Why We Talk About Paul Ryan’s Big Lies
Yes, the Republican nominee for vice president Paul Ryan (R-WI) is lying. Pointing this out isn’t a Karl Rove “turn a strength into a weakness” campaign ploy – as it was in 2000 when Republicans accused Al Gore of exaggerating his achievements. And this assertion of fact isn’t based on Ryan’s marathon time exaggeration or even the purposeful deceptions in his Republican National Convention speech. It’s who Paul Ryan is. And knowing this is crucial to understanding what Ryan proposes.
Let’s be clear, as the president often says: Paul Ryan’s entire reputation is built on a lie. By elevating him to the national spotlight, Mitt Romney – who is no friend of the truth – unwittingly has done America a great favor.
Ben Smith at Buzzfeed gives credit to Romney and Ryan for honestly laying out their plans to cut domestic programs and taxes. But Smith is completely ignoring the lies that the Republican ticket is using to sell these cuts.
Pointing this reality out is the duty of anyone who wants the American people to know what exactly is at stake in November. Medicare cannot be saved by doing what Paul Ryan proposes. To let him get away with campaigning on that promise is to promote that lie.
Let’s put Ryan’s lies into context.
In 2010, Paul Ryan released a budget that confirmed many of America’s worst fears about the Republican Party. The “Ryan Plan” cut Medicare and turned it into a voucher program. It slashed every federal program for the poor and the middle class. And it would have privatized Social Security.
The point of the budget, Ryan said, was to deal with the mounting debt. But why then did it feature tax breaks for richest Americans that virtually erased any potential debt reductions?
It’s simple. As Matt Miller at the Washington Post has noted, Ryan is masquerading as a fiscal conservative.
Paul Ryan’s true concern isn’t the debt or the size of government – after all, he promises to grow military spending. Ryan is troubled by the use of government to help people.
He thinks that government should not be in the business of improving America’s general welfare. He calls the safety net a “hammock.” Poor people are poor, apparently, because they enjoy the luxury of the government support they get. That’s an opinion many teenagers who have just finished The Fountainhead may share with Alan Greenspan, Ryan, and other fans of Ayn Rand.
But Americans love Medicare. They love Social Security. These are programs they’ve paid into their whole lives and expect will be there for their kids. And Paul Ryan knows this. So his budget promised that anyone over 55 would get the Medicare they’d been promised and vowed that what he is doing will “save” Medicare.
These two huge lies are the crux of Ryan’s attempt to rob Americans of the retirement they’ve expected.
Anyone who looks at Medicare knows that the system works because it covers all seniors, who are the least attractive consumers for private insurers since they actually need health care — lots of health care. As soon as you fragment that system, the costs begin to rise.
Ryan is making a promise that cannot be kept. Covering just the Americans over 55 with a full Medicare promise and leaving everyone else with a voucher system will lead to a system that’s not sustainable. We know this because systems where everyone is covered have much lower costs than our system, which depends on vastly different levels of coverage. It’s true in every industrialized country in the world. In it’s true in the U.S. where Medicare costs grow at a lower rate than the costs of private insurers.
Ryan’s Medicare plan would cost seniors trillions more and likely destroy the program. Selling it as “Saving Medicare” isn’t just a garden-variety political lie. It’s the opposite of truth.
In Ryan’s second budget, he revised his plans a bit. He ignored Social Security and put a public option in his Medicare plan for those under 55. He also included $716 billion in savings from Obamacare that were negotiated by doing exactly what he opposes. The government was able to secure much better deals from hospitals and insurance companies by adding millions of Americans into the health care system. Ryan assumed those savings without offering anything in return for them.
Mitt Romney recognized that Ryan’s budget was unpopular — and to this day does not fully accept it. But in the process, Romney adopted Ryan’s approach to “saving” Medicare.
The worst part of this attack on Medicare is that it does almost nothing to save taxpayers money. Simply eliminating the Bush tax breaks would do more.
But Ryan has to pretend there is a fiscal emergency to commit what many Americans would consider an atrocity. And any journalist who fails to point out the lie at the heart of his vision may become his accomplice.
Picture by AP Photo/Mary Altaffer.