Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Lying to win

I recieved an email today, one of many, that bashed those lefty libs. Like most (all?) of them it was false, but this one didn't seem false at first glace, so I decided to check it out for myself. Lo and behold, Google comes through in flying colors, for the very first site I went to had a detailed debunking already posted.

Here is the email, and then the debunking. Think about this next time you hear anything about either candidate:

SOCIAL SECURITY:
Since many of us have paid into FICA for years and are now receiving a Social Security check every month -- and then finding that we are getting taxed on 85% of the money we paid to the federal government to "put away," you may be interested in the following:
Q: Which party took Social Security from an independent fund and put it in the general fund so that Congress could spend it?
A: It was Lyndon Johnson and theDemocratic-controlled House andSenate.
Q: Which party put a tax on Social Security?
A: The Democratic party.
Q: Which party increased the tax on Social Security?
A: The Democratic Party with Al Gore casting the deciding vote.
Q: Which party decided to give money to immigrants?
A: That's right, immigrants moved into this country and at 65 got SSI Social Security. The Democratic Party gave that to them although they never paid a dime into it. Then, after doing all this, the Democrats turn around and tell you the Republicans want to take your Social Security.

And the worst part about it is, people believe it! Pass it on please! 2004 Election Issue This must be an issue in "04." Please! Keep it going.

TRUTH OF THE MATTER FROM FACTCHECK.ORG:

Who Taxed Benefits?

The most glaring falsehood in this one is a claim that it was "the Democratic party" that "put a tax on Social Security."

Oh yeah?

Here's a link to a picture of that tax being signed into law: http://www.ssa.gov/history/reagansm.html The year was 1983, and the President who signed it was Ronald Reagan.

Note Republican senators Bob Dole and Howard Baker -- both of whom had a hand in passing the law through the Republican -controlled Senate -- are looking on approvingly, along with a number of Democrats.

The tax, in fact, was part of a bipartisan measure to address Social Security's shaky finances. And it was recommended by a bipartisan commission headed by another Republican -- Alan Greenspan -- who had been appointed by Reagan. You can read about the Greenspan Commission (and see a picture of a much younger Greenspan) at http://www.ssa.gov/history/greenspn.html, at a site the Social Security Administration maintains to document the history of the program. There is a full history of how benefits came to be taxed at http://www.ssa.gov/history/taxationofbenefits.html.
And by the way, the tax only applied to a relatively small percentage of retirees -- those whose income totaled over $32,000 for a married couple. And the tax fell on only 50% of their Social Security benefits.

Who Gave SSI To Immigrants?

The next biggest whopper in this e-mail is a claim that it was "the Democratic party" that "decided to give money to immigrants" through the SSI program, "although they never paid a dime into it."

Actually it was Republican President Richard Nixon who both proposed and signed the legislation creating SSI -- the Supplemental Security Income program.

When he signed it on Oct. 30, 1972, Nixon called it "landmark legislation." It was also bipartisan, approved by a Congress that was controlled by Democrats at the time. Under Nixon's SSI law, immigrants were eligible for benefits from the start, as were all citizens, provided they were blind, disabled or elderly and destitute.

SSI is a federal welfare program funded out of general tax revenues, and is separate from the Social Security old-age pensions and disability insurance programs funded out of dedicated payroll taxes. While Social Security benefits are paid to those who have paid payroll taxes for a certain minimum period of time, SSI benefits were available to all -- citizens and resident aliens alike -- regardless of whether they had "paid a dime into it" or not.

The Social Security Administration published a history to mark the 20th anniversary of the SSI program, which you can read at http://www.ssa.gov/history/oasis/january1994.pdf.
It's true that Republicans did try to cut off SSI benefits for immigrants in 1996, but they quickly eased their stance amid a public outcry. The 1996 welfare-reform law cut off benefits for most immigrants. (Democratic President Bill Clinton protested, but signed the law anyway) An outcry arose when the Social Security Administration notified more than 660,000 aged, blind and disabled immigrants that their benefits would be cut off at the end of 1997, and newspapers carried reports of some who had committed suicide after being notified. Congress then restored benefits to those immigrants who were getting them before the welfare-reform law was signed. The measure that permanently restored benefits to pre-1996 immigrants (Public Law 105-306) passed the Republican House by voice vote and the Republican Senate by unanimous consent.
Tough restrictions remain for newer immigrants, which you can read at http://www.ssa.gov/pubs/11051.html. But you can credit a Republican President for ceating SSI and a Republican Congress for giving SSI benefits back to hundreds of thousands of aged, blind and disabled immigrants.

