I wonder whether this award will have those conservatives blasting politically-motivated “fact check” operations rethinking that criticism? Naaaah. Why let a little inconsistency ruin one’s vindication?
Republicans muscled a budget through the House of Representatives in April that they said would take an important step toward reducing the federal deficit. Introduced by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the plan kept Medicare intact for people 55 or older, but dramatically changed the program for everyone else by privatizing it and providing government subsidies.
Democrats pounced. Just four days after the party-line vote, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee released a Web ad that said seniors will have to pay $12,500 more for health care “because Republicans voted to end Medicare.”
Rep. Steve Israel of New York, head of the DCCC, appeared on cable news shows and declared that Republicans voted to “terminate Medicare.” A Web video from the Agenda Project, a liberal group, said the plan would leave the country “without Medicare” and showed a Ryan look-alike pushing an old woman in a wheelchair off a cliff. And just last month, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi sent a fundraising appeal that said: “House Republicans’ vote to end Medicare is a shameful act of betrayal.”
After two years of being pounded by Republicans with often false charges about the 2010 health care law, the Democrats were turning the tables.
PolitiFact debunked the Medicare charge in nine separate fact-checks rated False or Pants on Fire, most often in attacks leveled against Republican House members.
Now, PolitiFact has chosen the Democrats’ claim as the 2011 Lie of the Year.
Actually, Robert VerBruggen at National Review did decide to rain on the schadenfreude parade, saying that this actually demonstrates the point about politically-motivated “fact-checking”:
“Ignor[ing]” something may have the effect of presenting an incomplete picture, but it’s not a “lie,” and official Democratic propaganda does not purport to offer a complete picture. The second point is considerably stronger — people who don’t follow politics could have gotten the impression that the government would no longer help seniors with their health care at all, and “privatize” and “voucherize” are far more precise words than “end” — but even these claims are well within the bounds of normal political discourse: The Ryan plan is a deep, serious reform — it ends some of the program’s major features, and if traditional-Medicare supporters see those features as the core of the program, it’s fair for them to say it ends the program. And regarding point three, as Matthew Yglesias points out, only the elderly are eligible for Medicare, so it makes sense to use the elderly in ads, even if today’s elderly aren’t the ones affected.
Well, I think VerBruggen misses the forest for the trees. PolitiFact checked to see whether Republicans had indeed voted to kill Medicare. The answer is an obvious, and resounding, no. The Ryan plan did not kill or end Medicare, not for today’s seniors, and not even for tomorrow’s or next year’s seniors. It transformed a future Medicare from a defined-benefit plan to a defined-contribution plan, based in no small part on the framework Democrats pushed in ObamaCare. The government would still offer Medicare benefits, albeit in a different form, and would even have a fairly similar “public option” plan as a choice in the Medicare “exchange,” in a similar arrangement seniors had before ObamaCare gutted Medicare Advantage.
That’s the lie, not the few nits that Verbruggen picks with the supporting argument from PolitiFact, with some justification. Is it the Lie of the Year? That could be debatable, but it certainly was a significant one, and it really didn’t take PolitiFact to confirm that.
Update: FactCheck included it as one of the four “whoppers” of the year. Their choices are bipartisan, two from each side, but the last one smacks Barack Obama hard:
- The new health care law won’t cost many jobs (and they’ll be poorly paying jobs at that).
- Republicans aren’t proposing to “end” Medicare (and Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden has signed onto a modified version of the GOP plan).
- Most of the “millionaires” who would pay higher tax rates under a Democratic proposal aren’t job-creating small-business owners.
- President Obama’s mother didn’t really fight to get health insurance coverage as she was dying.
I covered that one earlier this year.