Fact checking the Gannett fact checker: Medicare and Social Security are going bankrupt

Victor Joecks

So, who fact checks the fact checkers? Because Gannett (the company that owns the Reno Gazette-Journal) fact “checker” Jeffrey Bruner needs some serious help.

Here’s the set-up. Bruner received a question asking if Medicare and Social Security are going bankrupt.

The first part of his answer shows the serious financial trouble those programs are in.

Medicare’s hospital trust fund is fine until 2024, according to Medicare trustees. If no changes were made, it would pay out 87 percent of expenses at that point and a little less every year thereafter. Social Security can pay out full benefits through 2037 (NPRI’s note: Actually 2033). At that point, it will have enough money to pay out 75 percent of benefits.

With this information, it seems like Bruner will confirm that both Medicare and Social Security are going bankrupt. After all, my Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines “going” as “advance towards an objective.” In this case, the objective is bankruptcy, which is defined as becoming insolvent or “unable to pay debts as they fall due in the usual course of business.”

With “going bankrupt” accurately defined as advancing towards being unable to pay debts as they fall due in the usual course of business, it’s easy to see that’s exactly what’s happening in both Medicare and Social Security.

For instance, you don’t get to keep your house if you can only pay 75 percent of the mortgage.

The answer to the original question seems clear, except that Bruner then writes this.

Yes, there are changes that could be made that would keep Medicare and Social Security strong into the future. But with Medicare fine for another 12 years and Social Security paying full benefits for the next 25 years, it’s not accurate to say either program is “going bankrupt.”

You have got to be kidding me. So Medicare will be bankrupt in 12 years, but it’s “not accurate” to say it’s going bankrupt?

I think Bruner should change his name to Baghdad Bruner, because such willful ignorance is astounding.

Ignoring the problem isn’t going to make it go away – it’s only going to make it worse. The time to overhaul Medicare and Social Security is now, and pretending Medicare and Social Security aren’t “going bankrupt” only hurts everyone in the long run.