Saturday, April 30, 2005

Carl Hiassen, newspaperman and novelist, complains that newspapers have become "strenuously tepid and deferential." If deferential can be stretched to mean parroting misrepresentations, then Hiassen is correct. Media Matters details instances of the press mindlessly repeating Bush's whitewash job of his new Social Security plan.
While television news reports acknowledged that Bush called for benefits cuts for "wealthier workers" or "higher-income" earners, many failed to report that these cuts would also impact lower-middle and middle-class workers. As Media Matters for America has noted, the Bush proposal would likely cut the level of guaranteed benefits promised under the current Social Security system for all workers making over $20,000 a year -- or just above the poverty threshold for a family of four with two children under 18 -- while leaving guaranteed benefit levels for those making under $20,000 unchanged.

The bottom line isn't difficult to comprehend. I could make a ten year old grasp it in less than two minutes: If someone makes less than $20,000, he'll get the same benefits. If someone makes more than that, his benefits will be cut.
Now, nobody thinks $21,000 a year makes you wealthy, and yet Fox News repeatedly said that only the wealthy would have benefits cut. Well, no surprise there, but so did CBS, NBC, CNN, and the Los Angeles Times. For example: NBC White House correspondent Norah O'Donnell reported that Bush's proposal "could mean, in the future, a cut of benefits for more wealthy Americans."
Besides the "wealthiest Americans" perversion, the press also swallowed Bush's fabrication that his plan only slows growth of benefits. Media Matters again:
Cable news channels adopted Bush's characterization of his proposed benefit cuts as a proposed slowdown in the rate at which benefit levels go up. In fact, Bush proposed an actual cut in promised benefits for all but the lowest income workers, according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities.
CNN host Wolf Blitzer reported that Bush "did make a case ... that lower-income Social Security recipients would get more increases more rapidly than the higher income Social Security recipients." [CNN, press conference coverage, 4/28/05]
Pundits on all three cable news channels falsely suggested that low-income workers would receive greater Social Security benefits under Bush's proposal than they are promised under the current Social Security system.

You can look at the list of who said what that really wasn't so. I wouldn't call these pundits sycophantic brownnosers, but I wouldn't call them responsible journalists either.

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