Part 4—Krugman praises her ways: Why does Mitt Romney keep saying those things about the Medicare program?
Why does he keep saying that Obama has “stolen” $716 billion from the program’s trust fund—that he has used this stolen money to fund Obamacare?
Last night, Dick Morris answered that question on the O’Reilly Factor. There was nothing new in what Morris said. By now, a million Fox pundits have answered that question in the same (accurate) way.
Morris’ statement was clear and concise—and his statement was accurate. This is why Romney keeps saying those things about the Medicare program:
MORRIS (8/22/12): The reason the economy hasn't been the number one issue is because Medicare has been the number one issue. And Ryan has done a spectacular job of using the piggy-bank metaphor. You're robbing—you're using it as a piggy-bank, Medicare as a piggy-bank to fund Obamacare.Duh. As a million Fox analysts have explained, Romney is painting a very unhappy picture. This is his damning portrait:
And that metaphor makes everybody understand it really well. And it takes a Republican vulnerability and makes it into a tremendous strength. And it takes the aspect of Obamacare that is most offensive, that it's going to lead to rationing of healthcare to the elderly, and it puts it front and center.
Middle-class people have paid into Medicare all through their working lives. In this way, they thought they were funding their health care as seniors. But Obama has taken a big sack of that money—$716 billion! He has used that money to provide health insurance to 30 million other people.
Because Obama has taken that money, Medicare services will be reduced to current recipients—to the people who paid into the program all through their working lives.
That’s the picture Romney is painting. In last Thursday’s Washington Post, Rosalind Helderman quoted Batman and Robin as they kept making those charges:
HELDERMAN (8/16/121): On Wednesday, Romney accused President Obama of siphoning Medicare dollars to fund his 2010 health-care law, and he promised to restore that money if elected.If true, those would be serious charges. That would be serious stuff.
Romney promised that if elected, he would restore the money to the program as a way to bolster it for current retirees.
"My commitment is, if I become president, I'm going to restore that $716 billion to the Medicare trust fund so that current seniors can know that trust fund is not being raided," Romney said on CBS News's "This Morning.”
"We're going to have this debate, and we're going to win this debate," [Paul] Ryan said. "It's the president who took $716 billion...from the Medicare program to spend on Obamacare. That's cuts to current seniors that will lead to less services for current seniors. We don't do that. We actually say end the raid and restore that, so that those seniors get the benefits today that they organize their lives around.”
But are those charges actually true? Did Obama take $716 billion from the Medicare trust fund? Did he use that big sack of cash to pay for something else?
Those are blindingly obvious questions. But all across the mainstream press corps, news reporters have worked quite hard to avoid giving you answers. Yesterday, Paul Krugman went out of his way to praise one of those scribes. Details below; just click here.
Romney has made a serious charge—but is it actually accurate? Did Obama take $716 billion from the Medicare trust fund?
That charge by Romney is very straightforward. There’s nothing murky about it at all.
And omigod! Yesterday, a major journalist finally spoke to that charge! We refer to Gene Lyons, who published his weekly opinion column for The National Memo.
Romney’s charge just isn’t true, Lyons directly said. According to Lyons, Obama hasn’t taken a dime out of the Medicare trust fund:
LYONS (8/22/12): Romney’s also smart enough to know that not a single dime has been robbed, stolen or otherwise removed from the Medicare trust fund. Indeed, its life has been extended. Nobody’s benefits have been altered in any way.As an opinion writer, Lyons called Romney’s charge a lie. A reporter for a major newspaper couldn’t (and shouldn’t) do that.
That’s a lie so craven and demagogic you’d think even Mitt Romney would be embarrassed.
What the Affordable Care Act does do is something conservatives have long clamored for: It cuts, not benefits, but Medicare’s future costs by roughly 10 percent (or $700 billion) over a ten year period by a) Reducing corporate subsidies to insurance companies administering Medicare Advantage plans, and b) Slowing the rate of growth in payments to hospitals.
