It’s already happened, sooner than I thought but as predicted. One of the mainstays of the status quo is calling for "social security reform". The New York Times in a front page article says social security "reform" is the "next big issue" and that Social Security is "the likeliest source of the sort of large savings needed to bring projected annual deficits to sustainable levels". The article, "Next Big Issue? Social Security Pops Up Again" was written by Jackie Calmes. Her article raises issues of journalistic ethics and the misuse of anonymous sources.

Shamefully, this New York Times article, for example, gives an anonymous source for listing three economists who it claims are "the best minds and prolific authors on Social Security" without exploring their background or telling us that all three have ties to institutions (like the Hamilton Project and Goldman Sachs) seeking entitlement cuts. This is stacking the deck just like the Obama administration stacked the deck against single payer and the public option by freezing out proponents of those ideas. This is also a complete misuse by Jackie Calmes and the New York Times of the reasons for an "anonymous source": what’s to hide in the naming of some economists, please, other than the fact that this reporter was essentially told by someone what to write and didn’t look into the subject at all?

Had Jackie Calmes done any research on this topic at all she would have found out that an attack on entitlements was also high on the wish list of the Hamilton Project (again, to which all 3 or her economists have links). Recall that the Hamilton Project is the "think tank" sponsored by Goldman Sachs and ex-Goldman Sachs chief, Robert Rubin, and cleverly embedded in the Brookings Institution. In April, 2006, a young, Democratic senator spoke at the inauguration of the Hamilton Project. Barack Obama lavished praise on "my friend Bob" (Rubin) and said the U.S. needs more NAFTA-type agreements and needs to cut entitlements (like social security).

The New York Times provides a nice place to kick off the "social security reform" project that will mean social security as we know it will be gutted just as true health care reform was gutted by Obama. Here’s the New York Times of today:

"Now that landmark legislation overhauling the health insurance system is about to become law, addressing Social Security’s solvency could well become the next big thing for President Obama and Congressional Democrats.

Central to the health care changes are hundreds of billions of dollars in reductions in Medicare spending over time and expansions of Medicaid. As some administration officials acknowledge, that effectively takes those fast-growing entitlement programs off the table for deficit reduction just as Mr. Obama’s bipartisan commission to reduce the mounting national debt gets to work.

That leaves Social Security, the other big entitlement benefits program and one that Mr. Obama has suggested in the past that he is willing to tackle. While its looming problems are not of the scale of those afflicting Medicare, it now stands as the likeliest source of the sort of large savings needed to bring projected annual deficits to sustainable levels, many budget analysts agree.

…Yet Representative Steny H. Hoyer, the moderate Democrat who is the House majority leader, gave a speech this month in which he called for the two parties to compromise on a mix of tax increases and benefit reductions to avert fiscal chaos. Among his options were proposals to gradually raise the retirement age for future Social Security recipients and to reduce benefits for those with high incomes."

There’s the Obama-Goldman Sachs-Robert Rubin road map for social security "reform", courtesy of Steny Hoyer, number two Democrat in the House: increase the retirement age while cutting benefits (he says for "high incomes" but it will be for everyone). And remember, this is coming from DEMOCRATS!

They are even using language reminiscent of the health care reform debacle: "everything is on the table". Here’s one of the co-chiefs of the Obama team that would look at social security "reform", courtesy of the same article:

Erskine B. Bowles, a former White House chief of staff under President Bill Clinton who is the commission co-chairman along with Alan K. Simpson, a former Republican senator from Wyoming, said: “As Senator Simpson and I have said all along, everything is on the table. No one has mentioned to me taking anything off the table.”

Actually, lot’s of things are already OFF the table: like really increasing the paltry minimum benefits that some social security recipients make; like making the COLA more realistic; and like making a quick and easy fix to any financial problems SS might have by simply extending the social security tax to all income earned. But those kinds of ideas would benefit common Americans and are already "off the table" despite Erskine Bowles’s comments. We will see the same song and dance on this as we saw on "health care reform" when single payer and the public option were never really on the table. Only measures to shore up the status quo will be considered, just as ObamaCare really props up private, profit making insurance companies.

The New York Times article also brings in this delightful quotation from someone at the Brookings Institution:

“Whether or not the budget commission reaches a conclusion, and I think the odds have to be against that, Obama is going to have to say something about the long-term budget, and ignoring Social Security altogether is not politically possible if you want to do that,” said Henry J. Aaron, an economist at the Brookings Institution, who has defended the program against deep cuts or privatization but acknowledges that it is not sustainable without some combination of benefit cuts or tax increases.

What is UNSAID is this–the Hamilton Project (which has long had on its agenda cutting back entitlements) is part of the Brookings Institution. So Henry J. Aaron is just a mouthpiece, a cheerleader, for a unit of his own "think tank" that is privately funded, interested in corporate benefits, and on record for wanting to cut entitlements.

