Is It Just Dumb or Criminal?

In General Interest by Jonathan Tasini0 Comments

Whenever I read drivel based on phony arguments, I always wonder: is this just because the people putting out nonsense or false information are actually stupid? Or is it because the people are actually vile and behaving in a morally reprehensible, criminal way? Charitable fellow that I am, I hope and want to believe it’s just stupidity — from which people can’t be saved perhaps but they can be excused. Which brings us to the Third Way and it’s either stupid or criminal “poll” about Social Security and Medicare.

The Third Way’s slogan on its website trumpets the organization’s “fresh thinking”. The whole organization is a massive dose of spin and branding but a long way from “fresh thinking”– just take a look at the Board of Trustees and you will fall asleep from the boredom of a whole cast of characters who just regurgitate conventional wisdom and spew bankrupt “free market” nonsense. But, I digress.

Drum roll, please. With much PR hype — bought hook, line and sinker by a few of the usual suspects in the media world — this bogus organization released a “post-election poll” which found…the envelope please:

Our findings demonstrate that the Obama Coalition supports a bipartisan deal on the fiscal cliff—one that includes tax increases for the wealthy, spending cuts, and fixing Social Security and Medicare.


79% of Obama voters believe it would be better for the country if the President and Congress made changes to fix Social Security and Medicare than if they made no changes.

Of course, this is a great piece of news to peddle — except it’s so bogus it comes back to my question: stupidity or criminality?

If you actually go and read the poll question that elicited this astounding “fact” you would find:

Some say Social Security and Medicare are in financial trouble. In your view, do Social Security and Medicare have major financial problems, minor financial problems, or no financial problems?

Major problems– 53 %

Minor Problems– 36 %

No Problems — 6%

Don’t Know — 6 percent

Let me make a comparison:

Some say all men with a mole on their forehead are a major social problem. In your view, are men with moles on their foreheads major problems, minor problems or no problem at all?

You see, any poll question can elicit whatever answer you want. It’s the classic “garbage in, garbage out”. I could get the same number of people to think that moles on foreheads present a major problem — and, by the way, there is a missing 9 percent of respondents if you use basic math–aha, that’s the problem right there…basic math eludes these people who engage in “fresh thinking”. The dumb-ass Social Security-Medicare question sets up the manipulation by using pretty transparent manipulations (which leads us back to the original question: stupidity or criminal?):

First, it uses the famous, undefined “some say” (who are these people who say that?), without pointing out that “many others” say there is no problem at all with Social Security.

Second, indeed, it does not point out that actually Social Security, as the Center for Economic and Policy Research points out for the umpteenth time, will be able to pay full benefits, “…through 2038 and a little over 80 percent of their benefits thereafter, even with no changes to the program at all.”

Third, Medicare’s shortfall is all about health care costs, not the benefits being provided. Single-payer health care solves this overnight.

But, this poll is run by people who want to cut Social Security. They just don’t have the courage to come right and say it. So, they have to use phony polls to try to make a phony case.


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