The PBS NewsHour has yet to invite a strong conservative on the program to talk about the fiscal cliff. Tuesday night they had New York Times columnist, left-wing economist, and Obama cheerleader Paul Krugman to detail his view. Wednesday night they had moderately-conservative Sen. Bob Corker ( R-Tenn), but last night was the most interesting. PBS invited the Norquist of the left, Max Richtman, of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, who insisted we shouldn’t be in a rush to reform our entitlement spending.
After all, when the unfunded liability of both programs is around $100 trillion dollars, what’s the big hurry? Where’s the fire? Suffice it to say, none of Richtman's claims were met with skepticism by anchor Judy Woodruff. She continued with her interview, as if what Richtman said was fact.
Richtman started his argument with semantics and a false narrative. First, he wanted to call these programs "earned benefits," instead of entitlement spending. In truth, the Supreme Court ruled in Flemming v. Nestor that Social Security is NOT a contractual obligation whereby the government owes anyone anything. "[L]ike all federal entitlement programs, Congress can change the rules regarding eligibility -- and it has done so many times over the years," notes the official government website for Social Security.
When the question related to the solvency of Social Security arose, Richtman confidently said that this program doesn’t add a dime to the deficit. But as USA Today aptly pointed out on November 27, Social Security ran a deficit of $48 billion last year. Thus, how could Richtman say there is a $2.7 trillion dollar surplus? Woodruff failed to ask. Instead, she asked about means-testing, which also plays into the narrative for Richtman and his followers.
What's more, Richtman appears to labor under the ludicrous assumption that the average American's lifespan hasn’t really significantly increased. Therefore, Medicare is safe with the present eligibility age, he posits:
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let's talk about Medicare again for a moment...
MAX RICHTMAN: OK.
JUDY WOODRUFF: ... the other large so-called entitlement program.
We heard -- we have heard a lot of conversation about raising the eligibility age. We know Americans are living longer. Why isn't that a reasonable solution? President Obama himself has said that's something that should be considered.
MAX RICHTMAN: Well, it's not true that -- as you know, not all Americans are living longer.
We might be able to do a program like this for a long time, but there are some jobs that are much harder to continue working and have health care benefits and have those available.
Raising the age for eligibility in Medicare would be particularly hard on communities of color. These are people, for the most part, they tend to have poorer health conditions at an earlier age. They have accumulated less wealth to pay for health care out of their pockets between, let's say 65 and 67 because of lower lifetime earnings, and they have shorter life spans.
So we don't need to do that. We don't need to look at reducing benefits, whether it's by raising the age for eligibility or means-testing the program or charging seniors more.
Again, Woodruff made no effort to correct him in this area. Even John Podesta’s Think Progress and liberal, taxpayer-subsidized National Public Radio posted stories showing that elderly Americans are living longer and healthier, with strong chances of living to eighty-five or older. Pharmacology has increased American lifespan by almost two decades since the advent of major entitlements and it’s rather amusing to see those on the left omit this accomplishment since it chips away at their welfare state narrative. In terms of a percentage, Americans who are 85 and older represent the fastest growing segment of the population. Demographics don’t lie, and math, not the reformers of our welfare state, is the enemy.
Fortunately for the defenders of the status quo, they face a pliant media, especially on PBS's NewsHour, which will fail to question their faulty assumptions and counter their falsehoods with facts.