Monday, September 28, 2015

CBS vs. Social Security

Scott Pelley of CBS seemed just as flabbergasted at Donald Trump's vow to protect Social Security as he was at the candidate's vow to deport 11 million people and build a cheap but gorgeous border wall the likes of which you've never seen.

Here's the snippet of last night's 60 Minutes interview with Trump that you might have missed in all the frenzied back-and-forth between one billionaire and one media representative of many billionaires:
Scott Pelley: In your book, "The America We Deserve" you proposed raising the social security retirement age to 70. Is that still your plan?
Donald Trump: Yeah, not anymore because now what I want to do is take money back from other countries that are killing us and I want to save social security. And we're going to save it without increases. We're not going to raise the age and it will be just fine.
Scott Pelley: How are you going to do that? It is a basket case.
Donald Trump: Through capability. We will set it set it up by making our country rich again.
This is not the first time CBS has gone after Social Security. Although Pelley never bothered to back up his specious claim that our national retirement program is "a basket case," his network (and to be fair, the other five media conglomerates that control 90 percent of all publicly broadcast information in this country) have long hawked the same line that not only is the Social Security trust fund going broke, but the whole system is riddled with incompetence, fraud, and abuse.

Just last March, Pelley and CBS aired a hit job accusing the Social Security Administration of being so inept and evil that its flawed master list is composed of zombie hordes of dead people still collecting benefits, as well as living people who have falsely been declared dead. To bolster his case, Pelley dug up four fine, upstanding (and white ) taxpayers who had inadvertently made the Dead List. These fine people became subject to credit checks, Homeland Security terror watch lists and false arrests all because of some stupid New Deal entitlement program that Wall Street has a mean hankering to become entitled to.

Pelley implied that the clerical errors popping up every now and then within a database of about half a billion citizens were more than simple, rectifiable clerical errors. He implied that his "news" program came up with the mistakes based upon its own relentless digging and muckraking -- even though the occasional individual horror story about a Social Security mistake has been about as common as the inevitable clerical error. Moreover, one of the undead victims he showcased had already been slated to testify before a congressional Homeland Security panel made up of some of the same right-wing politicians who look for any excuse to cut benefits and raise the retirement age.

As Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times wrote about that segment, Pelley's reactionary political agenda became all too clear when he never bothered to tell viewers how to rectify things should they ever find themselves wrongfully plunked on the Death List: 
The tax policy and regulatory expert David Cay Johnston further suggests that any institution using the DMF to make consumer decisions be automatically informed if a customer files a protest with Social Security and be made responsible for updating the information once Social Security makes its ruling, with stiff fines for delay or inaction. Any consumers who run into problems with banks or card issuers should have an absolute right to inspect the institution's DMF file on them, at no cost.
That should solve the problem for the relatively small percentage of people caught in this net. "60 Minutes" could have performed a real service by asking its sources in the Senate why Congress hasn't taken these steps in the six or seven years since news organizations started reporting on it.
Two years ago, 60 Minutes' Steve Kroft (with the help of another right-wing zombie politician, Republican Tom Coburn) broadcast a particularly loathsome hit job on the alleged fraud and abuse within the Social Security disability benefits program. The gist of it was that a huge cabal of malingerers and corrupt doctors and lawyers are all in cahoots to bilk the taxpayers who actually contribute to society.  As a result, the whole disability system is a "basket case."

Although this 60 Minutes report was widely debunked and castigated at the time that it aired, it served its purpose. It planted the seed in the public's mind that sick and disabled people are a confederacy of fakers. It divides and conquers, setting up yet another front in the battle of the Makers vs. the Takers.

The contrived division between the Deserving Poor and the Undeserving Poor is as old as plutocracy itself. This deflects attention away from the undeserving rich, who derive most of their incomes from rents, interest, investments, the labor of the poor... and government welfare and deferred prosecution agreements.

Only four months before the disability hit job aired, Scott Pelley and CBS gave the unindicted Wall Street billionaire and "thought leader" Lloyd Blankfein a free platform from which to inform the masses that their "entitlements must be contained."

The smarmy Pelley was suitably awed and humbled as he was allowed into the man-cave of Goldman Sachs, gushing during the segment: "An interview with Lloyd Blankfein is as rare as a look inside the Goldman Sachs money machine. He showed us one of seven trading floors at his Manhattan headquarters. Goldman is one of America's most successful investment banks. It had net earnings of $4.4 billion dollars last year. When we asked Blankfein how to reduce the federal budget deficit, he went straight for the subject politicians don't want to talk about."
BLANKFEIN: You're going to have to undoubtedly do something to lower people's expectations -- the entitlements and what people think that they're going to get, because it's not going to -- they're not going to get it.
PELLEY: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid?
BLANKFEIN: You can look at history of these things, and Social Security wasn't devised to be a system that supported you for a 30-year retirement after a 25-year career. ... So there will be things that, you know, the retirement age has to be changed, maybe some of the benefits have to be affected, maybe some of the inflation adjustments have to be revised. But in general, entitlements have to be slowed down and contained.
PELLEY: Because we can't afford them going forward?
BLANKFEIN: Because we can't afford them.
Notice the stark difference in tone between Pelley's interview with Trump (scolding, confrontational) and Blankfein (admiring, obsequious).

