Paul Ryan Conquers PolitiFact

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Dec. 20 2011 9:46 AM

Paul Ryan Conquers PolitiFact

A couple of weeks ago, I pointed out that Paul Ryan's PAC was asking for fellow-thinkers to take part in Politifact's vote on the "lie of the year." Vote to "ensure the Democrats’ lies about the Path to Prosperity are exposed," he said.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

He won.

Lie of the Year 2011: 'Republicans voted to end Medicare'
Advertisement

That's a nice change from last week, or even from last year. Last week, The Weekly Standard gave its cover over to a pungent takedown of "fact-checking" sites, written by Mark Hemingway. I read in it some lingering bitterness over Politifact's 2009 "lie of the year," Sarah Palin's assertion that the Affordable Care Act's rationing component would take the form of "death panels," specifically panels that would kill her mentally disabled son Trig. (I should explain: Sarah Palin is a former governor of Alaska who was politically influential for a while after 2008.)

The irony: Politifact's rationale for pants-on-firing the "ending Medicare" line is as flimsy as anything Hemingway went after. The website lists some of the big, thematic whoppers from Democrats.

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 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.

This is true. The Ryan plan was designed to remove baby boomers from the guillotine, while leaving a less comprehensive premium support system for everyone else. Let's start with the proposition that politicians are hacks -- ads that show old people suffering in comical ways are unfair. Sure. What about the underlying attack, that future retirees wouldn't have a catch-all health care system to count on, and they might have trouble paying bills? The Ryan plan pushes that problem into the future, exempting current retirees.

They used harsh terms such as "end" and "kill" when the program would still exist, although in a privatized system.

Really, six of one and half a dozen of another. Why is it unfair to say that fundamentally changing something, so that it is nothing like the program that existed before, amounts to "ending" it?

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.