Monday, February 28, 2005

The Politization of The Social Security Administration

As if we didn't know, an analysis of documents issued by the Social Security Administration reveal that
the Social Security Administration has markedly changed its communications to the public over the last four years. Taken together, these changes — some subtle and others obvious — call into question the agency’s independence. While estimates of Social Security’s long-term solvency have improved over the last four years, the Social Security Administration’s rhetoric has moved in the opposite direction. Public assurances that the Social Security system faces “no immediate crisis” have been eliminated from agency presentations, and descriptions of the role Social Security plays in keeping seniors “out of poverty” have been dropped. In their place, the agency now repeatedly warns that Social Security is “unsustainable” and “underfinanced” and “must change.”

The new communication messages are not accidental. During the Clinton Administration, one of the agency’s primary strategic goals was to educate the public about the Social Security program. This strategic goal was replaced in 2003 by a new objective to use public communication to “support reforms” to Social Security. The agency’s 2005 strategic communications plan states that a key “message” is “Social Security’s long-term financing problems are serious and need to be addressed soon.”

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