by Shay Totten
A new four-minute online film featuring Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is taking aim at a powerful pair of billionaire brothers who the senator claims are bankrolling think tanks and politicians to spread misinformation about Social Security.
In a fast-moving online film titled "Echo Chamber" (embedded below), in which Sanders is the narrator, the independent senator offers a litany of examples in which he claims David and Charles Koch have spent tens of millions of dollars to dupe the American people into believing that Social Security is going bankrupt and needs major changes to survive.
A group of think tanks have received more than $28.4 million in Koch funding and produced more than 300 position papers distorting the purpose and effectiveness of Social Security, according to filmmaker Brave New Foundation.
The film reveals a cottage industry comprised of Koch brothers’ spokespeople, front groups, think tanks, academics and elected officials, which have built a perpetual echo chamber that Sanders argues is transforming what were once "fringe" ideas into popular mainstream public policy arguments.
Those fringe ideas? That the retirement age for Social Security needs to be increased to 70; that Social Security is already bankrupt; and that Social Security, or portions of it, should be privatized and invested in the stock market.
“The Koch Brothers' job is to do everything they can to dismember government in general,” Sanders says in the film. “If you can destroy Social Security, you will have gone a long way forward in that effort.”
Earlier this year, Sanders introduced legislation aimed at protecting Social Security from benefit cuts or raising the retirement age. Sanders contends that Social Security currently has a $2.6 trillion surplus and that surplus is projected to grow to $4.2 trillion in 2023.
That may be true, but according to a recent report by the Social Security Board of Trustees that surplus will be exhausted by 2037. After that, taxes on workers would only be sufficient to fund about 75 percent of the scheduled benefit outlays to retirees through roughly 2085. According to a recent report, Social Security expenditures exceeded the program’s non-interest income in 2010 for the first time since 1983, with a $49 billion deficit last year (excluding interest income) and $46 billion projected deficit in 2011.
The film featuring Sanders was co-created by the Strengthen Social Security Campaign and Brave New Foundation, run by filmmaker Robert Greenwald. Greenwald and Sanders teamed up in 2009 to present Senator Bernie Sanders Unfiltered, a weekly online TV show that had Sanders answering questions submitted by viewers.
According to a news release from Brave New Foundation, the film is the culmination of months of research and is an attempt to shed light on the Koch-funded echo chamber regarding Social Security — comprised of think tanks like the Cato Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the Mercatus Center at George Mason University and the Reason Foundation, which owe their founding and achievements to Koch backing.
“The Koch Brothers spent millions of dollars to make Americans believe that Social Security is bankrupt when this could not be further from the truth," said Greenwald. "Eliminating this entitlement program not only puts our nation’s seniors at risk, but in the end benefits Wall Street fat cats and their allies, the Koch Brothers."
Watch the video: