It's a shame that the Fourth Estate, rather than reporting the news, has become nothing more than an ideological tool that deliberately misleads the public on serious issues to advocate for special interests, instead of informing us of the facts --- yellow journalism, sensationalism, misleading headlines, propaganda, lies --- everything except the truth. “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it."
Earlier this week the Center for Economic Policy and Research criticized CBS for falsely reporting on 60 Minutes about there being widespread fraud in the Social Security program. First it was NPR spreading misinformation, then lately it was CBS, and now Fox News has (again) jumped on the propaganda bandwagon to mislead us about the facts concerning the Social Security disability program.
They say that even a broken clock can be right twice a day, and the same might be said for the far-right Fox News or the left-leaning Media Matters. But unlike a broken clock, it seems that Fox News is rarely right. As usual, the journalistic level of reporting from Fox News can be accomplished just as easily by any amateur blogger, who just echoes the usual blather, rather than reporting actual "news". Whereas, Media Matters took the time to investigate the story of fraud in the disability program. And unlike Fox News, who just provided a commentary and repeated what others were saying, Media Matters made many relevant and valid points, and provided their readers with a slew of useful links to their sources.
Fox News reported that a two-year investigation by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations has found widespread fraud in the Social Security Administration's Disability Program. (You can see the 3 hour video of the hearing at C-SPAN).
Fox News has been accused of being many things, one being the media arm of the Republican Party. But their ideological slant and political bias has become so blatant, it's become almost impossible to call them a news organization. Just recently from Fox News, regarding alleged fraud in the Social Security disability program:
"The fraud is so rampant, and disability cases have so proliferated in recent years, that the Social Security's Disability Trust Fund may run out of money in only 18 months, says Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., whose office undertook the investigation. Coburn’s report on widespread fraud, released Monday, focuses in large part on a veritable "disability claim factory" allegedly run by attorney Eric C. Conn out of his small office in Stanville, Kentucky, a region of the country where 10 to 15 percent of the population receives disability payments."
Floyd County's entire population is 38,949 --- so 15% of the population would be 5,842 --- but of the 1,375 disability cases that one particular judge in Kentucky had ruled on, only 300 cases were reviewed from a random examination --- but Fox News offers this anecdotal evidence as absolute proof that the alleged fraud highlights an "endemic problem" in the disability program on a national scale, rather than just being an isolated incident of fraud by one lawyer and judge at the local level in a small Kentucky town.
Fox News had also falsely reported that disability payments "have skyrocketed across the U.S. in recent years." CBS News had earlier reported that 12 million Americans received disability benefits, then Fox News recently claimed that 14 million Americans used the disability program --- just as NPR had been falsely reporting. But the Social Security Administration currently reports it's far less, and that it's actually 8.9 million disabled Americans who are in the program. So this misrepresentation of the numbers can only mean that Fox News, CBS and NPR were willfully misleading the public in their reporting.
Also, as it was thoroughly detailed at the Economic Populist, although more people were applying for disability benefits, and the number of disability "claims" have increased in the aftermath of the Great Recession, actual "awards" have gone down, while "termination rates" have increased. So Fox News was wrong again, as were many others in the media. Disability payments have NOT "skyrocketed across the US in recent years", but have only gradually increased with nominal population growth which includes an aging work force.
Besides aging Baby Boomers, the Social Security Administration says the lingering effects of the recession was another possible cause for increased "claims", even though awards are down. But if it were not for a lack of jobs, many people who do qualify for disability would prefer to work instead. But employers aren't hiring older workers (those who are most likely to file a disability claim) --- and especially if these older workers were long-term unemployed (and/or were also disabled). It should also be noted that the older and longer one has been unemployed, the least likely they would ever be rehired again.
- The Government Accountability Office has repeatedly found that fraud accounts for approximately one percent of all disability payments.
- CBS ignored the fact that the majority of appeals are also denied, and that award rates have actually fallen during the economic recession.
- The myths pushed by 60 Minutes have been repeatedly debunked by experts.
- A coalition of approximately 100 national disability organizations said the CBS coverage was "sensational" and did a "tremendous disservice" to people with disabilities.
- The misleading CBS investigation follows a discredited report from NPR that eight former Social Security commissioners previously denounced.
So essentially, there has NOT been widespread fraud in disability claims, just widespread false reporting of widespread fraud. (Also read: The Last Word on Social Security Disability, which further debunks the myths and misinformation that Fox News and others have falsely reported on Social Security disability.)
Update: Kudos to the LA TIMES for getting it right: 60 Minutes' shameful attack on the disabled.
* Also posted at the Daily Kos as False Widespread Reports of Widespread Disability Fraud