Saturday, September 10, 2011

Dean Baker Takes Down Thomas Friedman

The NY Times columnist Thomas Friedman has a way with words and seems very impressive. But if you read him carefully over the years, you realize that he isn't much of a thinker. He is a wordsmith with limited ideas but a way of coming up with catchy phrases. Here is a bit from a post by Dean Baker in his Beat the Press blog that whittles Friedman down to size:
Thomas Friedman is once again orthogonal to reality. In his column today he urges a "grand bargain" where the Republicans abandon extremists of the right and agree to tax increases and Democrats abandon extremists of the left and agree to cut Medicare and Social Security (euphemistically referred to as "entitlements"). There is one little problem with Friedman's story.

Support for Social Security and Medicare is not confined to extremists of the left. Overwhelming majorities of every group, including Republicans and self-identified supporters of the Tea Party, are opposed to cuts to Social Security and Medicare. The only people who seem to support such cuts are wealthy people like Mr. Friedman.

The reality is that Social Security is easily affordable as everyone familiar with the projections knows. According to the latest projections from the Congressional Budget Office the program can pay every penny of benefits for more than a quarter century with no changes whatsoever. To make the program fully solvent throughout its 75-year planning horizon would require a tax increase is equal to 5 percent of the wage growth projected over the next 30 years. This is why people familiar with the program's finances are generally unwilling to support cuts in Social Security benefits, unlike Mr. Friedman.


The large deficits the country currently faces are due to an economic collapse caused by Wall Street greed and the incompetence of people with names like Alan Greenspan, Ben Bernanke, and Hank Paulson. Mr Friedman doesn't call for sacrifices from these people, for example with a financial speculation tax like the one recently proposed German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
There you have it. Friedman rants about stuff he doesn't bother to investigate, things he can't be bothered to find the truth about. Friedman is a well paid and very influential writer. As a "professional", you would think he has an obligation to get his facts right before he writes about them. But the above is not a one shot, one time, one-off mistake. He has ranted about this before. He has just recently written a book on this theme. He is quite happy to push this right wing talking point. He knows it is factually wrong. But he pushes it. I wonder why...

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