Politifact sucks, or when watchdogs suck at their job

So by now you’ve probably heard that Politifact declared the Democrats’ claim that the GOP voted to end Medicare as its “Lie of the Year”. The problem is that, by any stretch of the definition, the claim was 100% true. Basically PF’s idea came down to these points:

  • 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.

Okay, well. Point 1 is “bolstered” by point 3, because both ignore the fact that even if it doesn’t affect today’s seniors, it affects tomorrow’s. And that was the message of those ads. Point 2 is the most confusing one. Medicare is a public program. Replacing it with a privatized system and claiming it’s still Medicare is like getting rid of the police in favor of PI’s and still saying we have a public protection system.

Most paradoxically, PF concedes that many on the left disputed their claim (Krugman did a good job of it), and then attempts to explain why they’re still right:

Under the current Medicare system, the government pays the health care bills for Americans over age 65. Under the Ryan plan, future beneficiaries would be given a credit and invited to shop for an approved plan on a Medicare health insurance exchange. It received overwhelming support from Republicans in a House vote on a budget blueprint.

Starting in 2022, beneficiaries would receive “premium support payments” from the government to help pay for the private insurance. People who need more health care would get a little more money, and high earners would get a little less.

Once again,  this is no longer Medicare. This is getting a little assistance and being stuck looking for your own insurance. Medicare is, itself, health insurance. You enroll and the guv’mint takes care of things. The Ryan Plan is not “insurance” any more than replacing public schooling with vouchers still counts as having an American education system.

Now, you can say that you’d prefer privatized medical care, that’s a different issue. But what you can’t say is that the Ryan Plan is still “Medicare”. It’s not. Politifact: you suck at your job.

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