As President Obama weighs whether to paint a bull’s eye on Social Security benefits in his State of the Union message Tuesday in the name of long-term debt reduction – despite opposition by a wide majority of Americans show in poll after poll – mainstream media continue presenting a distorted picture of the program.

For instance, New York Times reporters Jackie Calmes and Dalia Sussman, reporting last Friday on a NYT/CBS poll, conflated Medicare and Social Security as “the biggest drivers of the government’s projected long-term debt.” That’s certainly true of Medicare, although only because of fearful leaders refuse to control outrageous health care inflation in the U.S. But it’s false about Social Security. That’s because the program is barred by law from borrowing money from the federal government.

In other words, Social Security cannot contribute one dime to the federal deficit – by U.S. law. Some mainstream journalists and Wall Street advocates can argue as much as they like that the Social Security trust fund is a pile of IOUs that Congress will have to pay back by bankrupting the country, but that’s blather for the blogs, not accepted fact for news reports. Saying social Security is a load of empty promises is tantamount to saying nothing really backs the green legal tender in your pocket -- or the U.S. Treasuries we sell on the international bond markets. Not a great statement to make about U.S. solvency or competitiveness in the global economy.

My last blog post (Jan. 2) was a whine about the slanted picture of variously “self-absorbed” (New York Times) and greedy boomers proffered in national media as the first boomers stated turning age 65 this year, but it's hard to fault all of the coverage when supposedly objective sources of expertise impose their opinions in defiance of their own findings.

The media’s indulgence in generational finger-wagging was largely triggered by the report, "Baby Boomers Approach Age 65 — Glumly: Survey Findings About America's Largest Generation," by D'Vera Cohn and Paul Taylor of the Pew Research Center.

As I read the widely distributed summary report, I found myself holding my nose as the Pew authors took the liberty of going well beyond what their findings allowed. The report renders a politically loaded judgment that gratuitously chides the boomer generation for refusing to "take a bite out of their own pocketbooks" to bring down the national debt that's escalated since they were in their early 20s.

The authors wrote:
In 1970, when the oldest of the Baby Boomers were in their early 20s, the total publicly held national debt was about $283 billion, or about 28% of Gross Domestic Product. Now, as the oldest Boomers approach age 65, the federal debt is an estimated $9 trillion or 62% of GDP — creating IOUs that members of younger generations may be paying down for decades.

However, a new Pew Research survey finds little appetite among Boomers for deficit reduction proposals that would take a bite out of their own pocketbooks. For example, 68% of Boomers (compared with 56% of all adults) oppose eliminating the tax deduction for interest paid on home mortgages; 80% (compared with 72% of all adults) oppose taxing employer-provided health insurance benefits; and 63% (compared with 58% of all adults) oppose raising the age for qualifying for full Social Security benefits.

What the actual Pew research shows, though, in defiance of this accusation of generational profligacy, is stated only a few paragraphs later:

Personal Finances and Economic Views: Economically, Boomers are the most likely among all age groups to say they lost money on investments since the Great Recession began. Baby Boomers also are the most likely (57%) to say their household finances have worsened. And a higher share of Boomers than older Americans (but not younger ones) say they have cut spending in the past year.

Among those Baby Boomers ages 50 to 61 who are approaching the end of their working years, six-in-10 say they may have to postpone retirement. According to employment statistics, the older workforce is growing more rapidly than the younger workforce."

So, evidently boomers are a greedy and neglectful bunch, except for the litany reasons they have for struggling as they near retirement age. Where do references to National Debt (read in part Social Security and Medicare) come into a "survey" analysis as "IOUs" that only the selfish would not pay down before burdening posterity?

The Pew authors expose a conflict of interest that would be familiar to those following this issue – the Pew Charitable Trust’s close association with the Peter G. Peterson Foundation through the distinguished bipartisan and very conservative Peterson-Pew Commission on Budget Reform.

This private commission joined the national date in November with its one report calling for significant austerity measure to put the U.S. government back in the black. One of their main goal is to promote debt reduction in large part by attacking so-called structural deficits, code for social insurance programs with permanent and substantial funding.

Financier Peter G. Peterson is a private-equity billionaire and former Nixon Secretary of Commerce, who has militated for 30 years against Social Security and related programs, while also promoting reduced taxation for risky financial transactions.

Writers on Social Security and related issues would do well to begin tracking opinions appearing in Pew Research reports to see whether the research center has tainted its objectivity in reporting such results.

On generational issues, is Pew lifting the gratuitous language of generational goading directly from the Peterson forces? Peterson, for instance, funded the book/film/national campaign, IOUSA. Whether or not Social Security's trust fund is backed by a worthless pile of IOUs may be a fair matter of debate — but the argument has no place in a supposedly straightforward report on "poll" results.

Just think of what public reaction might have been had the section on child rearing stated that boomers and millennials were contributing to moral decline of the nation. After all, that part of the boomer pool shows that 70 percent of Americans believe the main goal of marriage is mutual happiness and fulfillment rather than child rearing, compared with those 65 and older (the "Greatest Generation").

I wouldn’t be surprised if Pew Research objects that it operates independently of the foundation’s advocacy efforts. But their slanted “analysis” here speaks for itself. What a shame Pew Research and its authors got away — thanks to an unquestioning mainstream of media — with an unfounded slight of an entire generation in an effort to promote a slanted political goal around entitlement financing.