How the Washington Post Trolled Democrats Into Moving Left on Social Security

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Nov. 18 2013 5:50 PM

How the Washington Post Trolled Democrats Into Moving Left on Social Security

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Much obliged.

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

My colleague Matthew Yglesias writes about Sen. Elizabeth Warren and her endorsement of Social Security expansion. I'll just fill in the backstory about the politics—and what this says about the whole "Warren 2016?" boondoggle.

So: For months, progressive groups spurred and organized by labor and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee have gotten Democrats to talk up a change to the Social Security formula. Social Security's in trouble in the long run? No problem: raise the cap on taxable income, bring more money into the program from wealthy taxpayers, and expand coverage for the elderly. This has won the support of liberals like Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin (who's retiring) and Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown (who's in line to run the banking committee after 2014, if Democrats hold the Senate), but coverage has generally been limited to the liberal press.

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Until today. The Washington Post's editorial board, one of the most reliable centrist organs of "get real on entitlements!" chatter, sighed deeply and condemned the progressives. "In recent days, those styling themselves 'bold progressives' have been rallying support for a bill sponsored by Sen. Tom Harkin (Iowa) and Rep. Linda Sanchez (Calif.), both Democrats, that would increase Social Security benefits."

The "bold progressives" are the members of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, which claims a million-liberal list, built by many campaigns like this. It's the PCCC that makes sure stickers that read "I'm From the Elizabeth Warren Wing of the Democratic Party" materialize at Democratic events. (This is a reference to the old Paul Wellstone/Howard Dean line "I'm from the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party.") Thus having been trolled—"Just this morning, the Washington Post wrote an editorial mocking the coming 'retirement crisis' "—Sen. Warren took the floor today to endorse the expansion plan.

And voila. PCCC hypes Warren; journalists respond to hype by hyping Warren some more; Warren advances PCCC-backed position, making sure it gets covered more seriously as a goal of the left. All of this is made possible by the media's white-knuckle junkie obsession with 2016 and the presidency.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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