Politico executive editor Jim VandeHei misrepresented a poll to claim that progressive Democrats are out of step with most people who voted for President Obama over how to deal with Social Security and Medicare.
VandeHei stated on the November 20 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe that Obama voters are "at odds with the liberal base" of the Democratic Party on Social Security and Medicare:
VANDEHEI: [T]here's a lot of divisions inside the Democratic Party over what to do on entitlement reform. You're not going to get any Republican votes for an increase in taxes unless you have some changes to Medicare and to Social Security. And inside the Democratic Party, there's a big divide. Third Way, which is a group that represents centrists Democrats, they're out with a poll of Obama supporters this morning that show the vast majority of Obama supporters actually support changes to Medicare and Social Security, which puts them at odds with the liberal base of the party in the House and in the Senate."
VandeHei was echoing a Politico article that stated "a Third Way poll of 800 Obama voters set for release Tuesday found that efforts to fix Medicare and Social Security enjoy broader support than liberals suggest."
The Third Way poll asked Obama voters to rate on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the highest) how important it was for the president to take action that "fixes Social Security and Medicare" during his second term. Eighty-five percent responded with at least a six and 48% responded with a nine or 10 rating.
But the poll does not show a split between Obama voters and progressive Democrats as VandeHei claimed because progressives do not oppose proposals to strengthen Social Security and Medicare. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said she is open to reforms that "strengthen Social Security" and Medicare as long as they don't include benefit cuts, and as long as the reforms are not used as part of a deal to subsidize tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. Similarly, the Congressional Progressive Caucus has said that "decisions to change Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security 'must be based on what is best for their beneficiaries' " provided there are no cuts to Medicare and Social Security benefits.
Progressive economist and Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman has also embraced reforms to Medicare that do not involve benefit cuts. He also pointed out that Social Security is not a long-term drag on the nation's finances and therefore does not need major reform.
From the November 3 edition of Sirius XM's Media Matters Radio:
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Fox News host Steve Doocy suggested Florida seniors should vote for Mitt Romney because he has a plan to fix Medicare, claiming President Obama has no plan to deal with Medicare. In fact, Obama's plan would extend the life of Medicare, while Romney and Paul Ryan's plan would raise costs and possibly end Medicare as it currently exists.
During an interview with former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, Doocy claimed that if he was a senior in Florida, he would support Romney because "they hear Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan talk about figuring a way to fix Medicare and Social Security," whereas President Obama "really hasn't come up with a plan and hasn't made that public." Doocy went on to claim "if I were down in Florida, I'd be looking at the guy who has at least got the plan for a second look."
But Doocy is wrong on both counts: President Obama does have a plan for Medicare which would extend the life of the program without harming benefits, whereas experts agree that the Romney/Ryan plan would lead to higher costs for seniors and eventually end Medicare.
New York Times columnist David Brooks ignored the actual proposals that Mitt Romney and Rep. Paul Ryan have for Medicare to claim that their plan "would not shift costs to seniors."
Brooks wrote: "Whenever you hear a Democrat say that Romney and Ryan would end Medicare or cost seniors $6,000, that is a misleading reference to the original Ryan plan, not anything on offer today. Today's Romney plan would not shift costs to seniors." Brooks later added "The Romney-Ryan approach might work. If it doesn't, the federal budget would suffer but seniors wouldn't."
The Affordable Care Act provides money to help seniors pay for their prescription drugs. The Medicare prescription drug benefit passed under President George W. Bush created a "donut hole" that required seniors with high prescription drug costs to pay thousands of dollars. The Affordable Care Act closed that donut hole.
According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, this provision of the Affordable Care Act has saved seniors $3.2 billion already. If the Romney-Ryan plan is enacted and the ACA is repealed, seniors would have to pay that money again.
Numerous independent experts have also said that Ryan's plan to transform Medicare into a voucher system will force seniors to spend millions more for health care because the vouchers would not keep pace with rising health care costs. Indeed, Yale public policy professor Ted Marmor has said that under the Ryan plan, some seniors would be forced to "choose between paying for better coverage and having more money for food and other items."
CNN's Sanjay Gupta claimed that the proposed changes to Medicare that Congressman Paul Ryan has offered would allow seniors to choose between "a voucher" system and "traditional Medicare," while keeping the system affordable. In fact, experts say the Ryan plan would threaten Medicare's long-term viability and potentially would increase seniors' medical costs by thousands of dollars.
In a special edition of his Fox News show titled, Hannity's America: The Dirtiest Campaign Ever, that purportedly examined President Obama's reelection campaign, Sean Hannity reprised a succession of right-wing media smears against Obama, his administration, and progressives that ranged from tying them to the New Black Panthers to accusing them of class warfare.
Fox's Gretchen Carlson and Jonah Goldberg attacked people who receive Social Security, Medicare, unemployment and other benefits, claiming that they are receiving "government handouts." In fact, Americans pay for (or, in the case of retirees, have paid for) such benefits directly out of their paychecks.
During the segment, Fox displayed the below graph showing the rise in spending, which echoes numbers recently released by the American Enterprise Institute:
According to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, in 2010, the federal government paid $718 billion on Social Security and another $489 billion on Medicare. The Congressional Budget Office found that $120 billion was spent on unemployment insurance. This $1.327 trillion accounts for 60.3 percent of the spending identified by Fox.
But Social Security, Medicare and unemployment benefits are not "handouts." Americans pay for these benefits directly from their paychecks.
Two recent falsehoods from the Mitt Romney campaign have received media attention: the false claim that President Obama removed the work requirement from welfare, and the false claim that the health care reform bill "cuts" $716 billion from Medicare. While many mainstream media outlets debunked the false claims in much of their coverage, several -- particularly Fox News and The Wall Street Journal -- repeatedly failed to debunk the falsehoods.
Fox's Chris Wallace repeated Congressman Paul Ryan's false accusation that the Obama administration is guilty of "raiding $716 billion from Medicare to pay for Obamacare." In fact, the Affordable Care Act strengthens Medicare by cutting waste, extending the life of the trust fund and reducing costs for seniors.
NBC's David Gregory muddied the waters on the Medicare debate, saying that President Obama "claims that he would extend the solvency of Medicare eight years until 2024." However, this is not just a claim put forth by the Obama campaign; the Medicare Board of Trustees has estimated that Medicare will remain solvent until 2024 thanks to the health care law.
The Wall Street Journal's latest editorial defending Mitt Romney's and Paul Ryan's plans for Medicare contains a dizzying number of falsehoods, all of which serve one central function: covering up the fact that Romney would end Medicare as we know it, while President Obama's plan strengthens Medicare.
Journal Falsehood: The Affordable Care Act Arbitrarily Commands Providers To Make Do With Less Money
The Journal first takes aim at the $716 Medicare savings included in Obama's Affordable Care Act (ACA). The Journal correctly notes that these are not cuts, but a decrease in the expected growth in payments from the Medicare program to providers and insurance companies. But that's the extent of the Journal's truth-telling on the subject. The Journal claimed that under the ACA, the government "arbitrarily command[ed] providers to deliver the exact same benefits except for $716 billion less."
In fact, Medicare providers such as hospitals agreed to many of these cuts because they knew it will not hurt their bottom line. The Washington Post's wonk blog noted: "Hospitals agreed to these cuts because they knew, at the same time, they would likely see an influx of paying patients with the Affordable Care Act's insurance expansion."
The American Hospital Association wrote in a Supreme Court brief that it had agreed to the Affordable Care Act's Medicare savings "on the condition that Congress 'succeeded in extending health insurance to tens of millions of people who are not without coverage.' "
Journal Falsehood: Obama Favors End-Of-Life Health Care Rationing
The Journal also suggested that in addition to the Medicare savings, Obama supports rationing care for the elderly. The editorial repeats an old right-wing media canard that the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) created by the Affordable Care Act will ration care. In fact, the IPAB is specifically prohibited from making recommendations to ration care.
Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post thinks the Romney-Ryan campaign has been exquisitely detailed in their explanations of their economic policies. And this puts her in rare company, since even the Romney-Ryan campaign says they're purposefully avoiding detailed discussions of the ideas they have in store for the country.
Writing on her Post blog this morning, Rubin gave the Republican ticket a high-five for their ability to "explain their plans" for Medicare and the economy:
Romney has his whiteboard to explain Medicare. Ryan has his charts and PowerPoint slides. They really can explain their plans and do the math. In this reality-based company, the president (who thinks ATMs cause unemployment) is out of his element. Hence, the resort to increasingly nasty language. If he had good answers for these questions, he might not be descending into the political sewer. Unfortunately for him, there isn't a chart that can explain how higher taxes are going to make our economic outlook rosier. The math just doesn't work.
"Do the math." Interesting choice of words, given that earlier this week, Paul Ryan told Brit Hume point-blank that they haven't been doing any math:
HUME: But what about [budget] balance?
RYAN: Well I don't know exactly when it balances because -- I don't want to get wonky on you but we haven't run the numbers on that specific plan yet.
From the August 16 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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In his Wall Street Journal column this morning, Karl Rove argues that Congressman Paul Ryan's selection as Mitt Romney's running mate gives Republicans the advantage on Medicare as a political issue -- an advantage that has historically belonged to Democrats. To bolster his case, Rove twists himself into logical knots to argue that President Obama, and not Paul Ryan, wants to "cut" Medicare despite having (in Rove's own retelling) almost identical policies.
According to Rove's math, the GOP isn't "cutting" Medicare spending, because they still project growth in spending over the next decade:
For one thing, the GOP doesn't cut Medicare spending. This fiscal year, Medicare outlays will total $503 billion. Even under the House GOP budget--considered the most parsimonious plan out there--Medicare spending would be $855 billion annually 10 years from now. That just 3% less than what President Obama proposes, hardly enough to justify Vice President Joe Biden's claim that Republicans are "gutting Medicare."
OK, so you can't say Ryan wants to "cut" Medicare because his budget calls for increased spending that lags just slightly behind Obama's. But in the very next paragraph -- the very next paragraph -- Rove says that Obama "cuts" Medicare:
A New York Times article failed to report the truth behind Mitt Romney's and Paul Ryan's false claim that President Obama has stolen $716 billion from Medicare.
The Times reported that a Romney ad claimed that "Obama has cut $716 billion from Medicare." While the article included a statement from Obama contesting Romney's charge, it included no attempt to ascertain whether Romney's charge was true or false.
The truth is Obama's Affordable Care Act included hundreds of billions of dollars of Medicare savings, but those savings are actually reductions to future growth in Medicare, not cuts in current spending levels. And those savings do not cut any Medicare benefits.
But none of these facts made it into the Times article:
In recent days, Mr. Romney has been trying to change that political dynamic. The Republicans released a television commercial on Tuesday asserting that the Romney-Ryan Medicare plan was better for older Americans.
"Obama has cut $716 billion from Medicare," the ad says. "Why? To pay for Obamacare. So now the money you paid for your guaranteed health care is going to a massive new government program that's not for you."
Mr. Ryan sounded similar themes, campaigning Wednesday in Oxford, Ohio, on the campus of his alma mater, Miami University.
"Look at your paycheck," Mr. Ryan told an enthusiastic crowd of more than 1,000, including much of the current membership of his former fraternity. "Look at the line that shows your payroll taxes. They are supposed to go to two programs, Social Security and Medicare, period. Now because of President Obama they're also going to pay for Obamacare."
"It's not right, he knows it, he can't defend it," Mr. Ryan said.
Mr. Obama was quick to make the case on Wednesday that the spending reductions would not reduce any benefits. "This is something I've got to point out here, because they're just throwing stuff against the wall to see what sticks," Mr. Obama said derisively, before going into his own claim that the Republican proposal would leave Americans 65 and over with only the voucher option. Actually, the newest iteration of Mr. Ryan's plan would offer the choice of staying in the traditional program or getting a subsidy to buy private insurance.