Thursday, August 30, 2012

Obama corrects an expired talking point

As Republicans have doubled and trebled down on their post-truth campaign -- asserting falsely that Obama is gutting welfare reform, gutting Medicare benefits, denigrating business owners, etc. -- Obama has persisted in one misleading talking point: that Paul Ryan proposes a Medicare voucher system that, according to a CBO estimate, could raise seniors' healthcare costs by an average of over $6000 by 2030.

That was true of Ryan's 2011 proposal. But as an increasing number of healthcare experts on both sides of the policy debate have pointed out for some time, Ryan added some safeguards for seniors and set a less drastic spending cap in his latest iteration, released in March 2012 as part of his 2013 budget. (The relative moderation reflects the influence of Senator Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, who jointly authored with Ryan a Medicare reform plan released in December 2011.  That plan included protections for seniors -- most notably, preserving "traditional Medicare" as an option -- that Ryan's subsequent budget weakened but did not dispose of entirely.) The CBO analysis of Ryan's 2013 budget declined to estimate to what extent it would shift costs to seniors, probably because the plan leaves unclear who will foot the bill if the costs of the benchmark plans offered in the envisioned Medicare exchanges exceed the annual growth cap Ryan imposes.

In an interview with Time's Michael Scherer published today, Obama qualified his long-standing talking point regarding that cost shift:
I’m prepared to look at smart reforms on Medicare. But there are things I won’t do, and this is part of the debate we’re having in this election. I do not think it is a good idea to set up Medicare as a voucher system in which seniors are spending up to $6,000 more out of pocket. That was the original proposal Congressman Ryan put forward. And there is still a strong impulse I think among some Republicans for that kind of approach.
Obama is playing by the old rules as Romney and Ryan play by rules of their own invention.


  1. How does the language in the RNC platform compare to the original Ryan budget and Ryan/Wyden?

  2. I asked Ezra Klein three questions when he challenged this and happily pose them to you, too:
    1) Did both Romney and Ryan endorse the FY12 budget which included the coupon care?
    2) Did either of them disavow that plan?
    3) Have not both of them disavowed the FY13 budget by saying that it's Romney's campaign?

  3. Did both Romney and Ryan endorse the FY12 budget which included the coupon care?

    As your candidate would say "nice try".

    The fact is Romney has given NO specifics whatsoever on policy issues. His own campaign has admitted that the strategy is not to 'give' Obama or the media (or the American public) any details or proposal that he can be attacked with. This is what Ann Romney meant when asked about the tax returns: "We've given you people all we intend to."

    That Romney has moved to shore up his right flank at every turn makes it patently clear that he will be the 'warm body with a pen' that Grover Norquist requested. Whatever comes out of a right-wing Congress will be signed without question by a President Romney, which makes the Ryan/GOP House proposals relevant to this campaign.

    Stay happy, anonymous ratfker.

  4. Um, JS, I think you've mistaken the more obvious analysis of my questions, which were designed to suggest that Mr. Sprung was too quick to dismiss the previous talking point. I'd suggest that the answer to that first question was, Yes, citing a few examples including:
    1. "Mitt Romney supports what Paul Ryan did. He endorsed what Paul Ryan did." Sununu at"
    2. "When Gingrich surged in GOP primary polls, Romney endorsed Ryan's budget plan" (WaPo via Japan Times @

  5. Aidan, Romney's Medicare "plan" is awfully vague, but at the rate he's been pandering there's really no way to imagine him now publicly advocating the earlier Ryan plan -- he's been stressing that conventional Medicare will still be an option, and that's the main difference between Ryan 2011 and Ryan 2012 (in the 2013 budget). The candidate is not bound by the party platform. No one is really owning Ryan 2011 now.