Actually, what we really can't afford are super-rich people like Lloyd Blankfein and groveling propagandists like Scott Pelley who swallow whole the specious claim that the undeserving hordes are retiring in their forties and living large on the Social Security dime.

Of course, Pelley operates neither independently nor in a vacuum. His continued employment as publicist for the elites hinges upon sucking up to the rich and powerful.

His own boss, CBS chief Les Moonves (net worth a mere $300 million) recently found himself in the awkward position of refusing to tip a parking valet at the birthday bash of his boss (billionaire Sumner Redstone) because all he had in his wallet were $100 bills. And guess who was forced to apologize for the awkwardness? The valet, of course. Because his continued employment as a servant paying into the Social Security trust fund depends upon how well he has mastered the fine art of groveling.

The racketeers of the ruling class ignore the reality that over the course of a lifetime, most people do become physically vulnerable. It's nature. It's called being human. It is called being a child. It is called getting sick or injured in early adulthood or middle age. It is called getting old. Yet CBS hacks and flacks and the oligarchs they serve  all selfishly ignore the reality that Social Security is a program that ordinary people have contributed to all their working lives. 

Contrary to all the Randian propaganda, the government safety net is not a handout or an entitlement. It is a basic human right. 

And Social Security is not broke. What the plutocrats are trying to break into pieces is the social contract itself. Social Security could be rendered solvent into perpetuity and benefits could be expanded if  wealth is taxed at the same rate as work. If Lloyd Blankfein and the Forbes 400 were required to pay FICA taxes on their entire incomes instead of just the first $100,000 or so, any minor shortfall problem could be solved within a New York minute.

"What thoughtful rich people call the problem of poverty, thoughtful poor people call with equal justice a problem of riches." -- R.H. Tawney.

1 comment:

Meredith NYC said...

"Contrary to all the Randian propaganda, the government safety net is not a handout or an entitlement. It is a basic human right."

And such a wide gulf in attitude to this right between the US vs other modern democracies, where their conservative parties don’t aim to destroy their safety net, but accept it.

Ayn Rand thought govt protecting citizens against corporate predators was actually robbing the superior rich of their due, dragging down society to the level of the most mediocre or inferior. THIS is what offends her moral sense.

The superior individualist....related to the movie they made of Rand's novel The Fountainhead, if I recall—with Gary Cooper and Patricia Neal. I first saw that as a child, and remember Neal brandishing a whip, for some reason, as she searched a construction site for that arch architect, the handsome Cooper. What a bunch of malarkey, now maybe the center of the rw Gop.

The Charles Blow column today addressed Jeb Bush comments on racial minorities and 'free stuff'. Free stuff is a rw obsession. It got a lot of good comments.
“Asked how he'd attract black voters, Bush said, "“Our message is one of hope and aspiration.....It isn’t one of division and get in line and we’ll take care of you with free stuff. Our message is one that is uplifting — that says you can achieve earned success.”

Earned success! After millions of jobs were offshored, depriving millions of the means to make a living. Pull the rug out, then send uplifting messages.

I want to quote 2 great reader comments out of many, motivated by the topic of Bush entitlement.

"The reason white folks like Jeb think this way is because nobody knows more about all the free stuff on easy street than Mr. White Privilege himself. Jeb was born into an entitlement program known as the Bush family that leads him to believe he is should get to be president without having any of the qualifications needed for the job. These guys are the ones with all the free stuff. And they want to keep it that way."


“The Republicans have built a cult of victimization....It's high time they nurtured their own character, not their whining sense of moralistic victimhood, and worked with the rest of us to make a better society.

They've pandered shamelessly, telling the privileged that the opportunities they were lucky to have were due to their character.
They have lavished infantilizing handouts on the wealthy, telling them that these bribes were the entitlements of an inherently moral market.

They have ridiculed the courage of those working to build a better world, while fashioning themselves as victims of "reverse discrimination" and "political correctness."

"Their followers have learned to feed on the self-righteousness & self-pity of the Limbaughs and Huckabees.........they see every attempt to improve our country....only as attempts to take something away from them.”