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The Big Lie: President Obama cut $716 billion from Medicare to pay for ObamaCare.

The Truth: President Obama made Medicare stronger by eliminating subsidies that had no effect on the benefits seniors enjoy.

By picking a running mate best known for his plan to dramatically reshape Medicare into a voucher program, Mitt Romney has made Medicare the most important issue of this election.

Historically Medicare has been a losing issue for Republicans, who opposed it from the beginning four decades ago. In 1995, Newt Gingrich’s plan to encourage seniors to leave Medicare voluntarily by letting the program “wither on the vine” became a driving force in President Bill Clinton’s successful reelection campaign.

In 2010, however, the GOP used its own Medicare attack to win the House of Representatives. Republicans accused President Obama of cutting hundreds of billions from the program in the Affordable Cart Act, and Democrats struggled to rebut the charge — even though they’d actually added benefits to Medicare, including a $250 credit for prescription medicine and free preventive care.

But there’s a big difference between 2010 and 2012: They Ryan budget. Passed twice by the House of Representatives, the Ryan budget transforms Medicare into a voucher program that would give seniors a fixed amount of financial support to purchase from a variety of plans offered by private insurance companies. Experts estimate that seniors would pay upwards of $6,000 annually to receive the same benefits they have now.

Sounds great, right? That’s probably why the plan wouldn’t take effect until ten years after it passes.

Ryan’s budget also includes the so-called cuts to Medicare that the GOP denounced two years ago. He included these cuts because the savings don’t affect seniors’ benefits at all — they merely eliminate  subsidies to private insurers for a program called Medicare Advantage, which has proven to be a giveaway for insurers with no advantage to seniors.

Mitt Romney’s budget proposes a similar voucher system, and would actually cut Medicare even more than Ryan  would. Both Republicans have proposed cuts to the program that are larger than the subsidies reduced by ObamaCare. And since the Medicare trustees — the federal officials who oversee the program — say that ObamaCare adds eight years to the program’s solvency,  Romney and Ryan’s pledge to repeal ObamaCare means Medicare would become insolvent before the end of a first Romney/Ryan term.

This is a Big Lie that speaks to the real danger of Big Lies. Romney and Ryan would gut the program and add inefficiencies to it that would add trillions to the deficit.

Romney and Ryan claim they’re saving Medicare. And they’re doing it by making Medicare insolvent by 2016, cutting trillions of dollars from the program and giving seniors a coupon instead.

Here are the facts that should serve as antibodies against this deadly falsehood:

-ObamaCare ends a private insurance subsidy and uses some of the savings to extend the life of Medicare, close the Medicare prescription “donut hole,” and add free preventive care for all beneficiaries.

-ObamaCare has cut no Medicare benefits.

-Millions of Americans nearing retirement will have health care because of the bill.

– The Ryan budget — which Romney’s campaign said the candidate would sign as presidnet — includes the same cuts Romney has accused President Obama of making.

– Romney and Ryan’s budgets both slash trillions of dollars worth of benefits for future beneficiaries.

Image credit: AP Photo/Jason E. Miczek

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Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.

The late Sen. John McCain

I don't know Kyrsten Sinema, but I did know John McCain. Not at all intimately, to be sure, but just enough to say -- despite her pretensions and the fantasies of her flacks that she is the reincarnation of the war hero in a purple wig -- that Kyrsten Sinema is no John McCain.

Lately Sinema has advertised herself as a "maverick," by which she means that she flouts the positions and policies of her party's leadership, and is supposed to pair her with McCain, who sometimes strayed from the Republican party line. Her most notorious attempt at imitation occurred last year with a gesture on the Senate floor marking her vote against a minimum wage increase. Her coy mimicry of the admired war hero was synthetic, leaving an unpleasant odor in its wake. When McCain delivered his bold "thumbs down" on gutting Obamacare, he was protecting Arizona's working families – not betraying them.

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