The New York Times article also offers this tidbit of "best and brightest" thinking which relies on an anonymous source to build up the reputation of three economists all of whom worked for or were affiliated with unnamed institutions favoring entitlement cuts (without telling you that):

The administration includes several economists who are authorities on Social Security, including Peter R. Orszag, the budget director; Jeffrey Liebman, an associate budget director; and Jason Furman, deputy director of the National Economic Council.
“Three of the best minds and prolific authors on Social Security among Democratic economists are all working for the White House,” said an adviser to Congressional leaders, who asked to remain anonymous to talk candidly. “So it’s natural that there has been a lot of thought given internally to different ways we could deal with Social Security.”

(emphasis added)

That sounds good until one digs into these people’s backgrounds (which this article doesn’t). One of Peter Orszag’s mentors, according to Wikipedia, is none other than Robert Rubin. Orsaz also comes from Goldman Sachs AND before his present gig, was Director of the Hamilton Project at Brookings. You can see a nice picture of Orsaz at the Hamilton Project alongside Robert Rubin discussing "health care reform" with the third stooge, Max Baucus over at the Hamilton Project’s website. Isn’t it nice that all these "reformers" have a home at the Hamilton Project and that the project is named after the Founding Father most famous for his "the people are a great beast" writing? So, Jackie Calmes of the New York Times, asking three economists affiliated with the Hamilton Project about their views on Social Security is kind of like asking three Kentucky fans their views on who will be the NCAA basketball champions. They have their biases.

Jeffrey Liebman, Orszag’s assistant, for instance, also has Hamilton Project ties and biases. He co-edited a paper subsequently revised and published in The Path to Prosperity: Hamilton Project Ideas in Income Security, Education, and Taxes. Edited by Jason Furman and Jason E. Bordoff. (Washington, DC: The Brookings Institution, 2008). Recall that the Hamilton Project is housed in the Brookings Institution, following a grant to that institution from Goldman Sachs and Robert Rubin.

Jason Furman also has directed the Hamilton Project (from early 2007), according to Wikipedia and his bio over at Brookings. He was also at the Brookings Institution and co-wrote (along with Douglas Elmendorf) the Hamilton Project sponsored "If, When, How: A Primer on Fiscal Stimulus."

Interestingly, Furman according to Wikipedia, is "widely respected by Republicans" and has defended WalMart’s business model. When Obama appointed Furman to his administration, Obama’s pick was derided by liberals and labor groups, according to the Los Angeles Times:

Labor union officials and some liberal activists were seething Tuesday over Barack Obama’s choice of centrist economist Jason Furman as the top economic advisor for the campaign. The critics say Furman, who was appointed to the post Monday, has overstated the potential benefits of globalization, Social Security private accounts and the low prices offered by Wal-Mart — considered a corporate pariah by the labor movement.

Furman, 37, is linked closely to Robert Rubin, a Wall Street insider and Clinton economics aide who eventually became Treasury secretary. Rubin’s views on global trade and deficit reduction riled liberal economists and labor activists, though his presence gave the Clinton administration valuable credibility in the business and financial communities.

"We are very much taken aback that Furman has been put at the head of this team," said Marco Trbovich, a senior aide to United Steelworkers President Leo W. Gerard, whose support is considered crucial to Obama’s success in heavily unionized areas of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Minnesota and other battleground states.

So, what the New York Times article does NOT tell its readers is this: it has used an unnamed source which in turn names three economists and identifies them as "leaders" on social security reform. But it also does not tell us that these 3 "leaders" all have links to Robert Rubin, all have ties to Rubin and Goldman Sach’s Hamilton Project (which wants entitlement cuts). Two of the three "leaders" indeed, have been Directors of the Hamilton Project. One of these (Furman) has supported ideas about privatizing social security and has praised WalMart’s business model. So the New York Times has essentially provided cover for the Hamilton Project and those who want cuts in entitlements. That’s sloppy, lazy, candyass work Jackie Calmes! What’s your explanation anyway, Jackie, for having an "anonymous source" who identifies the three leading thinkers on Social Security reform? You owe your readers an apology. Your article is little more than a Hamilton Project handout.

Needless to say, and again Jackie ain’t telling anybody anything much, is the man with the biggest ties to Goldman Sachs and the Hamilton Project is none other than: Barack Obama, who chose all three of the above "leaders" and who has also espoused as early as 2006 cuts in entitlements.

So, hold on to your hat (and wallets) Seniors and those who were about to become eligible for Social Security.

For more information on the Hamilton Project and its anti-Social Security bias, see the three diaries at the end of this story from Fire Dog Lake. One includes a video clip of then Senator Obama at the Hamilton Project calling for cuts to entitlements.

Many of us saw the attack on Social Security as coming soon but is happening sooner than we had thought. Obama shows his true colors yet again: he’s a Goldie!

For Further Reading on Obama, Entitlements & the Hamilton Project:

1) http://shadowproof.wpengine.com/2008/02/13/the-hamilton-project-same-corporatist-whine-in-new-dlc-vessels/ diary by Kirk James Murphy, M.D.

2) FFlambeau, "Obama’s ‘Smoking Gun’: His Hamilton Project Speech Shows His Links to Goldman, Entitlement Cuts, Part I", FDR

3) FFlambeau, "Obama’s ‘Smoking Gun’: His Hamilton Project Speech Shows His Links to Goldman, Entitlement Cuts, Part II"

fflambeau

fflambeau

19 Comments