Furthermore, the health care industry agreed to these changes during negotiations over the new law: Insurance companies because they’re gaining millions of new customers; hospitals because Obamacare virtually eliminates their huge problem of non-paying patients.
That said, Lyons made a direct statement: Obama didn’t rob, steal or otherwise remove that money from the trust fund. Obama hasn’t taken a dime from the fund, Lyons directly said.
Indeed, Obama has extended the life of the Medicare trust fund, Lyons directly said. It’s hard to know how Obama could do that if he’s been stealing the trust fund's money.
Because we aren’t economists here, we can’t vouch for the perfect accuracy of every syllable Lyons wrote—although it’s our general assumption that he’s basically right. But good lord! At long last, someone addressed that serious charge—the basic charge Romney keeps making!
At the Washington Post and the New York Times, reporters have been working hard for two weeks to avoid that onerous task. Consider the journalist Krugman praised—Jackie Calmes, his New York Times colleague.
For what it’s worth, we think of Calmes as one of the press corps’ decent, sane reporters. But in our view, she began her report with some familiar slip-sliding:
CALMES (8/22/12): Mitt Romney’s promise to restore $716 billion that he says President Obama “robbed” from Medicare has some health care experts puzzled, and not just because his running mate, Representative Paul D. Ryan, included the same savings in his House budgets.In our view, Calmes was refusing to serve—refusing to tell you the truth. This seems to be New York Times policy.
The 2010 health care law cut Medicare reimbursements to hospitals and insurers, not benefits for older Americans, by that amount over the coming decade. But repealing the savings, policy analysts say, would hasten the insolvency of Medicare by eight years—to 2016, the final year of the next presidential term, from 2024.
Calmes began by quoting Romney’s charge: Obama has robbed $716 billion from the Medicare trust fund!
Is that claim accurate? Calmes didn’t say. Instead, she said the claim has “some” health care experts “puzzled.”
In Calmes’ second paragraph, we’d say the avoidance continues—and you have to read with considerable care to figure out what she is saying. She says Obama cut reimbursements to health care providers by the amount Romney cites. He didn’t cut benefits to Medicare recipients, she says at this point.
Does this contradict Romney’s claim—his claim that current retirees will lose benefits because of Obama’s act of theft? Calmes didn’t cite that second charge. This lets her avoid this question.
What does it take to make these people address Romney’s basic charges? As she continues in paragraph 2, Calmes presents a jumbled, confusing form of a very common assertion: Obamacare has extended the life of the Medicare trust fund by eight years.
True or not, that’s a simple statement; Calmes jumbles it up. According to Calmes, policy analysts say the insolvency of the trust fund will be hastened by eight years if Obama’s cuts in reimbursements are repealed. That’s a convoluted version of what Lyons said in clear direct simple speech:
Lyons: Obamacare has extended the life of the trust fund.Does this mean that Romney is wrong in alleging the theft of that money? Calmes still hasn’t said! And sure enough! She never does say, not at any point in this piece.
Calmes: Some analysts say the life of the trust fund will be reduced by eight years if Obamacare is repealed.
Neither did the timorous Helderman, refusing to serve at the Washington Post last week.
It seems like the world’s simplest statement: Barack Obama took $716 billion from the Medicare trust fund! As presented by Romney, it’s a serious charge. Last night, Morris explained what many people think that serious charge really means.
That said, is the charge by Romney true? Did Obama take that money? Did he spend it on something else?
That first question is quite simple; yesterday, Lyons answered quite directly. But go ahead—read the Post and the Times! Read Helderman, Calmes and Pear and Nagourney and the rest of our major “reporters.” Did Obama steal that money?
Romney has made a serious charge. It's a very straightforward charge. See if you can find even one of these servants saying if his charge is accurate.
Has Obama taken that money out of the trust fund? Calmes avoided that question again. Krugman praised her ways.
Tomorrow: Why would Lyons say that?