Continuation—Young star is no Shirley Temple: Bold courageous honest Paul Ryan made some very serious charges in his convention address.
What did the straight-talking truth-teller say? Concerning Obama's raid on the Medicare program, the wonkish straight-shooter said this:
RYAN (8/29/12): You know what? The president has declared that the debate over government controlled health care is over. That will come as news to the millions of American who will elect Mitt Romney so we can repeal Obamacare.In that passage, Ryan made a series of extremely serious charges. He voiced the Romney campaign’s basic charges about the Medicare program.
And the biggest, coldest power play of all in Obamacare came at the expense of the elderly. You see, even with all the hidden taxes to pay for the health care takeover, even with the new law and new taxes on nearly a million small businesses, the planners in Washington still didn't have enough money. They needed more. They needed hundreds of billions more. So they just took it all away from Medicare, $716 billion funneled out of Medicare by President Obama.
An obligation we have to our parents and grandparents is being sacrificed, all to pay for a new entitlement we didn't even ask for.
The greatest threat to Medicare is Obamacare and we're going to stop it.
In Congress, when they take out the heavy books and the wall charts about Medicare, my thoughts go back to a house on Garfield Street in Janesville. My wonderful grandma, Janet, had Alzheimer's and she moved in with mom and me. Though she felt lost at times, we did all the little things that made her feel loved. We had help from Medicare and it was there, just like it's there for my mom today. Medicare is a promise and we will honor it. A Romney-Ryan administration will protect and strengthen Medicare for my mom's generation, for my generation and for my kids and yours.
So our opponents can consider themselves on notice. In this election, on this issue, the usual posturing on the left isn't going to work. Mitt Romney and I know the difference between protecting a program and raiding it.
As we summarize his claims, we’ll use his actual language:
Obama funneled $716 billion out of Medicare! He did this to pay for a new entitlement!
This was a cold power play by the planners in Washington—a raid on the Medicare program! As Obama takes this money away from Medicare, our parents and grandparents are being sacrificed!
The coldest power-play in Obamacare came at the expense of the elderly!
These are very serious charges; the language is very harsh. As Ryan made these inflammatory charges, the TV cameras lingered on the smiling face of Ryan’s mother, who loves her Medicare.
Just like the candidate's wonderful grandma did!
It’s hard to show sufficient contempt for these charges, although Lawrence O’Donnell managed. And yet, the liberal world has shown little skill at rebutting these inflammatory charges.
The liberal world has shown little skill at telling the public why these charges are bogus. Lacking that skill, we can’t demand that the mainstream press corps offer clear explanations.
Are Ryan’s inflammatory charges accurate? Did Obama “raid” Medicare? Did he really take $716 billion away from the program? Are the nation’s wonderful grandmas being sacrificed in the process?
Is Obamacare being funded at the expense of the elderly?
Ed Schultz and Newt Gingrich have both suggested that these charges are gaining purchase. On Wednesday, Rachel Maddow asked Ezra Klein to clear up all the confusion.
The bright smart young TV star failed.
Long ago, a 3-year-old child emerged on the scene, becoming a major film star. Later in life, she became a skilled spokesperson for the United States, even serving as our representative to the UN!
Ezra Klein is no Shirley Temple. On Wednesday evening, the young TV star’s efforts at clarity utterly failed.
What follows will show you how Democrats lose. Even our millionaire TV stars can’t seem to explain jack shit.
Step one—Excerpting Candidate Ryan: Not long after Ryan’s address, Chris Matthews made an announcement: Help was on the way!
Ryan had made some very strange claims, But the cavalry had been spotted:
MATTHEWS (8/29/12): Ezra Klein has been checking into the veracity of some of what we heard tonight, and we will get to that soon. But that’s when we return. You’re watching MSNBC’s live coverage of the Republican Convention.Help was on the way! But the children on The One True Channel did a very poor job debunking those Medicare claims.
