Friday, April 29, 2011

Reconstructing Bachmann


In August, 2010 Paul Krugman, in his New York Times column entitled "The Flimflam Man," took on Paul Ryan's Roadmap for America's Future and noted

News media coverage has been overwhelmingly favorable; on Monday, The Washington Post put a glowing profile of Mr. Ryan on its front page, portraying him as the G.O.P.’s fiscal conscience. He’s often described with phrases like “intellectually audacious.”

But it’s the audacity of dopes. Mr. Ryan isn’t offering fresh food for thought; he’s serving up leftovers from the 1990s, drenched in flimflam sauce.


New Congress, same Ryan. Then it was tax cuts for the wealthy, the safety net, and Social Security; now it's tax cuts for the wealthy, the safety net, and Medicare. Now the attack on the middle class is in the form of "A Roadmap for America's Future." Krugman, justifiably, gloats:

Last year, when I described Paul Ryan as a flim flam man, many Beltway types were deeply annoyed. They had decided that he was serious and sincere — worthy of receiving fiscal responsibility awards — and did not want to hear any negatives. And even after the cracks in the House budget proposal became apparent, much of the commentariat clung to the view that whatever you might think of Ryan’s priorities, he really is serious and sincere.

But he isn’t.

Over at The New Republic, Jonathan Chait (e.g., "Debunking Ryan's Latest Spin," "A Nice Word About The Ryan Plan," "And Now, A Not-Nice Word About The Ryan Plan") has taken on the task of debunking Ryan's latest claims and eviscerating his plan. It is a critical role, given Ryan's influence, power, and popularity with a traditional media that idolizes him as "serious." Chait notes that the Wisconsin Republican's "assurances that leaving Medicare unchanged for those over 55 while phasing it out for those younger will never effect (sic) current beneficiaries are almost certainly false." He links to the Center for American Progress, which explains

As Ryan’s budget put it, “While there would be no disruptions in the current Medicare fee-for-service program for those currently enrolled or becoming eligible in the next ten years, all seniors would have the choice to opt into the new Medicare program once it begins in 2022. No senior would be forced to stay in the old program.”

That opens up the possibilities of private plans trying to lure away the healthiest beneficiaries (as is currently the case in Medicare Advantage) and of health care providers abandoning traditional Medicare patients for the higher reimbursement rates of private insurers. For chronically ill seniors who are more likely to remain in fee-for-service Medicare this means two things: higher costs (as the healthier beneficiaries exit the risk pool) and fewer doctors.


But if Ryan is (and he is), in Krugman's words, the "flimflam man," Michelle Bachmann is the "flimflam woman." Posting on RedState.com on Thursday, she argued

We must keep our promises to those who receive Medicare benefits, and those who are nearing the age of Medicare eligibility.

Though quoting her in context, Media Matters placed that line in bold and maintained

As Bachmann hinted toward, it does not "keep our promises" to those nearing the age of retirement, not to mention their children and grandchildren.

Joan McCarter at DailyKos reprints the Media Matters post and similarly contends

You know that there's a serious problem with this plan when Rep. Michele Bachmann, of all people, starts to back off.

The really serious problem, however, is when Media Matters and a Daily Kos blogger get their hopes up as they are taken in by Bachmann's statement.

We must keep our promises to those who receive Medicare benefits, and those who are nearing the age of Medicare eligibility. Ryan has written that his plan "preserves the existing Medicare program for those currently enrolled or becoming eligible in the next 10 years (those 55 and older today)."

Although Ryan does not acknowledge the dangerous option CAP noted, the scheme does largely leave Medicare in place for individuals at least 55 currently- which no different than Bachmann's vow to "keep our promises to those who receive Medicare benefits, and those who are nearing the age of Medicare eligibility." She conceded nothing, "hinted" nothing, and merely repeated Ryan's promise not to abolish Medicare for old (and nearly old) people. Those currently under 55 will be out-of-luck; tax cuts are so much more important- and that goes for Michelle Bachmann as well as for Paul Ryan.




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