Paul Krugman has been warning us for weeks, and now it’s happened. Citing Greg Sargent and others, Krugman has been lamenting how frequently politicians — Mitt Romney in particular, but he’s hardly alone — engage in complete whoppers and no one in the media calls them on it.
As Sargent illustrates, its hard to read a single speech or interview from Mitt in which he doesn’t fabricate a vicious lie about something Obama neither said nor did. And the result of this unchecked permissiveness towards lying, Krugman predicted, would be more and more political dishonesty.
Sure enough, I turned on PBS News Hour in time to catch David Brooks’ opening comments in response to the ever credulous Judy Woodruff. She wanted to know how much the House GOP hurt the Republican image by its behavior on the payroll tax bill this week. Now, the correct answer should have been: none. That’s because their image should already be destroyed. Everyone with any sense already knew that this group is a bunch of vicious clowns who would, if allowed, destroy government, dismantle essential public services and cheerfully screw the victims of the current economic crash to teach them a lesson.
But Brooks, who must privately detest these clowns, apparently thought his job was to help cover for them. So instead of telling the truth — that a group whose mission is to destroy much of government has no business representing the public within that government and just got handed their hats — Brooks said he was somewhat “sympathetic to the principle” they tried to defend. Principle? What principle?
According to Brooks, the GOP House was standing up for the principle that the Social Security Trust Fund should not be raided. Now mind you, this isn’t the argument that tinkering with the payroll tax could undermine the narrative that Social Security is something we all contribute to as an earned retirement fund. No, what Brooks said was that the GOP was upset because the tax holiday was a raid on the Trust Fund.
There are “three national pastimes” in Washington D.C., Brooks informed us: baseball, apple pie, and Congress raiding the Social Security Trust Fund. And the GOP just didn’t want to let that happen.
Judy said nothing to push back on this whopper — she latter indirectly agreed — and Mark Shields had his own spiel, so the false framing deed was done.
Thus viewers were left with the unchallenged view that the tax cut extension was a raid on the Social Security Trust Fund, and only the now unfairly humbled, but somewhat politically naive House GOP had stood up against this unconscionable raid. Well, bless their little entitlements defending hearts!
First, Brooks neglected to explain that there’s no raid on the Trust Fund. The payroll tax is cut by 2 percent, but the revenues are replaced from the General Fund. In reality, nobody moves wheelbarrows full of dollar bills from one building to the next; all that happens is that in the government’s electronic accounting, computer entries in the trust fund account are made, just as they would have been, for the amounts that would otherwise have been collected if the payroll tax were not reduced. So the Trust Fund isn’t being “raided.” In fact, nothing is being raided, but if you want to know where the “money” comes from, it comes from some account called general funds. And even that gets replaced, in theory, via the silly “pay-fors.”
But that’s the smallest part of what’s now a standard GOP lie. The bigger lie Brooks told is the claim that Congress has been raiding the Trust Fund for years. It’s false.
The Social Security Fund is set up as a separate account that is credited with the receipts from the payroll tax. Those funds don’t just sit there, like dollar bills piled in a vault or stuffed under mattresses of the Social Security administrators. Instead, Congress pays the Trust Fund interest on the surplus account, and that interest is also credited to the Trust Fund and can be/is used to help make Social Security payments — it happens every day, because that’s how it’s supposed to work.
The interest is paid via crediting the Trust Fund with US Treasuries, bonds that pay interest to the holders of the Treasuries — that is, to the Trust Fund. It was set up this way, deliberately, so that the expected surplus the Trust Fund would deliberately build up over the last two decades to cover the baby boomers now would earn interest in the meantime on the safest investment there is: US Treasuries. There is no “raid.” Never has been. It’s as though the American people’s retirement savings account earns interest.
Congress funds government programs, from CIA drones to the National Institute of Health. It uses funds borrowed from the Trust Fund via the Treasuries issued/credited to the Trust Fund for its surplus. Congress is no more “raiding” the Trust Fund than it is raiding Goldman Sachs, or your local bank, or a state pension fund or the Chinese government, all of whom also own US bonds.
But the GOP and shills like David Brooks continue to lie to people about this, either to scare people into thinking the Trust Fund is gone, because Congress raided the money, so you shouldn’t count on Social Security (but should trust Wall Street) or to pretend the GOP cares about Social Security and wants to protect it from being raided.
It’s all a big lie, and David Brooks just told it on national television and got away with it. I should turn him in to Politifact for liar of the year, but they seem to be having their own credibility problems.