In the beginning was the end! The breakdown began right at the start, when the children returned from commercial to play tape of Ryan’s remarks:
RYAN (videotape): You see, even with all the hidden taxes to pay for the health care takeover, even with the new law and new taxes on nearly a million small businesses, the planners in Washington still didn`t have enough money. They needed more. They needed hundreds of billions more. So they just took it all away from Medicare, $716 billion funneled out of Medicare by President Obama.That’s the videotape that was shown. It omitted Ryan’s most serious charges, some of his most striking language. It omitted the claim that Obama “raided” the Medicare program. It omitted the claim that “an obligation to our parents and grandparents is being sacrificed” in the process.
It omitted the claim that the money was funneled from Medicare “to pay for a new entitlement.”
The children had edited Ryan’s remarks. In the process, they greatly reduced the outrageousness, and the dishonesty, of the various things he had said.
Step two—Rachel’s attempt at a question: Right there in their edited excerpt, the children had cleaned up Paul Ryan.
Maddow was about to ask Klein to fact-check Ryan’s remarks. But the channel had already removed most of his most flagrant bullshit.
Whatever! The second problem with this fact-check came from Maddow herself. After the tape of Ryan played, she offered this rambling reaction and a non-question question:
MADDOW (continuing directly): And also by Paul Ryan in his proposals. But that doesn’t make him nearly as angry, or make him pause as meaningfully.That was Maddow’s introduction to Klein’s veracity-check. But uh-oh! After making a very dire warning, Maddow asked no actual question. She simply threw to Klein, asking him to provide “the actual skinny on this much-spun fact.”
The whole ball of wax might come down to one issue ultimately in November. May come down to one policy. The November election might hinge on Medicare.
Part of why the choice of Paul Ryan for vice president was seen in the most favorable light as a bold choice was Paul Ryan’s politically unpopular plan to end the Medicare program the country has known and loved for roughly 50 years.
Because of his plan to end Medicare, the Democrats took the Paul Ryan choice as really good news when it was announced. But tonight Mr. Ryan said again he wants the debate on Medicare because he’s the man who will protect Medicare from the dreaded Democrats, who are really the ones trying to kill it.
For the actual skinny on this much-spun fact, luckily we have Ezra Klein. Ezra!
To which “much-spun fact” did Maddow refer? Her summary and introduction were extremely unclear. In effect, she simply asked Klein to talk for a while. She had provided no focus for his discussion.
Step three—Ezra goes on a ramble: In fairness to bright polite smart Ezra Klein, he wasn’t getting much help here.
Ryan’s most aggressive and inaccurate claims had been edited out of that tape. In her introduction and throw, Maddow provided no focus whatever.
Let’s face it—Maddow didn’t know what to ask about Ryan’s charges. So she simply threw to Ezra.
Ezra started to ramble.
Below, you see the oration which formed Klein's response to Maddow’s non-question. Unless you already understood this topic, his rambling remarks were largely incoherent.
But uh-oh! Like his blog-mate Sarah Kliff, Klein largely repeated Romney’s Medicare charges—restated those charges in his own voice!
We apologize for all the gorilla dust. But this was Klein’s full response:
KLEIN (continuing directly): Hi, Rachel. Right—the Medicare fact. I kind of can’t believe we are actually now running this campaign on Republicans telling Democrats they want to cut Medicare too much, after what Republicans have voted for in recent years.That is a horrible “answer.”
What those Medicare cuts are, it’s basically two major things. One is that we pay private insurers in the Medicare program about 114 percent what we pay traditional Medicare to cover the exact same group of people. And the other is that hospitals as part of the Affordable Care Act deal agreed to take lower reimbursements.
So, when Romney/Ryan say they want to repeal those cuts, what they are saying very simply put is this: Instead of moving that money from hospitals that have said you can have it, and private insurers that are getting paid more than Medicare, and putting it either towards health care for poor people, as Barack Obama does, or towards deficit reduction, as the House Republican budget does, they should give it back to hospitals and private insurers.
