When Rick Scott entered the Florida Senate race earlier this week, I put out a statement in my capacity as President of Social Security Works PAC referencing, among Scott’s many attacks on seniors, his support for privatizing Social Security. PolitiFact Florida is now out with an article defending Scott, claiming it’s “mostly false” that he supports privatization.
Unfortunately, this is part of a long pattern of ostensibly unbiased fact checkers, and PolitiFact in particular, providing Republican politicians cover for their attacks on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. That’s because these politicians know that it would be political suicide to go out on stage and flat out say, “I want to cut and ultimately dismantle Social Security.” Voters, regardless of their political affiliation, vehemently oppose cuts.
So instead, the Republican politicians use weasel words, saying that they want to “save” and “strengthen” Social Security when they really mean destroy. President Franklin D. Roosevelt exposed these deceptive tactics decades ago in a 1936 speech:
“Let me warn you and let me warn the Nation against the smooth evasion which says, “Of course we believe all these things; we believe in social security; we believe in work for the unemployed; we believe in saving homes. Cross our hearts and hope to die, we believe in all these things; but we do not like the way the present Administration is doing them. Just turn them over to us. We will do all of them- we will do more of them we will do them better; and, most important of all, the doing of them will not cost anybody anything.”
PolitiFact enables this deception by narrowly taking politicians at their word rather than looking at the full context. The most egregious instance of this was in 2011, when they made “Republicans voted to end Medicare” their lie of the year. The plan that Republicans voted for would end Medicare’s benefit guarantee and replace it with coupons to purchase insurance in the private marketplace (never mind that even people in their 50s and 60s routinely find it impossible to purchase private insurance because they are too old and therefore expensive to cover). Because they still called this voucher program Medicare, PolitiFact determined that Medicare would not, in fact, have ended, even if its core services did.
Just last month, PolitiFact claimed that Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) was incorrect in saying that Republicans want to take away Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Why? “Cutbacks aren’t the same as elimination”, says PolitiFact. The American families who would lose vital benefits see it differently.
Medicare and Social Security are universally popular because they are universal programs. Any action that undermines that universality undermines the whole of the program, and ultimately represents a first step towards dismantling the programs entirely.
As for Rick Scott, he was asked during a September 29th, 2011 CNBC appearance if he supported privatizing Social Security and pensions. His evasive response was very telling: “I want everybody in a 401k.”
If that wasn’t enough, Scott also supported the “Cut, Cap, and Balance” amendment, a previous version of the so-called Balanced Budget Amendment the House plans to vote on this week. If “Cut, Cap, and Balance” had become law, it would have led to massive cuts in Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Scott’s former Lieutenant Governor and running mate Jennifer Carroll overtly supported Social Security privatization, and Scott refused to denounce her views when challenged by the Florida Democratic Party.
Senate Republicans are led by Mitch McConnell, who did everything he could to turn George W. Bush’s disastrous plan to privatize Social Security into law. Supporters of Social Security automatically look upon anyone aiming to join McConnell’s caucus with severe skepticism. Scott’s awful track record on the issue only confirms that suspicion.
Instead of enabling the vague weasel words that allow politicians like Rick Scott to try to dupe Americans out of their retirement security, organizations like PolitiFact would do well to use their time to demand an actual detailed plan from Scott and then accurately analyze the projected results. Those of us who are experts on retirement security are confident the results of that exercise would reveal a plan designed to send our country backwards, careening towards the pre-New Deal era when over 50 percent of American seniors lived below the poverty line and were headed to the “poorhouse” if their families failed to take them in.
Rick Scott may not be politically suicidal enough to publicly state that he wants to destroy Social Security, but that is his goal. PolitiFact has done the voters of Florida a disservice by helping him obfuscate the truth.