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“Sowing Confusion”: Is There Any Limit To Mitt Romney’s Dishonesty?

The other day, David Bernstein argued that there’s been an “important tipping point” where many national media figures have come to understand that “in the Romney campaign, they are dealing with something unlike the normal spin and hyperbole.” Bernstein suggested they are realizing Romney has crossed into groundbreaking levels of dishonesty.

I wish I were as optimistic. I’d argue that much of the national media is still treating Romney’s nonstop distortions, dissembling, and outright lying as par for the course, as business as usual.

Here’s a test case: The debate over Medicare — and Romney’s embrace of the Paul Ryan plan — is about to dominate the conversation. Romney is moving to get ahead of the story by accusing Obama of being the one who would “end Medicare as we know it.” Here’s the Romney campaign’s statement this morning:

“There are two proposals on the table for addressing the nation’s entitlement crisis. Mitt Romney — along with a bipartisan group of leaders — has offered a solution that would introduce competition and choice into Medicare, control costs, and strengthen the program for future generations. President Obama has cut $500 billion from Medicare to fund Obamacare and created an unaccountable board with rationing power — all while America’s debt is spiraling out of control and we continue to run trillion-dollar deficits.

“If President Obama’s plan is to end Medicare as we know it, he should say so. If he has another plan, he should have the courage to put it forward.”

The claim that Romney supports a solution favored by a “bipartisan group of leaders” is a reference to the plan authored by Ryan and Dem Senator Ron Wyden. The idea that this represents “bipartisan” suppport is laughable. But this type of claim is made on both sides, so put it aside.

More interesting is the assertion that Obama has “cut $500 billion from Medicare” and created an “unaccountable board with rationing power” even as the deficit is “spiraling out of control.” That’s a reference to Obamacare’s efforts to curb spending with $500 billion in savings that are actually wrung from health care providers, not Medicare beneficiaries. That “unaccountable board,” meanwhile, is a reference to the Independent Payment Advisory Board, which is designed to make recommendations for reducing Medicare costs, and explicitly cannot recommend rationing.

Get the trick here? The Romney campaign is accusing Obama of slashing Medicare, and hence “ending Medicare as we know it,” while simultaneously accusing him of failing to curb entitlement spending in ways that pose grave danger to the nation’s finances. This, even as Romney has endorsed a plan that would quasi-voucherize Medicare and end the program as we know it.

This is all about muddying the waters in advance of a debate that could cut badly against Romney. The GOP primary forced him to embrace Ryancare; Dems are going to hammer him over it. So the Romney camp is trying to get out front by blurring lines and sowing confusion over who actually is defending traditional Medicare and who would end the program’s fundamental mission as we know it. The question is whether this, too, will be treated as just part of the game.

By: Greg Sargent, The Washington Post, The Plum Line, March 12, 2012

March 13, 2012 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Medicare | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Are Republicans About To Commit Medicare Suicide?

It’s shaping up to be spring 2011 redux. Just under a year ago, Republicans — euphoric after a midterm election landslide, and overzealous in their interpretation of their mandate — passed a budget that called for phasing out Medicare over the coming years and replacing it with a subsidized private insurance system for newly eligible seniors.

The backlash was ugly. But Republicans seem to have forgotten how poisonous that vote really was, and remains…because they’re poised to do it again. This time they’re signaling they’ll move ahead, with a modified plan — one that, though less radical, would still fundamentally remake and roll back one of the country’s most popular and enduring safety net programs.

“We’re not backing off any of our ideas, any of our solutions,” GOP budget chairman Paul Ryan said last week in an interview with Fox.

Why on earth would Republicans put the whole party back on the line? Particularly after a year of serial brinkmanship and overreach that has dragged their popularity down to record lows?

The answers speak as much to the hubris of this GOP majority as it does to the fact that the party’s in thrall to a movement that demands unyielding commitment to a platform of reducing taxes on high-income earners and rolling back popular, though expensive, federal support programs.

That creates a dilemma: Vote against the platform and face a primary. Vote for it, and face constituent backlash.

House Republicans will now have to choose between reigniting that backlash, or admitting to constituents that they erred the first time around.

To make that choice easier, Ryan’s signaling he’ll swap out his old Medicare plan with a new one — one that he actually co-wrote with a Democratic Senator. That’s what Democrats think he’s going to do, and if they’re right, it will allow him and members of his party to claim they’ve moved significantly in the Democrats’ direction.

Here are all the details of the so-called Ryan-Wyden plan. There are two key differences between this plan and the original Ryan plan. The first is that Ryan-Wyden would preserve a Medicare-like public option as a competitor to private plans in its insurance exchange, and allow seniors to buy into it. The second is that it would leave the rate at which the program’s costs are allowed to grow exactly where it is in current law — forcing seniors to pay less out of pocket than would the original Ryan plan.

So substantively it is, indeed, a step or two left for the GOP. But here’s the key: it ultimately hands Medicare’s benefit guarantee over to a whimsical market, instead of keeping it in government hands, where it’s been for nearly 50 years. It would constitute a massive policy shift to the right. And that’s why Democrats abandoned Ron Wyden en masse the day the plan was unveiled.

House leadership and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee couldn’t be happier. They think the GOP’s walking right back into a political buzz saw, confident the public won’t be impressed by the technical modifications to the plan, or sympathetic to the fact that a single Senate Democrat endorsed it. It’s a lesson Dems learned the hard way during health care reform — all the hair splitting over specifics didn’t stop Republicans from characterizing every permutation of it as “Obamacare.” And the label stuck. Democrats are betting they can pull the same trick in reverse this year. Indeed, as you can tell from the poster below that’s already being distributed by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, they liked “Ryan Plan 1” so much, they’re lining round the block for the sequel.

http://50.56.28.37/talkingpointsmemo.com/images/GOP-Horror-Movie-660.jpg

 

By: Brian Beutler, Talking Points Memo, February 7, 2012

 

February 9, 2012 Posted by | Seniors | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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