Few readers pick up Glamour magazine for insight into public policy. Glamour’s young readers want advice on boyfriends and the latest fashions, not details about the latest tax debate in Washington. One hopes, however, that when Glamour does choose to tackle the issues of the day, it gives its readers more than nonsense.
Alas, no. Glamour’s June edition — available the first week of May, pre-dated to make the fashion advice seem that much more cutting edge — includes a very silly one-page article on Social Security. The headline warns that the issue is a big “yawn,” but insists that it’s critically important to young women.
That’s one of the last accurate statements in the article. Indeed, it is critically important that young women learn more about Social Security’s future and the need for reform — but this article won’t teach them.
Glamour skips past a serious discussion of Social Security’s financial crisis and goes straight to bashing the president’s reform proposal. The writer parrots the dishonest tactic favored by reform opponents: comparing only the guaranteed benefits of the proposed system to the benefits promised under current law. In colorful print, the article provides examples of how much individual women will lose as a result of President Bush’s plan.
The small detail missing from these calculations is that current promised benefits are a fiction, because the government won’t be able to pay them. In fact, current law would require an across-the-board benefit cut of nearly 30 percent once the “trust fund” is exhausted in about 2041 — about the time Glamour’s 20-something readers will be looking through Modern Maturity for advice about what to wear on a retirement cruise.
Social Security’s looming bankruptcy is something that serious politicians from both parties have long recognized needs immediate attention. Glamour’s favorite ex-president, Bill Clinton, took time out from seducing interns to highlight the system’s financial problems during his second term. New York’s beloved liberal icon, the late senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, chaired President Bush’s Commission on Social Security reform and helped lay the foundation for the plan being considered today. The fact is that Social Security faces real problems that can only be fixed in one of three ways: raise taxes, cut benefits, or find a way to pre-fund future benefits, such as through personal retirement accounts.
Rather than cover the pros and cons of these options, Glamour minimizes Social Security’s financial problems and turns to three “nonpartisan” (in fact notoriously leftist) feminist groups — all staunch opponents of reform. These ladies offer no plan; they merely emphasize the current program’s benefits for women and assure readers not to worry their pretty little heads about the future.
Like the “Lose Weight Now!” plans pimped in the back of the magazine, Glamour is selling a fantasy. Social Security’s woes are bad and rapidly worsening. In just over 10 years, it will start running a deficit and require an infusion of income taxes. As a result of the drain, those taxes will have to rise or the government will have to cut funding for other programs — an option that will no doubt be fiercely opposed by Glamour’s liberal editors.
Timely action could forestall the coming crisis while making the system a better deal for younger workers. While no single reform will eliminate all of Social Security’s problems, incorporating personal retirement accounts would put us on the road to solvency and allow Glamour’s readers to accumulate wealth rather than empty promises.
Women deserve more from their magazines than ill-informed partisan hackery. Until Glamour’s editors start acting like responsible journalists, they should stick to advice about nails and makeup.