The Right Prescription

The Charlatans of Charlotte

The lies told about Ryan and Medicare were alone enough to disqualify the Dems for re-election.

By 9.7.12

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Paul Ryan's speech to the Republican National Convention last week was so effective, and presented such a stark contrast to the gauche maunderings of his Democrat counterpart, that it clearly panicked an already-nervous Obama White House. Thus, the word obviously went out to the President's many media partisans that Ryan had to be taken down. Within hours, countless columnists, bloggers, and talking heads shouted in desperate unison -- Ryan lied! They accused Ryan of lying about everything from Obamacare's effect on Medicare to the closure of a GM plant to his performance in a marathon that occurred 20 years ago.

The scariest of these "lies," from the perspective of the White House, was Ryan's charge that $716 billion was stolen from Medicare to pay for Obamacare. They know this charge is particularly dangerous for the President because it is a direct appeal to seniors, the most reliable of "likely voters." Unfortunately for the Obama campaign, however, the media "fact checkers" that pounced on Ryan's claim came up dry. As Kevin Drum wrote in that notorious right-wing rag, Mother Jones, "There is no silver bullet liberal response to Ryan's Medicare charges. This is because, rhetorical excesses aside, his charges are basically correct."

Ryan is also correct about the best way to manage Medicare in the future. He and Democrat Ron Wyden have proposed a package of reforms that combine free market competition with premium support that is so eminently sensible that it has attracted more bipartisan accolades than any plan yet put forward. Yet, watching the speakers at the Democratic National Convention, the uninformed voter could easily get the impression that what they have now labeled the "Romney-Ryan plan" is primarily designed to destroy Medicare. Listening to these people, the proposal is to Medicare what Lizzie Borden was to her parents.

The speech made by HHS Secretary Sebelius was typical: "What's missing from the Romney-Ryan plan for Medicare is Medicare. Instead of the Medicare guarantee, Republicans would give seniors a voucher that limits what is covered, costing seniors as much as $6,400 more a year." This passage has much to offer for anyone truly interested in ferreting out "lies." First, the plan doesn't eliminate traditional Medicare. That will remain as one of the choices offered to seniors. And the $6,400 figure comes from a "study" published by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, which even the New York Times labels "left-leaning."

Commissar Sebelius was by no means the only speaker to accuse Ryan of a sinister desire to destroy Medicare. This canard was repeated so often that it even provoked Wolf Blitzer into behaving like an actual journalist during an interview with Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Chair of the DNC: "Any senior 55 or older … they have absolutely nothing to worry about if this plan were to be approved because it would not affect them at all. You accept that right?" Wasserman Shultz replied, "No," and then repeated the $6,400 whopper, except that she screwed up her talking points, saying the figure would be $6,300.

Another Democrat who insinuated that current retirees would be hurt by the plan was California Rep. Xavier Beccera, who shouted, "Governor Romney, you should know it's not right to tell older Americans after a lifetime of hard work that you're going to pull the rug out from under them and turn Medicare into a voucher system -- Couponcare!" This is nonsense, of course. Factcheck.org points out that the plan involves no vouchers: "Under Ryan's plan the federal government would pay insurance companies directly, just as it now pays for most of the cost of health insurance for millions of federal workers and retirees."

Then, of course, there was that all-too-permanent feature of our political landscape, Bill Clinton. And the impeached former President demonstrated he has not lost his talent for the interminable speech or the grandiose lie. Here he is denying that Obama raided Medicare to pay for Obamacare: "Both Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan attacked the President for allegedly robbing Medicare of 716 billion dollars. Here's what really happened. There were no cuts to benefits. None. What the President did was save money by cutting unwarranted subsidies to providers and insurance companies that weren't making people any healthier."

This was, of course, a typical Clinton whopper. Remember that great applause line in Clinton's speech about how "three million young people between 19 and 25 are insured for the first time"? Well, these are by no means the only young people whose coverage will be subsidized under Obamacare. Where's the money going to come from? Reductions in benefits for seniors. As John Goodman writes in Forbes, "In fact, 40% of the cost of giving subsidized insurance to young people is being paid for by reduced spending on the elderly and the disabled. For the next 10 years, the spending reduction totals $716 billion."

What about those "unwarranted subsidies to providers"? Well, the word "provider" means doctors and hospitals. Many doctors are already refusing to accept new Medicare patients because of payment rates that don't cover costs. And many small to medium size community facilities will not be able to sustain the cuts that Obamacare will impose over the next few years. As Goodman goes on to point out, "The Medicare Office of the Actuary has explained, in a few short years, hospitals will begin closing and senior citizens will have increasing difficulty obtaining access to care." That sounds a lot like a "reduction in benefits."

Incredibly, Clinton's disingenuous performance has not been the moral nadir of the DNC so far. That dubious distinction goes to Sandra Fluke, the solipsistic grievance monger who rose to national prominence protesting the religious tenets of a Catholic university where she voluntarily enrolled and from which she is free to depart at any time. In a cheap shot reminiscent Ted Kennedy's slander of Robert Bork, Ms. Fluke told the convention that, if the GOP wins in November, we would "have a new vice president [Ryan] who co-sponsored a bill that would allow pregnant women to die preventable deaths in our emergency rooms."

This contemptible charge was sadly representative of this entire tawdry spectacle. Sheer terror of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan has driven the Democrats to new depths of demagoguery, slander, and deliberate divisiveness. Watching the first two nights of their convention was a truly nauseating experience, and I confess that I didn't have the intestinal fortitude to watch the final installment of this parade of prevaricators, particularly the man currently masquerading as President. Mitt Romney is by no means perfect and neither is Paul Ryan, but anyone reviled by the grotesque collection of charlatans and zombies that congregated in Charlotte has earned my enthusiastic vote.

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About the Author

David Catron is a health care consultant. He has an MBA from the University of Georgia and blogs at Health Care BS.