This is a bad enough idea, as I mentioned that House Republicans, including Paul Ryan, who wrote the thing, put it in their budget. The broad sort of overarching narrative of that critique, though, the thing that always strikes me about it, is that when Paul Ryan and George W. Bush did a major Medicare prescription drug benefit expansion in the 2000s, they paid for it by putting it all on the deficit.
They didn’t pay for a dime or a dollar of it. Then Democrats came in, they said we’re not going to do that any more, we’re going to be fiscally responsible, and so they said we`re going to pay for all of it. The initial House Democrat proposal would have been a tax on rich people which would have been a lot more politically popular.
But a lot of Republicans said, “That is irresponsible. If you’re going to do health care reform, you pay for it out of the health care system.” Democrats tried to do that, and so they did this cutting of Medicare which they thought was going to help them get Republican support. Instead Republicans then ran against them for cutting Medicare, while simultaneously saying they don’t have a plan to do anything about Medicare spending, and also saying the Affordable Care Act is a fiscally irresponsible plan, which just goes to show that you can't really—the Democrats did not find it very easy to win for compromising or trying to compromise with what Republicans said they wanted on this particular one.
If you already understand the Medicare topic, you may know what Klein is talking about as he wanders the countryside, stringing his reactions together in stream-of-consciousness fashion. But for viewers who lacked that pre-cognition, those remarks were largely incoherent.
Klein toured the countryside, failing to explain the point of his various comments. If you already understood Medicare, you might have guessed what his comments meant.
Others were shit out of luck.
Go ahead—ask yourself this: At any point, does Klein make a clear, concise statement about what Ryan said that was wrong? No such statement ever occurs in this wandering ballad. Instead, Klein throws a bewildering array of figures and claims into a very thick stew.
One example: What exactly does that “114 percent” figure mean in Klein’s second paragraph? We can guess, but even we aren’t entirely clear where it leads.
Was the extra 14 percent taken away as part of the spending reductions? People without prior knowledge were almost surely baffled by now, out in some very deep weeds.
Klein’s oration was very unclear—and that’s the good news about it. Even worse, he kept repeating Romney’s charges about the Medicare program!
Good God! Instantly, Klein was talking about “Medicare cuts,” a dangerous piece of locution. He maintained this language all the way through—and by the second half of his speech, he rather clearly seemed to be saying that the Democrats were using those “Medicare cuts” to “pay for” the expansion of health coverage in Obama’s health law.
Klein seemed to say that Democrats took money from Medicare and “put it towards health care for poor people.” That is precisely what Romney says when he levels his punishing charges!
Let’s be fair: Since nothing Klein says is clear or concise, he doesn’t quite say what the Democrats are “paying for” through their “Medicare cuts.” But it seems it must be that “health care for poor people”—and whatever the Dems are paying for, it’s clear that they aren’t shirking!
When the Democrats came in (whatever that means), “they said we're...going to be fiscally responsible, and so they said we`re going to pay for all of it,” Klein announced to the world. In context, it’s fairly clear what he meant:
According to Klein, the Democrats “pay for” Obamacare through their “Medicare cuts!” More specifically, they cut money from Medicare and put it toward health care for poor people. But that’s exactly what Romney’s ad says—the ad Ed Schultz has been calling a lie! Like his blog-mate Kliff before him, Klein was repeating the basic charges which constitute Romney’s attack:
Current Republican ad: Obama has cut $716 billion from Medicare...to pay for Obamacare.Ezra Klein is a nice young man. He’s always polite to Rachel.
Sarah Kliff, WonkBlog: McDonough looked at all the various Medicare cuts Democrats made to pay for the Affordable Care Act.
Ezra Klein, MSNBC: The Democrats “pay for” health care for poor people through “the cutting of Medicare”—through their “Medicare cuts.”
But to all appearances, he doesn’t know how to talk about Medicare! It’s hard to call that ad a “lie” when our leading liberal heroes seem to be cutting-and-pasting their own remarks straight from Romney's language.
Simple story: Ezra Klein doesn't seem to understand the nature of these transactions. And he doesn't seem to understand the language of Medicare "cuts."
