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October 18, 2004
WaPo: Kerry Misleading Seniors On Social Security

Howard Kurtz, the media watchdog at the Washington Post, notes that John Kerry's new campaign ad and push at the stump to paint George Bush as a one-man wrecking crew for Social Security intentionally misleads voters on two separate tracks. After giving a transcript of the new television ad by the Kerry/Edwards campaign, Kurtz notes that the supposed "quotes" used by Kerry have never been attributed to Bush through any reliable sourcing:

"Im going to come out strong after my swearing in," Bush said, "with . . . privatizing of Social Security." ...

The "admission" by the president comes not from a public statement but from a New York Times Magazine article yesterday in which the president is quoted as making the privatization comment to a "confidential" Republican luncheon. No source for the comment is cited ...

Interesting timing, no? The New York Times magazine runs an article on some super-secret Republican luncheon, where an intrepid Times source manages to carry out this one quote while avoiding capture. Never mind that the Times publishes unsourced quotes from presidential candidates as news. How did the Kerry campaign get the quote so quickly into a campaign commercial?

Gee ... you don't suppose the New York Times' news staff is coordinating with the Kerry campaign, do you? Nah, couldn't be. Major news organizations never coordinate with partisan election campaigns -- do they?

The Kerry campaign ad also misleads on the amount that benefits would be cut, as Bush has yet to endorse any one plan for Social Security reform. The CBO estimated the cost of the plan developed by Bush's study commission as $2 trillion over 10 years and would cut benefits by 30-45%, but Bush has not yet adopted the plan, in whole or in part. In fact, privatizing parts of Social Security might alleviate both issues, if done properly, as more of the return on the investment is kept by the worker than the government.

Bush has spoken about privatization before, but also spoken about his conviction that privatization would apply to younger workers; those who have already paid into the plan would not have benefits cut. Kerry talks about maintaining Social Security as is, the one plan that would guarantee its insolvency in the near future. Social Security is essentially a Ponzi scheme that only stays afloat if the birth rate exceeds the death rate on a continuing basis, bringing new workers into the plan to pay for current retirees. But with Baby Boomers set to retire in droves over the next few years, that balance will collapse, and the financial basis for Social Security along with it.

Something, obviously, has to be done to correct the situation. But while Bush has floated some general proposals, Kerry has done nothing about it at all, despite being in the Senate for twenty years while the basis for Social Security rapidly and predictably eroded. Now all he does is attack those who recognize the need for change. As Howard Kurtz puts it, accusing the GOP of stealing Social Security from the elderly is "the oldest page in the Democratic playbook". Al Gore tried it in 2000. Older voters should ask themselves why Kerry and his Democratic colleagues did nothing to resolve the issue since then, and take their measure of concern from the answer.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at October 18, 2004 5:56 AM

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