Social Security Flacking

SOCIAL SECURITY FLACKING….Is the Social Security Administration (a) an independent agency of the federal government or (b) a shill for the Bush administration’s privatization plans? In theory (a), but in practice, apparently, (b). Henry Waxman and and his pals on the Committee on Government Reform have released an instructive report about how the SSA’s documents have been changed systematically over the past four years with the express purpose of convincing the public that Social Security is ?unsustainable? and ?underfinanced? and ?must change.?

Some excerpts:

During the Clinton Administration, one of the agency?s primary strategic goals was to educate the public about the Social Security program. This strategic goal was replaced….The agency?s 2005 strategic communications plan states that a key ?message? is ?Social Security?s long-term financing problems are serious and need to be addressed soon.?

….Changes in ?The Future of Social Security? booklet. The 2000 version of this public primer on Social Security began: ?Will Social Security be there for you? Absolutely.? In the 2004 version….?Social Security must change to meet future challenges.? A key heading from the 2000 document read: ?Social Security Is an Economic Compact Among Generations.? In the 2004 version, the new heading reads: ?Current Social Security System Is Unsustainable in the Long Run.?

Changes in agency press releases….The 2001 press release was titled: ?Social Security Trust Funds Gain One Additional Year of Solvency.? By 2003, the estimate of the program?s solvency had increased by four years to 2042. Yet the 2003 press release is titled: ?Social Security Not Sustainable for the Long Term?

….Changes in other agency communications….The 2000 narrative told audiences, ?There is no immediate financial crisis,? and ?the baby boom generation?s pressure on the trust funds is not permanent.? The 2004 narrative removes these statements. New additions to the agency?s website warn the public of ?a massive and growing shortfall? and benefits that ?could be reduced by 33 percent.?

….2001 statements told workers….Social Security will ?be there when you retire.?….2005 version, replaced by the vague but alarming assertion that ?Congress has made changes to the law in the past, and can do so at any time.?

Via The Stakeholder, which also has a copy of the press release. The whole report is here.