WaPo gives Biden four Pinocchios(!?) on Social Security claim

Team Biden is spending some of their record-setting August haul of campaign cash on developing and deploying a news series of campaign advertisements for both television and the web. But not all of these efforts are producing high-quality results. One recent example is their advertisement about Social Security and how the Bad Orange Man plans to wipe out the security net in less than three years. If that sounds outlandish to you, that’s because it is. But they’re running the ad anyway. Here it is, just in case you haven’t seen it.

The basis of the claim, if you can call it that, is the President’s plan to suspend the withholding of certain payroll taxes beginning this month. Those withholdings include workers’ payments into the Social Security system. So in some warped, Bizzaro World of American politics, this somehow translates into no more money going into Social Security ever again and the system’s fund being depleted by the summer of 2023.

Of course, since the deferral would only last for a limited amount of time to help combat the coronavirus recession and the withholdings would have to be repaid anyway, the actual net effect on the Social Security System is… zero. So how big of a whopper is this advertisement’s claim? It was so bad that even the Washington Post was bestirred to do a fact check on it and they awarded the Biden team their full four Pinocchios for making claims about a Trump plan for Social Security “that does not exist.”

Trump gets mentioned in this ad three times. But there is no such Trump plan.

The president gave the Democrats an opening with a series of confusing remarks after he signed an executive order that would suspend the payment of payroll taxes until the end of the year…

The ad cites “Trump’s plan.” But the actuary’s letter says it is referring only to a hypothetical plan sketched out by Democrats.

The ad asserts that if “Trump gets his way,” benefits will run out. But actually the letter says if transfers are made from general funds, no benefits would run out. That, at least at the moment, is what Trump says he would do.

That adds up to Four Pinocchios. (If Trump yet again opens the door to permanent elimination of the payroll tax, we will revisit this fact check.)

Do you have any idea what it takes for Glenn Kessler to even question a statement by a Democrat in this heated election season, to say nothing of handing out four Pinocchios to their presidential candidate? He’s generally so busy parsing every single thing that the President or anyone on his team says and comparing it against hypothetical predictions in order to pump up the number of “Trump Lies” during this administration that I’m shocked he can find time to eat.

But now we know what it takes. Criticizing a plan that does not exist (and has never existed) will garner you four Pinocchios. So a hearty tip of the hat to Mr. Kessler, I suppose. I wonder if Facebook and Twitter will start suspending accounts that embed this advertisement because it promotes false claims that might affect the election? Bah. Who am I kidding?

For what it’s worth, one of Biden’s campaign advisers responded to the WaPo by saying that the ad was “a fair hit.” His reasoning was that it is crazy to think you could fund Social Security through regular tax revenue without having a specific Social Security payroll tax withholding. (A plan for which no legislation has even been drafted, to say nothing of being introduced.) So based on that logic, we should be able to imagine any number of “plans” based on bizarre things that Uncle Joe has mumbled during debates and town halls, and then produce ads against them. We should really get to work on that.