Making Us Stupid

If you want to know why we are so screwed as a nation, you can probably find a couple of dozen good reasons. But this, I say, is right at the top of the list.

From MSNBC, with Chuck Todd filling in for Andrea Mitchell:

Richard Stengel, managing editor of TIME magazine: I think [Rick Perry's] on to something. Do Americans really realize that there is no such thing as a social security trust fund? That it’s a pay as you go program and when there are fewer paying in than what you get out? Are they’re any people under 35 in America who believe that Social Security is going to be there as it is and was for their parents? So I think he’s hearing something that maybe the other candidates aren’t hearing.

Right. He’s hearing you, spouting misinformation that’s been spread by the financial services industry to make people believe that the Social Security system is going broke.

Yes, there is a trust fund. It’s been conservatively invested in US treasury bonds. Current contributions and those bonds will keep the checks coming at their current levels for another 35 years — at which point it will only be able to pay out about 80% of what it’s paying today unless we do the only intelligent thing and ask people who make over 100k to pony up the same percentage of their income that everyone else does. That’s it. That’s the crisis.

If people under 35 think it won’t be there for them it’s because journalists like Richard Stengal don’t do their jobs. Yes, he’s accurately reporting what people inaccurately believe. He just forgets to present the real facts and correct their misapprehensions. And then goes on to praise presidential candidates for being savvy enough to flog the same misinformation.

We have a very serious problem with epistemology in this culture and a huge part of it is due to the press. I don’t know how to fix it. But until we do, our politics are going to be distorted and dysfunctional.

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