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Wednesday, January 19, 2005

White House Forces Social Security Administration to Mislead Public

The Social Security Administration is supposed to be a neutral institution focused on serving the American public and staying above partisan politics. Not any more. According to the New York Times, the Social Security Administration recently developed a new "tactical plan" to help the White House market its all-out campaign to convince Americans the system is in crisis. Internal documents show Social Security officials told employees to get the word out that "Social Security's long-term financing problems are serious and need to be addressed soon."

The White House is using the Social Security Administration to mislead and confuse Americans. The new crisis-marketing plan also said Social Security managers should "discuss solvency issues at staff meetings," "insert solvency messages in all Social Security publications" and spread the word at places like farmers' markets and "big box retail stores." Another internal document "encourages the agency's public affairs specialists to spread the word that 'Social Security reform is a presidential priority' and personal accounts are an essential element of his approach."

The Social Security Administration is not another propaganda tool of the White House. In 1994, Congress passed legislation to establish a three-person, independent oversight board for the Social Security Administration, removing it from the supervision of the Department of Health and Human Services, which operates as part of the politically minded White House. The bipartisan bill – which passed unanimously in both the House and the Senate – was supported across the board by nearly every organization with an interest in Social Security, including the AARP, the National Council of Senior Citizens and the AFL-CIO.

Americans have seen this ploy before on Medicare and education – use scare tactics to push unsound policies and then use taxpayer money and government employees to back up the claims. The White House pulled this same routine to force through a prescription drug program that was a huge windfall for the drug sector. The administration also diverted money from the critically underfunded No Child Left Behind to pay conservative commentator Armstrong Williams to shill for its education policy. President Bush should stop using Social Security trust fund money to promote his efforts to radically undermine the most successful social program in U.S. history. Americans shouldn't have to pay for the demise of their own retirement security plan.

From The Center for American Progress

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