In fact, Ryan’s presentation was full of misstatements and deceptions. A more capable cable climber might have started by saying this in response to Maddow’s flailing attempt at a question:
MADDOW: For the actual skinny on this much-spun fact, luckily we have Ezra Klein. Ezra!That's well less than half of Ezra's ramble. At this point, Rachel would have had to dream up a question. There’s little chance she could have done so. Despite “earning” millions of dollars per year, Maddow doesn’t seem to know how to talk about Medicare either!
EZRA KLEIN REWRITTEN: We really need to start with one fact: Within the Obama health law, no money is being removed from the Medicare program.
Annual Medicare spending has been reduced, although no health services are affected. The system will simply eliminate overpayments to some health care providers. That's what we should be doing.
That adds up to $716 billion less spending in Medicare over the next ten years. But that money stays in the Medicare system, extending the life of the Medicare trust fund by a full eight years. The money isn’t being siphoned, stolen, raided, robbed or taken away from Medicare. The money isn’t being used to pay for someone else’s health care.
Rachel, if you have time for one more point—Ryan surely understands these points. For crying out loud! He included almost all those spending reductions in his own budget plans! Tonight, he said those spending reductions represent an attack on our parents and our grandparents. I’d have to say that’s very dishonest: As Ryan knows, those spending reductions don’t produce reductions in medical services. And Ryan had those same spending reductions in his own budget plans!
Sorry, Charlie! All across the liberal world, you can see liberal “intellectual leaders” repeating Romney’s basic charges (links below). Ezra Klein is very polite, and he’s making himself rich and famous.
But Ezra Klein is no Shirley Temple. As in the mid-90s Medicare fight, so too in the current battle: Your interests lie in the hands of incompetents. When you watch the TV machine thingy, you’ll often find yourself looking at children who don’t know how to talk!
All together now, let's recite Romney's charges: All over the liberal world, you can see your fiery leaders repeating Romney’s basic charges: Obama took money from Medicare and used it to “pay for” Obamacare!
Ed Schultz calls those charges a lie. But our fiery liberal leaders just keep repeating those charges!
To see Joan Walsh accept Romney’s charges, click here. Also, check out Alex Seitz-Wald, also at Salon:
SEITZ-WALD (8/14/12): The $700 billion figure comes from cost savings created in Medicare to help pay for the Affordable Care Act. Romney is correct in the figure and correct in asserting that the money is being diverted from Medicare to help pay for Obamacare, but he misleads on the mechanism and its effects. First of all, the change affects reimbursements to hospitals, insurance companies and other providers, not benefits for average enrollees. As the Boston Globe’s health policy expert Health Stew noted, “Except for insurers, all the affected groups publicly supported the reductions to help finance the ACA’s expansion in health insurance to about 32 million uninsured Americans.”Seitz-Wald fumbles around, mixing apples with many oranges and making some accurate statements. But let’s return to our chart:
Politifact called a similar claim “false” when Romney made it back in December, noting that there “are not actual cuts,” as the savings come from projected future growth in the program, no on-paper budgeting. The Washington Post’s fact checker also rated the claim poorly. ”The Affordable Care Act improves the benefits in Medicare, in terms of prevention, in terms of filling in the donut hole in Medicare Part D for prescription drugs,” explained Jonathan Oberlander, a health policy professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.
Current Republican ad: Obama has cut $716 billion from Medicare…to pay for Obamacare.Ed Schultz calls that ad a lie. In the meantime, major liberals are standing in line to repeat the ad’s basic charge: Obama took money from Medicare “to pay for” Obamacare!
Seitz-Wald: $716 billion is being diverted from Medicare to help pay for Obamacare.
That is Romney’s basic charge. Liberals keep repeating it for him! None of them answer an obvious question: If Obama took a big sack of money from Medicare, how did he manage to extend the life of the Medicare trust fund eight years?
Your fiery leaders don’t know how to talk! Ain’t life in the liberal world grand?