A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

FactCheck Mailbag, Week of July 12-18


This week, readers sent us compliments and comments about our fact-check of Washington's fiscal mess.

In the FactCheck Mailbag, we feature some of the e-mail we receive. Readers can send comments to editor@factcheck.org. Letters may be edited for length.

Deficit Debate

My compliments to you on a very informative and generally balanced article regarding our current budget problems ["Fiscal FactCheck," July 15]. However, I do take exception to your statement that the health care reform legislation is a significant contributor to the problem, particularly since the CBO estimate indicates otherwise and you cited no source which contradicts the CBO estimate. Additionally, the major expenditures associated with this legislation — premium and cost-sharing subsidies — don't even begin until 2014, so these certainly cannot be contributing to our current deficit. Rather than singling out health care reform, the article should have included an explanation of the real causes for the rapid growth in medical spending.

Jane Louie
Torrance, Calif.

FactCheck.org responds: The health care law, which was cited as one of several examples of increased spending, is projected to increase federal outlays by over $1.1 trillion through 2021. It's true that CBO has estimated that the law will reduce the deficit by $210 billion over the 2012-2021 period. It's also true that Medicare officials have expressed doubts about whether some savings measures — such as reducing the growth of future Medicare payments to hospitals and other providers — can be sustained. But either way, outlays are increased substantially to expand Medicaid and provide subsidies for lower-income workers to buy coverage.

 

Although I did not read all of the article presented by FactCheck.org, there seems to be one significant fact that was overlooked. That is that Social Security benefits are currently self-sustaining. As I'm sure you are aware, everybody receiving a paycheck has the two line-item deductions from their gross pay — FICA and Medicare. Additionally, the employers pay matching funds. I believe that to include Social Security in the current budget debate is a fallacy. There is no doubt that Social Security faces some problems due to aging of the population. This will have to be addressed, but in my opinion, it is an entity all of its own and should be separate from any discussion of tax and budget policies.

(My opinion: Social Security has provided a safety net for hardworking people after retirement in this country since it was implemented by FDR. It provides subsistence living for a relatively large portion of U.S. citizens that would be destitute without it.)

As an organization that has the resources to investigate and generally provides unbiased information, I think that perhaps in the referenced article despite all the graphs and references, you missed a fundamental issue with Social Security.

Thank you for your patience and your bias-free reporting of the facts.

Neil Jacobson
Wantagh, N.Y.

As one who depends on my Social Security Check and Medicare for survival, I think that it would have been nice if you had added one more bullet point to the "Fiscal FactCheck" article of July 15:

  • Since Medicare and Social Security are contributing proportionally more in receipts and can be easily and slightly modified to pay for themselves in perpetuity by simply raising the SS payroll tax cap (for S.S.) and cutting the geometric increases in medical costs by ending U.S. dependency on the ONLY for-profit health care system in the industrialized world (rising sick care costs), they should NOT be considered as a major contributing factor to the deficit or debt.

Lumping Medicare, Social Security and other essential social safety net programs in with the (completely) wasteful war business, corporate welfare and other boondoggles benefiting only the lucky few does us all a deadly disservice.

Chet Gardiner
Tucson, Ariz.

FactCheck.org responds: Actually, Social Security payroll taxes no longer cover the full amount of benefit payments, as we have noted in earlier articles. See "Democrats Deny Social Security’s Red Ink," Feb. 25. Updated figures are found in "Twists and Turns on the Debt," July 12. As we noted in the latter article, the Social Security trustees report that "Social Security expenditures exceeded the program's non-interest income in 2010 for the first time since 1983." And as we reported: "Last year's cash deficit, when payroll taxes were less than benefits paid, was $49 billion. For calendar year 2011, the trustees project a $46 billion deficit."

 

Thanks for the excellent overview "Fiscal FactCheck." It was clear, concise, and the graphics were informative and unbiased (amazing how often graphics are just the opposite).

Steve Phelan
Holmes, N.Y.

Best article I have seen on this subject. Thanks for putting the facts out in an easily understandable way.

We are big, huge, enormous fans. Keep up the good work,

Ron and Michelle Bein
Springville, Ala.

Thank you for "Does Washington have a spending problem or an income problem? We offer some key facts."

I constantly refer to FactCheck in my conversations these days. I so appreciate your thorough and detailed explanations. I am constantly suggesting your website to folks. It helps to diffuse arguments! Keep up the good work, and expand if you can — more articles from your researchers will be needed greatly as we move closer to the 2012 elections!

Barbara Fay Wiese
Waupaca, Wis.

 

Kudos to FactCheck.org

I very much appreciate what FactCheck accomplishes today. With the viral nature of today's misleading emails, it is a breath of fresh air (and a great resource) to find organizations that focus on just the truth! Keep up the good work!!

Bill Stevens
Palm Desert, Calif.