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Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Newsweek Blows It Again: Wall Street Editor Accuses Bush of Social Security "Sleight of Hand;" Admits His Own Bias?

Allen Sloan is Newsweek's Wall Street Editor, a highly decorated business journalist and a graduate of the once-prestigious Columbia Journalism School, so you figure he must keep up with things like President Bush's on-again/off-again campaign to reform Social Security by allowing people to invest some of their contributions in personal accounts.

That's why it is especially puzzling to encounter the column on the Newsweek web site that contains this paragraph accusing the Chief Executive of a "sleight of hand" with his 2007 federal budget proposal:

"Last year, even though Bush talked endlessly about the supposed joys of private accounts, he never proposed a specific plan to Congress and never put privatization costs in the budget. But this year, with no fanfare whatsoever, Bush stuck a big Social Security privatization plan in the federal budget proposal, which he sent to Congress on Monday."

Note the accusation that Bush "never put privatization costs in the budget."

Now a little further along in his column Sloan reports his conversation with Bush spokesman Trent Duffy and observes that:

"Duffy said privatization costs were included in the midyear budget update that the Office of Management and Budget released last July 30, so it was logical for them to be in the 2007 budget proposals. But I sure didn't see this coming -and I wonder how many people outside of the White House did."

If Duffy is correct, then the whole basis of Sloan's column is wrong because the privatization costs data was made public by the White House. And sure enough, anybody who looks for it can see the very July 30, 2005 document Duffy referred to because it's on the Internet.

Just go to web site of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget, which is officially part of the White House, and click on the link to the document at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget/fy2006/pdf/06msr.pdf

There we find what is known as the "Mid-Session Review, Budget of the U.S. Government" for 2006. The review is exactly what its title describes it as - a mid-year look at the status of the federal budget and the President's proposals therein. On page 28 of the document you will find detailed cost estimates for the private accounts proposed by Bush.

But the Mid-Session Review was not the only place the administration made public the figures Sloan was unable to find.

Estimates of the cost were included in a White House summary Feb. 3, 2005, that can be viewed on the White House web site here. That summary said:

"Based on analysis by the Social Security Administration Actuary, the Office of Management and Budget estimates that the President's personal retirement account proposal will require transition financing of $664 billion over the next ten years ($754 billion including interest)."

There was also another Social Security Administration Actuary report attached to the Mid-Session Review from OMB.

Near the end of his column Sloan lets slip something that suggests the real agenda behind his analysis:

"Bush is right, of course, when he says in his budget proposal that Social Security in its current form is unsustainable. But there are plenty of ways to fix it besides offering private accounts as a substitute for part of the basic benefit."

Sounds to me like Sloan opposes private accounts. Maybe that's why he couldn't find those cost estimates when they were published in February and July of last year. If he had seen them last year, he couldn't in good faith write this year that "Social Security privatization had been written into the budget without any advance fanfare."

Looks to me like the only "sleight of hand" here is the one from Sloan in seeking to make it appear Bush tried to slip a fast one past John Q. Public on Social Security reform in his State of the Union address.

And since it now appears Sloan opposes Social Security privatization, will Newsweek's Managing Editor Jon Meacham tell his Wall Street Editor that he can no longer edit news stories on that issue?

No, I'm not holding my breath, either.

UPDATE: Then There's This From AP

Doesn't anybody check this stuff? Where is the copy desk?

HT: RedState.org