Social Security’s insecurity

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Poor, poor Social Security.  The little entitlement program that could must be having some real self-esteem problems lately.  What with everyone running around saying how they need to “save” it and how it’s going to “run out.”  Meanwhile, it just chugs along without complaint, sending standard-of-living-guaranteeing checks to millions of senior citizens while its profligate cousins Medicare and Medicaid bleed money like sailors on leave.  Yet no one seems to care about them.

Even worse, some of the folks who talk about saving it, really just want to lock it in the basement and not feed it while giving its bedroom away to some flashy new national 401k plan or something.

The press, meanwhile, can’t seem to tell the difference between “saving” and “obliterating” and have decided to tell the American people that both candidates want to “save” poor, poor, doing-its-job Social Security but they have different ideas about how to do it.

Matt Yglesias explains:

One issue on which Barack Obama and John McCain differ is Social Security. McCain would like to replace Social Security as we currently understand it with a very different kind of retirement program that wouldn’t offer security to retirees and would have no progressive impact on the income distribution. Because this plan is unpopular, he would like to confuse people about his support for privatization of Social Security and he would also like to secure bipartisan cover for privatizing it. Obama, by contrast, wants to keep Social Security very much as it is, and if deficits projected for the future emerge he’s interested in altering the payroll tax cap in order to secure more revenue.

Or as the headline writers put it on the front page of The Washington Post “Candidates Diverge on How to Save Social Security”. Because in headlineland, saving a program and destroying a program under pretext of saving it are just two different ways of saving it.

So I wonder if the headline writers at the WaPo think that President Bush did a nice job “saving” New Orleans?

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