Since Tuesday's election in New York, Paul Ryan has taken to complaining about Democratic "Mediscare" tactics, accusing Democratic leaders of demagoguing his Medicare plan and undermining "necessary" reforms to the program. At yesterday's Fiscal Summit, hosted by the Peterson Foundation, he repeated the charge:
[W]henever you put out a reform plan to try and fix this problem, the other party uses it as a political weapon against you. And what they do-- in this particular case, with Medicare, they're shamelessly demagogueing and distorting this. We call it Mediscare, to try and scare seniors.
The irony of this is our plan actually preserves the benefit for current seniors. But trying to scare seniors, and turning these things into political weapons. What that ends up doing is just inflicting political-- political paralysis. That means nothing gets done. And that means we go farther down the path of debt. So the politics of this means we need leaders. Leadership.
Ryan is getting help in his attacks on Democrats for "misleading" rhetoric. PolitiFact gave a "pants on fire" rating to the Democratic claim that Ryan's plan ends Medicare. And The Washington Post's Glenn Kessler echoed this assessment, issuing three "Pinocchios" for Kathleen Sebelius' claim that the Ryan plan requires seniors to either go without care or "die sooner." But both claims are true! Ryan might call his plan "Medicare," but it's a fundamentally different program than the one that now exists. It ends the insurance program and gives seniors a limited amount of money without ensuring that their care will be covered. For the details on how cost-sharing doesn't fix Medicare, see Peter Orszag.
If Ryan wants to avoid these charges, then he needs to do something about his plan. Otherwise, he should show some actual courage and own up to the consequences of his ideas.
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