Welcome to an Election Year October, known to people inside the Washington beltway as the political “silly season”. It’s this time of year when public issues are frequently distorted, often by those whose political prospects are dimming. A classic example of this biannual spectacle is the spate of recent attacks on what has been (inaccurately) described as Congressman Paul Ryan’s Social Security plan.
Press coverage of important fiscal issues tends to oscillate. Much of the time, there is earnest reporting on the severity of the federal government’s fiscal problem, decrying the refusal of elected officials to get “serious” about fixing it. But when an elected official does put forward a serious proposal, many of these same media outlets naively quote from the most misleading attacks upon it. The electorate often ponders why politicians don’t simply suck it up and “do the right thing.” This regrettable, recurring pattern is a large part of the explanation.