: cut pretty much everyone’s benefits a lot. The sweetener? Poor people’s benefits won’t be cut as much!”
If you read the New York Times, Washington Post, Associated Press, and liberal bloggers like Marshall you could be forgiven for thinking that, under Bush’s plan, wealthy retirees will get less money in the future than they do now. That is not the case.
A few MSM outlets made this point. The Wall Street Journal reported, “Under his proposal to adjust benefit levels, low-income workers would continue, as they do under current law, to have their initial retirement benefits linked to the growth of wages in the economy. But the wealthiest seniors would have their initial benefits tied to price inflation, which generally rises more slowly than wages.”
See also this USA Today analysis.
Yes, Bush’s indexing plan is “cutting benefits” in the sense that upper-income beneficiaries would get less money than under the status quo. But no retiree is going to see his or her standard of living decline relative to where it stands now.
Those who oppose Bush’s indexing plan are arguing, in essence, that Social Security benefits to upper-income beneficiaries should continue to grow faster than the rate of inflation. That’s reckless given the program’s long-term fiscal problems.
Bush’s indexing plan is moderate and reasonable. Unfortunately, the combination of Democrats’ demagoguery and the MSM’s relentlessly negative coverage may bring the plan down before it even gets off the ground.
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