Who Spent Trust Fund Money?

The e-mail gets history wrong again when it blames Democrats alone for spending Social Security tax revenues for other purposes. It is true that Democratic President Lyndon Johnson was the first to lump the accounting for Social Security (and many other federal trust funds) into the "unified" federal budget. He announced this in 1968 in his State of the Union address (http://www.lbjlib.utexas.edu/johnson/archives.hom/speeches.hom/680117.asp):

LBJ: This budget, therefore, for the first time accurately covers all Federal expenditures and all Federal receipts, including for the first time in one budget $47 billion from the social security, Medicare, highway, and other trust funds.

But the same accounting practice has been followed by every President and Congress since, Democrat or Republican. It's as bipartisan as can be.

And anyway, it's not the unified-budget accounting that's at fault for allowing Congress to divert Social Security taxes to other purposes. Indeed, not long after Johnson first put them into the budget the trust funds were soon running large deficits. For seven years, from 1975 through 1981, the money was flowing out, not in, and there was no extra Social Security tax money for Congress to spend. You can see how the trust funds ebbed and flowed at http://www.ssa.gov/history/tftable.html.

It's true that large Social Security surplusses have in more recent years been used for other purposes -- by Democratic and Republican presidents alike, with Democrats in control of Congress, or with Republicans. What created those tempting surplusses was the 1983 law (mentioned above) signed by Reagan, which raised Social Security taxes in an attempt to repair the system's finances. There's plenty of bipartisan blame to go around on this one, too.

One Thing Right

The one item this e-mail gets right is that Democrats were behind an increase in taxes on Social Security benefits. That happened in 1993, as part of Bill Clinton's huge package of spending cuts and tax increases. No Republican voted for that and Vice President Al Gore did cast a tie-breaking vote in the U.S. Senate. That increased tax goes to help pay for Medicare, and is paid only by those making $44,000 a year or more for a married couple. But as we've said before (at http://www.factcheck.org/article.aspx?docid=163) neither party has made a serious move to repeal that tax since it was enacted. President Bush didn't propose repeal in either of his tax-cut bills for individuals in 2001 or 2003. (From buggieboy: he did increase prescription drug coverage but with no plan to pay for it).

The author of urges others to "pass it on" and "keep it going," and this collection of bogus claims does seem to be making the rounds.

That's too bad.

Anyone who believes this sort of trash won't be casting a very well-informed vote this Fall.

5 comments:

vrangel said...

Thanks for the info.

Me says: pox on both of their houses. :(

Its a tax_and_spend_liberals versus borrow_and_spend_conservatives contest.

By the way its a sign of brain drain on the part of dems that they still haven't figured it out :
compassionate conservative = borrow and spend conservative.
Could do wonders as a campaign soundbite.

The last politician honest and effective about taxes and spending was Newt Gingrich. I like him a lot.

tim mccolgan said...

I've come to respect the posts that you leave on your own blog , as well as the others (CBFTW's, 91ghost's), and all the awesome writers & posters out there.
While I do not always see eye-to-eye with your opinions or posts, I can always count on a well-informed and well argued point, without throwing verbal stones at the others, as so many seem to do, totally derailing the point they were trying to make. Hell, im surprised nobody has used the SNL line "Jane, You Ignorant Slut....." yet, in these point/counterpoint discussions. Thanks for taking the high road. I'm out....

ALa said...

Well, even if it wasn't point for point accurate (which I am not saying that it isn't --I usually don't approve of the sources that you use --your lucky I'm not your English Teacher) all points were bi-partisan but the last one which was the Democtrats ---which, alas, means that the Dems have taxed it the most...see how this political thing works -that's called Clintonesque.

this we'll defend said...

THanks Tim. I have a big smile on my face right now. :)

Suzanne said...

FactCheck.org rules :)

I've heard Spinsanity.com has good non-partial info, too.

And Snopes.com usually keeps up with some of the political stuff as well as urban legends.

Just in case anyone wanted to know.