In a new interview with genial softball pitcher Charlie Rose, House Speaker Paul Ryan took some time to explain how Republicans would replace Obamacare. He recited some standard policy planks he's offered before without any important specifics. But then he said this:
We also think that a refundable tax credit is a smarter way to get people the ability to go buy insurance that they like that they can afford. That's better than [Obamacare's] subsidies. A refundable tax credit means you get assistance to regardless of your income tax liability to buy care.
Now here is the section of the IRS's website that describes Obamacare's premium support subsidies:
To review: Paul Ryan, renowned wonk, is claiming that the Republican health care plan will be an improvement over the status quo partly because it will offer refundable tax credits, instead of Obamacare's premium support subsidies—which are refundable tax credits. This is ridiculous. It's like if a bartender said to you, “You'll like this drink way better, because I make it with vodka instead of Smirnoff.”
Paul Ryan obviously knows this is absurd. Paul Ryan knows what a refundable tax credit is, and knows that's what the Affordable Care Act offers. But because the Republican Party has spent years demonizing every aspect of the president's health reform law, he is attempting to draw a nonexistent distinction for marketing purposes. Of course, he could have said: “Our plan will include refundable tax credits for everybody, whereas Obamacare only provided them for some families.” Or he could have said, “Our plan will include a better designed refundable tax credit.” But he did not. He spouted gibberish.
And, of course, Charlie Rose didn't call him on it, allowing his guest to continue ticking off talking points instead. This is Paul Ryan's magic. He has a confident command of policy speak that baffles generalist reporters and allows him to lay down one conceptual lie after another, whether it's saying without evidence that the Affordable Care Act is in a death spiral or that Republican refundable tax credits are totally not the same thing as Democratic refundable tax credits. This freedom to fib of course makes it easier for him to go out and sell his frighteningly austere vision for American government.
I can't even anymore. I just can't.