PolitiFact’s ‘Lie of the Year’ is actually true

Here’s a head-slapper: PolitiFact, the ordinarily respected and Pulitzer Prize-winning fact-checking organization, picked a true statement as its “Lie of the Year.”

The PolitiFact “honor” went to the Democratic argument that Republicans voted to “end Medicare” when they voted for Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget plan that would, yep, end Medicare.

Oh, sure, there would still be a program called Medicare. It just would bear no resemblance to the program that’s been providing health care coverage for seniors for nearly 50 years.

Today, we have a single-payer program that covers most health care costs. The Ryan plan would end that program and replace it with a voucher system that, by design, will eventually cover only about a third of senior’s health care costs.

Here is PolitiFact’s justification:

• 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.

So, the fact that Democrats didn’t focus on the fact that Ryan would leave the current system in place for today’s seniors makes the claim that would end Medicare a lie? The use of “harsh” terms that  accurately portray the effect of ending a single-payer plan and replacing it with a private, voucher system that would intentionally leave tomorrow’s seniors without adequate coverage is damning why? Perhaps if they had time-stamped the images of elderly people hurt by the plan to make it clear they were talking about the future impact, it would be ok?

This is a charade. As Paul Krugman suggested, this is probably a lame attempt at “balance”:

[T]he people at Politifact are terrified of being considered partisan if they acknowledge the clear fact that there’s a lot more lying on one side of the political divide than on the other. So they’ve bent over backwards to appear “balanced” — and in the process made themselves useless and irrelevant.

Sadly, PolitiFact isn’t alone. FactCheck included the same truth in its “Whoppers of the Year” report. I don’t quite see the difference between the Democratic statement – Republicans voted to end Medicare – and what FactCheck describes as the “truth”: “The budget plan that Republicans pushed through the House in 2011 would have radically changed Medicare in the future — for workers now under age 55.” That radical change would end the current Medicare system and replace it with something completely different, and completely inadequate to cover senior’s health care costs. The fact that current seniors are, ahem, grandfathered in, doesn’t change the essential truth of the Democratic line of attack.

This is one of the incredible frustrations with the so-called “liberal media.” In its attempts at balance, it too often ends up obscuring the truth.

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