Politifact had plenty of good choices for “Lie of the Year.” The reader’s poll was won by “The economic stimulus created ‘zero jobs,’” from the National Republican Senatorial Committee and other Republicans. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office credits the American Recovery Act with creating or saving more than 3 million jobs. Number two in the poll was “Abortion services are ‘well over 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does,’” according to Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ), which was such a whopper that his spokesman could only offer the explanation that it was “not intended to be a factual statement.” The actual proportion is around 3 percent.
At least those statements could be true in theory. The most shockingly false statement probably goes to Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN) who asserted that the HPV vaccine can cause mental retardation.
But Politifact, an independent organization associated with the St. Petersburg Times, chose instead a claim that placed third in their poll, thanks to an effort by Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) to stuff the ballots. The only problem? The big “lie” is true. “Republicans voted to end Medicare,” by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and other Democrats, is the winner, despite the fact that Republicans did indeed vote to end Medicare when they voted for Ryan’s budget. “The plan was distorted and attacked again and again,” Politifact asserts.
Ryan’s plan would replace Medicare for everyone currently younger than 55 with a system of vouchers that seniors can use to buy health insurance. The value of those vouchers would be limited to the Consumer Price Index plus 1 percent. As healthcare costs escalate that would become increasingly insufficient to buy comprehensive health insurance. Politifact gives three reasons that this isn’t ending Medicare.
• [Democrats] 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.
All three of these reasons are nonsense. As Jonathan Cohn points out, Medicare is a program for seniors, so it only makes sense to use seniors in ads illustrating the impact of the Ryan plan, even though it would affect future rather than current retirees. It also could reduce benefits for current retirees. As Cohn writes: