Denver Post’s Snarky Fact Check Fails: Ken Buck and Social Security

Note to Elizabeth Miller of the Denver Post: when writing a “fact check” about political candidates, you should probably try to make sure that your own statements are correct.

Consider Miller’s snarky — and obviously false — statement about the founders’ beliefs: “[U.S. Senate candidate Ken] Buck called the [Social Security] program unsustainable, and said he didn’t think the nation’s founders intended to have a program like Social Security (let’s recall that these people hadn’t conceived of a fire department or a postal service, either).”

I do not know the founders’ specific views on fire departments, but no serious person thinks they “hadn’t conceived of fire departments.” [August 17 update: a reader sent in a link about Benjamin Franklin’s firefighting efforts.] But regarding the postal service, we have readily available evidence. Perhaps Miller has heard of a little document called the U.S. Constitution, which contains the following line (Article I, Section 8): “The Congress shall have Power To… establish Post Offices and Post Roads…”

A review of the source Miller reviews, John King’s interview with Buck, clarifies that Buck made no mention of fire departments or the postal service.

Miller’s comment is not only stupid in content, it is wildly out of place. (I suppose it’s possible that an editor inserted the comment. If so, Miller, whose name appears on the piece, can take it up with the editor. If the line is indeed Miller’s, then her editor should take up the matter with her.) A “fact check” article is supposed to evaluate the claims of a candidate, not insert the writer’s own editorial remarks.

In fact, America’s founders did not envision Social Security or anything like it. Indeed, they did not envision a federal welfare state, which is almost entirely the product of the past century. Social Security dates from 1935. So Buck’s statement on the founders’ views is entirely correct, which is all that should concern Miller for the piece in question.

It is true that, at times, Buck has seemed to criticize Social Security per se, as when he said “the idea that the federal government should be running… retirement… is fundamentally against what I believe and that is that the private sector runs programs like that far better.” However, it is possible to think that while still advocating reform to save the system now that it is in existence, and that is Buck’s stated view.

I’m surprised that Miller does not reference Buck’s interview with the Denver Post’s own editorial board, which I have reviewed, in which Buck offers a specific plan for reforming Social Security.

To briefly review my own positions, I have indeed called for the privatization of the Post Office. I absolutely oppose the misnamed plan to “privatize” Social Security by transferring a portion of the funds to government-managed investment accounts. Instead, I want to truly privatize retirement planning by slowly phasing out Social Security by incrementally and continually raising the pay-out age. Perhaps Miller will note the difference between stating one’s own views and evaluating the views of others.