Just in time to help shill for the ill-conceived Ryan-Wyden Medicare “reform” plan, fact-checking website Politifact.com has nominated Democratic claims about Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) Medicare-destroying budget for its “Lie of the Year” award. Liberal radio and TV host Thom Hartmann called the Pulitzer Prize-winning site out over the move, applying a blowtorch to the site’s trousers on Wednesday’s The Big Picture with Thom Hartmann.
Politifact’s original fact-check was pegged to a specific political ad from the DCCC, and while it takes issue with several of the ad’s claims, the “Lie of the Year” award is based solely on the claim that “Republicans voted to end Medicare.”
Hartmann does a great job of fisking Politifact’s article, pointing out the logical leaps and lapses it takes to call the ad a “lie.” As Hartmann puts it, if you pour milk into a Coke can, you can still call it a can of Coke, but it isn’t one. Ryan’s plan would replace Medicare benefits with a voucher to buy insurance, one which the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says would leave Medicare recipients on the hook for nearly triple the amount they pay now for health care. That’s like replacing a pile of dollar bills with 30¢ coupons, and still calling it “cash.”
Politifact also took issue with the ad for failing to mention that Ryan’s proposed changes would only affect senior citizens who are 55 years old now, a ridiculous objection. How, exactly, was the DCCC supposed to depict these people? Should they have put them in jet packs and hovercars? The fact that Ryan and his supporters went around telling current seniors they have nothing to worry about only underscores the fact that Ryan’s plan is, indeed, something to worry about.
Finally, Politifact found the phrase “voted to end” Medicare misleading because the vote Republicans took was symbolic. That doesn’t make the claim a lie, or even an exaggeration. If the plan ends Medicare (which it does), Republicans definitely voted for it. Symbolic or not, they signified their intent to do so, and they did it by voting. The fact that the Democrats were there to prevent them from enacting it doesn’t absolve Republicans of wanting to do it.
The real issue here is the effect of naming “Republicans voted to end Medicare” the “Lie of the Year.” As I’ve noted many times on these pages, and as even conservative publications have noted, these “fact check” outfits are granted far too much credibility on the basis of that title. Politifact, by virtue of its Pulitzer win, benefits more than others from this phenomenon, although they frequently get it wrong. The average news consumer will see a “Lie Of The Year” headline as an indication that the Ryan plan really is nothing to worry about, even though Politifact itself acknowledges it will double costs for seniors, and “is a dramatic change of course.”
Trumpeting this “award” will, of course, loosen the jar for the ridiculous Ryan/Wyden plan, which is superficially better than Ryan’s original plan because it pegs the voucher amount to the actual cost of health insurance premiums. In reality, it’s just a back-door attack on Medicare that actually illustrates that the true intent of the Ryan plan is to end Medicare.
The modified plan won’t really save any money, but it accomplishes the heaviest lift in the war on Medicare: decoupling senior citizens from their benefits. Once that’s done, cutting the voucher amount is a lot simpler. The Ryan/Wyden plan also weakens Medicare by allowing private insurance companies to cherry-pick the lowest risk patients, increasing the costs for those who remain in the program. The only real “feature” of this plan is that it allows seniors to choose private health insurance, something they already can do, only now, it’s in the form of low-cost Medicare supplement policies.
I’ll admit that, for a long time, I was taken in by the fact-checking vogue, but after debunking so many of them, I’ve started to believe that the “Lie Of The Year” ought to be “fact-checking” itself.
Here’s Hartmann’s decimation of Politifact‘s argument, from RT America:
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