Several people have commented on Politifact’s Lie of the Year 2011: ‘Republicans voted to end Medicare’ being not a lie but an actually true statement. You can see Steve Benen, Jonathan Cohn, Matt Yglesias and Ezra Klein for more. Paul Waldman called this early.
I want to amplify something others have brought up. Politifact had to understand that they were going to get pushback on this, so they must have been careful in justifying their assertion with the strongest terms possible. How do they do that? Here are the three reasons for why this is a lie instead of an actually true statement:
• They ignored the fact that the Ryan plan would not affect people currently in Medicare — or even the people 55 to 65 who would join the program in the next 10 years.
• They used harsh terms such as “end” and “kill” when the program would still exist, although in a privatized system.
• They used pictures and video of elderly people who clearly were too old to be affected by the Ryan plan. The DCCC video that aired four days after the vote featured an elderly man who had to take a job as a stripper to pay his medical bills.
Read the first and third point again. Democrats are in the wrong when they attack the plan for its effects on seniors, because current seniors won’t be impacted. They show ads with elderly people, but no current elderly people will fact the Ryan plan.
If anything was to show how much certain elite media go along with the Republican thought that the social safety net is only for people born in 1956 or earlier, while everyone else is on their own, this is it. Because I’m a senior-in-waiting, and this plan will affect me. Someday I’ll be elderly, and then I’ll have to deal with taking a worthless coupon to the notoriously ugly healthcare market if this plan passes. This is not semantics – it’s the basis of the inter-generational social contract. But in the worldview of Politifact, as long as the Great Society’s social insurance plan is there for people born in 1956 or earlier, it exists for everyone.
Mark Schmitt wrote a great piece earlier this year on the GOP’s brilliant generational weapon in the Medicare fight:
…But the line they chose is more than a gimmick: The 55-and-over cutoff marks a sharp and significant generational divide. Those over 55 will continue to benefit from one of the triumphs of social insurance in the Great Society, while the rest of us will be on our own, with a coupon for private health insurance….The Ryan plan, in other words, delivers to the older generation exactly what they’ve had all their lives—secure and predictable benefits—and to the next generation, more of what they’ve known—insecurity and risk.
Someone born in 1957 would graduate high school in 1975 – right when real incomes flatten, the poverty rates stops declining and health insurance coverage stops increasing, while the boom in inequality is right around the corner. If anything, this generation needs more, not less, security in old age.