Who can help the American people understand Medicare policy: Mitt Romney is amazingly bad when he discusses policy.
Yesterday, Romney staged a short seminar concerning the Medicare program. He compared and contrasted the two hopefuls’ proposals. But d’oh! He quickly slipped, saying this:
ROMNEY (8/16/12): Today’s seniors, if you will, my plan presents no change. The plan stays the same. No adjustments. No changes. No savings.D’oh! He’s supposed to say that his proposal imposes no cuts. He isn’t supposed to say that his plan "presents no savings!”
The president’s plan cuts Medicare—excuse me. Well, let’s see, I got , there we go!—by $716 billion.
Good God, this man is clumsy with policy! Everyone and his crazy uncle has correctly been saying, for decades, that we need to find “savings” in our health care programs. We want our presidents to find ways to save money in the administration of these programs.
Romney boasted that his proposal "presents no savings.” Good God, that man is an oaf!
We want to achieve savings in these programs! That’s why, for our money, Bernie Sanders gave the simplest, cleanest statement about that $716 billion this week—about the amount of money Obama’s proposal “cuts.” Here’s what Sanders cleanly said on Monday’s Big Ed program:
SCHULTZ (8/13/12): Senator, what they are doing is they are playing this $700 billion bullet point, saying that— You heard Reince Priebus, that President Obama “stole” this money, that they`re going to be shafting seniors. That simply isn’t the case. And I like the fact—Everything he said is important—and no, most people don't know it! Sanders provided the answer which stumped Rachel Maddow on the previous day’s Meet the Press.
SANDERS: No, it isn’t the case. It isn’t the case, Ed. And the point to be made is, as I hope most people know— In the United States today, we spend almost twice as much per capita on health care as do the people of any other country. We have a wildly inefficient and wasteful system.
So what we were trying to do and what we did is not cut benefits for seniors, but make the system more efficient. That’s a good start. I’m a single-payer advocate, because I think we could do a lot more.
We spend too much per person, Sander said. We spend way more than everyone else. Obama has managed to wring out some savings—but no health services will be cut!
Can Obama wring out those dollar savings without any services being cut? We don’t know, but that’s the claim, very cleanly expressed.
We expect to feature the Medicare discussion all next week. For today, we’ll make a few suggestions:
In this morning’s New York Times, Romney’s seminar on Medicare is the featured front-page news report. Except the Times gets sidetracked onto the question of the gent’s tax returns.
For that reason, Michael Shear spends exactly one paragraph trying to explain Romney’s charge about the way Obama has “stolen” that $716 billion. He discusses the topic in paragraph 20, of 21 in all!
In a way, it’s just as well. The Times has convincingly proven this week that it simply isn’t up to the task of explaining a topic like this. By way of contrast, take a look at PolitiFact’s treatment of Romney’s charge.
PolitiFact offers a vastly clearer treatment of that $716 billion than you’ve seen in the New York Times. PolitiFact is published by the Tampa Bay Times. Despite that small-town location, its journalists are massively more capable than those found lounging in Gotham.
(That said, the site continues to fumble with its rating system, which is poorly conceived and should be revamped. PolitiFact scores Romney’s basic statement about that $716 billion “mostly false.”)
Final point: You’ve seen Sanders’ clear, clean statement about that $716 billion. By way of contrast, here’s how Maddow reacted on Meet the Press when she was asked about this.
This Republican charge is several years old. But when Rich Lowry brought it forward, Maddow had no idea what to say, and no idea how to dodge:
LOWRY (8/12/12): Even President Obama, who's cut $700 billion from Medicare, which I guess you support—Truly, that's just awful. This nonsense went on and on (and on and on), with Rachel saying she couldn’t state her opinion on this crucial topic because she isn’t running for office.
MADDOW: But Paul Ryan—
LOWRY: Do you support $700 billion in cuts in Medicare over the next 10 years?
MADDOW: I'm not running for president.
LOWRY: Do you?
MADDOW: Paul Ryan's running for vice president.
LOWRY: You can’t answer.
MADDOW: But wait! I’m not running for anything.
Yes, she kept saying that.
In fairness, Maddow is very good with the snark and the self-adoration. She’s good at massaging her facts, especially in a setting where her guests will all agree with every word she says.
But when someone is there to challenge Maddow, she tends to break down quickly. That back and forth with Lowry was a major liberal embarrassment.
Sanders gave a clean, intelligent answer—the answer which has been out there for years. Maddow had no earthly clue, and she offered the world's worst dodge.
So it goes when corporate suits hire our liberal leaders for us. Maddow is very limited—and she isn’t especially honest, as you may have noticed.
She does make us feel like we’re the best tribe. In the end, is that what we want?