Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Premier Fact Checker on Politics Gets It Wrong – How Can This Be?

Is Everyone Afraid to Offend the Republican/Conservative Sector?

PolitiFact is regarded as the premier independent – non partisan fact checking group.  In fact when Michele Bachmann wanted to establish her credentials as a truth teller she cited the fact that PolitiFact confirmed all of her statements (and in another strike by the gods of political irony the organization gave her their coveted “Pants on Fire” designation for that statement.)   Now PolitiFact has come up with their lie of the year, and one can only say that now we need a new fact checking organization, one that can award PolitiFact the lie of the year for their award of the lie of the year.  (Confused, you won’t be after next week’s episode.)

Here is the issue.  Medicare is a government provided health insurance program for individuals 65 years old and older.  The program is public health insurance, although seniors may opt for coverage by a private plan (Medicare Advantage) and private firms provide prescription drug coverage.  But those are just subsets of the coverage.  Everyone pays the same amount, regardless of age or health.
In the spring 2011 Republicans in the House voted to replace Medicare with private insurance.  The private insurance would have premiums that were paid in part by seniors and in part by a subsidy from the government.  Medicare as it is known today would disappear, the only role for the government would be to provide part of the premium.  The purpose of this program was to reduce the cost of health care for senior that is provided by government and to shift more of the cost to seniors.  The core concept of the Republican program was unambiguous, Medicare would be replaced with private insurance.

Democrats charged, correctly that this plan would eliminate Medicare as it is currently structured and replace it with private insurance.  It would, there was no dispute about that.  But Republicans said that their new plan was also “Medicare”, and PolitiFact in reviewing the Democrats charges that the Republican Plan destroyed Medicare have given it their “Pants on Fire” Award for the biggest lie of the year.  Here is the rationale by PolitiFact

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 according to PolitiFact, the fact that the end of Medicare wouldn’t occur until 10 years from now was reason not call the Republican Plan to end Medicare a plan to end Medicare.  Gee, just how much time has to elapse before on can call it the plan to end Medicare?  A Day?  A Week? 2.76543 Years?  And wow, Democrats used “harsh terms”, not wrong terms, just harsh terms.  And finally, Democrats illustrated their point on the future removal of government health insurance for old people by showing old people.  Wow, what a distortion.

Here in one sentence is why the Ryan plan ends Medicare as it exists today.

The guarantees: Ryan's plan requires private insurers to accept all applicants and to charge the same rate for people who are the same age.

Medicare has the same rate for people regardless of their age.  The idea that a private insurance company would charge a competitive rate for an 85 year old is so far removed from reality that only Republicans can believe it.  But the final proof that the Republican plan ends Medicare as it currently exists is the fact that just recently Republicans abandoned it, and now are willing to include Medicare as it currently exists in their new program.  Game, set and match to the critics.
But apparently the real basis of the defense by PolitiFact of the Republican plan is that Medicare would still exist, albeit as a privatized program.  But the very nature of Medicare, its very essence, the meaning of the term is that of government provided health insurance.  If the PolitiFact logic holds, one could say any program would still be Medicare, as long as it was given that name. 

As with many situations, one can turn to Abraham Lincoln for the ultimate wisdom on this and other issues.

The Great Emancipator, Abraham Lincoln, was asked by a congressman why he hadn’t freed the slaves earlier in his term of office.

Lincoln replied that the time had not been right; he wouldn’t have been able to enforce the proclamation.  The congressman was puzzles and didn’t understand what the president meant.

Lincoln explained with a question, “How many legs will a sheep have, if you call the tail a leg?”

“Five,” responded the congressman.

“Not so,” said Lincoln wisely.  “Calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it so.”

And calling the Republican plan “Medicare” makes it about as much Medicare as calling it a sheep’s tail a leg would make it a sheep’s leg.

The absurdity of this claim by PolitiFact is so great that one can only speculate on the reasons why they have chosen to go this route.  It may be that they felt they had to attack Democrats because they wanted to present a bi-partisan front.  Or it may be that they are genuinely stupid, capable of being taken in by the Republican program just because the Republicans claimed they were “saving Medicare”.

So now we have the Washington Post Fact Checker as a wholly owned subsidiary of the Mitt Romney campaign, and PolitiFact as a collection of idiots and nowhere does there appear to exist a truly independent and objective fact checker.  Maybe Fox News will step into the breach, they would certainly consider themselves qualified.

No comments:

Post a Comment