Despite winning a Pulitzer Prize last year for its reporting on domestic abuse in South Carolina, and their efforts to win another with reports on police shootings and the problems with foster care in our state, The Post and Courier still finds ways to write opinion pieces that are just crap. It's pretty difficult to find a nice way of saying that, although to be perfectly honest, I didn't even try.
Their recent op-ed on the "unsustainable status quo" of Social Security and Medicare is just the latest example of this supposedly "liberal" paper's truly backwards conservatism. It's a dog-whistle they, and right-wing outlets posing as news organizations, have been blowing for years. And it's been met with success in some quarters, as plenty of people have questioned the solvency of two of America's supposedly unassailable entitlement programs.
The problem here isn't entirely with the assertion that both Social Security and Medicare may go broke within the next 30 years or so (even though there is plenty of indication they may not). And it's not even with the hand-wringing and self-flagellating nature of the writing — by people who are looking at possibly getting their own benefits cut. The problem is simply that their subtle calls for politicians to "offer specific proposals" is simply a way of arguing for more austerity measures when it comes to public policy issues.
Of course, the editors at newspapers have plenty of proposals, and they're all designed to scare the crap out of everyone. According to the P&C, saving Medicare and Social Security might mean "cutting benefits, raising the eligibility age, and, yes, even raising taxes to balance the books over the coming decades." Oh, heavens, not raising taxes! If only there were some other way! There is, of course, and even the P&C editorial comes close to recognizing it, even if they skirt over it just like every other piece written on the issue. These op-eds and columns push the line that the coming bankruptcy of these two entitlement programs is due to "a relentlessly declining ratio of contributors to beneficiaries," as the P&C puts it. But that's only a part of the story.
I suspect that the people on both "sides" of our political football game who keep repeating this line are doing so out of either ignorance or a sheer unwillingness to address a much larger problem — namely, that despite gains in worker productivity and the overall gross domestic product over the last 60 years or so, wages have not kept pace with production for the last 40 years. Even current plans to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour aim too low.
For all of the fixes done to Social Security and Medicare over the years, it seems that no one has even once suggested that the problem lies with our society's new allegiance to lower-paying jobs, legions of part-time and freelance workers, and our general desire to use technology in place of human beings for almost any task that can be imagined. I'm fairly certain that I have never seen an argument for raising wages in order to strengthen Social Security and Medicare mainly because I can't recall there ever being a counter-argument to that proposal. After all, in the world of daily newspapers, every set of facts used to support one case must be contradicted by someone else's facts.
But there don't seem to be any facts out there at all on the impact better wages and more real, honest, full-time work might have on the solvency of our social safety net. Could it be because we've already allowed our leaders to decide that the future is, in fact, some sort of libertarian fantasy land? Are we slowly moving to a point where we decide that people are only useful to society while they are able to function in a job, and after that, well, you're on your own?
Conservatives, after all, have trouble accurately explaining their positions on these things. They've always been against Medicare, just as they've always been against the Affordable Care Act. In order to stir up negative press about the latter, some Republicans invented the notion of "death panels," groups that would make determinations about the viability of the elderly in society. And yet these right wingers regularly put forth plans that impoverish elderly people, and thereby, quite possibly, lead to their early deaths.
It's a fairly confusing mind-set to understand, but just like trying to find nice things to say about The Post and Courier's unsigned editorials, I'm not going to try very hard. Both that mind-set and those editorials hopefully are headed the way of the dinosaur, and instead of a conversation about the best way to cut the social safety net, maybe we can start talking about how great a nation we are because of our social safety net.