The Washington Post doesn't seem to want to take any prisoners in its on-going assault on Social Security. On October 31st, the paper ran a front page, above the fold, "news" article ("The debt fallout: How Social Security went 'cash negative' earlier than expected") falsely claiming that Social Security, which holds $2.6 trillion in U.S. Treasury notes, "is sucking money out of the Treasury." Mystified, Richard Eskow asked, "How can a 2,363-word piece be so densely packed with inaccuracies, falsehoods, and downright lies? " Paul Krugman quickly pointed out that "it's shocking that a well-known fallacy is the subject of a "news analysis" that purports to inform readers."
Others who care about this program were also quick to issue rebuttals, corrections, and criticisms of the Washington Post. Media Matters issued a thorough fact sheet of corrections. Journalist William Greider ran a piece in The Nation critical of the Washington Post, as did Trudy Lieberman in the Columbia Journalism Review.
Continuing its shrill campaign to bully politicians into cutting Social Security and silence opponents to its position, on November 5th the Washington Post editorialized against what it called AARP's "thuggish behavior" identifying what its editorial board described as "a new round of self-centered, shortsighted intransigence on the part of AARP and its fellow don't-touch-my-benefits purists."
Max Richtman, President and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, quickly commented that "[a]pparently in Washington these days, membership organizations who dare to express the views of the average citizens they represent, are nothing more than selfish thugs." We submitted a letter, as co-directors of Social Security Works, to the Washington Post, which was not accepted and so we are publishing it below because we think the points are worth making publicly:
The Washington Post is within its rights to use its editorial page to advocate for cuts to Social Security, as it has for many years. But its recent editorial ("Congress should reject AARP's self-centered appeals on Social Security," 11/5/11), which seeks to discredit and intimidate a powerful voice that disagrees with the Post's editorial position, is a dangerous misuse of its Constitutionally-privileged power.
The editorial calls AARP "thuggish" for running political ads which forcefully state that if politicians vote to cut Social Security, their members will vote against them. But there is nothing thuggish about AARP standing against the elites in Washington on behalf of their members who, like the overwhelming majority of all Americans, oppose cutting Social Security because they understand that its benefits are modest, yet vitally important. Those benefits average just $13,000 a year, yet constitute half or more of the income of two-thirds of seniors and people with disabilities.
There is nothing "self-centered," as the Post claims, in AARP standing up in defense not just of its own members but also for their children and grandchildren, who will be the ones most hurt by cutting Social Security, yet most in need of its protections. In light of the decline in private pensions, the inadequacy of 401(k)s, and the recent loss of home equity and other savings, serious consideration should be given to increasing Social Security protections, not to cutting benefits further than they already have been.
At a moment when defense contractors, pharmaceutical companies, and other powerful special interests are lobbying hard against cuts to their programs and when ideologues in Congress are resisting increased taxes on the wealthiest, it is disheartening that the Post seems so laser-focused on undermining the economic security of everyday Americans. At a moment when the 99 percent are beginning to stand up to the 1 percent, it is unfortunate that the Post, like many other elite institutions, seems to be casting its lot with the 1 percent.