We’re sorry to have missed Mitt Romney’s selection of Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate — and the ensuing battle over Medicare — but we will try to make it up in the coming days with more detailed looks at the charges and countercharges about the old-age health-insurance program. Our standard rule applies: The more detailed and complex an issue is, the more susceptible it is to truth-twisting by politicians. Readers may recall that more than a year ago we offered this advice: “Mute the sound whenever a Medicare ad by either party comes on television.”
In the meantime, we have added Ryan to our “Pinocchio Tracker,” which provides an average rating of all columns on his statements as well as links to every column written about a presidential or vice presidential candidate.
Statements by Ryan—the chairman of the House Budget Committee-- have already been vetted seven times in past year and a half, and he starts out with a 1.86 average rating. This is largely because he once earned a rare “Geppetto” for a correct statement, which mitigated the effect of his other incorrect statements. (More on that below.) He’s also earned as high as Three Pinocchios for his claims.
Here is a guide to the previous columns on Ryan, in the order in which they appeared.
Ryan earned Two Pinocchios for claiming Obama’s 2012 budget had a ratio of spending increases to tax cuts of eight to one. We concluded he made this claim through some highly suspect accounting.
Ryan also earned Two Pinocchios for claiming the House GOP budget did not rely on any accounting tricks, but we found he had done little better than the White House: “As with President Obama’s budget, the Ryan budget plan relies on dubious assertions, questionable assumptions and fishy figures.”
This column looked in detail at the House GOP plan for Medicare, including Ryan’s claim that Republicans wanted to give Medicare recipients the same system that members of Congress have. Ryan earned Two Pinocchios for a claim that we determined gave “a false and misleading impression to ordinary people.”
Ryan asserted that under President Obama’s tax plan, the marginal tax rate would rise to nearly 45 percent for some wealthy Americans. The marginal tax rate is the percentage of taxes that are paid on each additional dollar that is earned, and Ryan’s eyepopping figure was higher than the amount usually cited by the White House. But it turned out he was right, and so he earned a prized Geppetto.
During the debate over extending the debt limit, Ryan harkened back to the 1997 budget deal between President Clinton and congressional Republicans as a model for cooperation. But we awarded him One Pinocchio for getting his history wrong.
After Standard & Poor’s downgraded U.S. government debt from its pristine AAA rating, Ryan asserted the House budget would have prevented “this downgrade from happening in the first place.” But we found that S&P did not say that, and in fact had said “it was the failure of Republicans and Democrats to demonstrate they could work together that led directly to the downgrade.” Ryan earned Three Pinocchios for his comments.
Ryan earned Three Pinocchios for claiming that there are 219 regulations being released by the Obama administration, at a cost of more than $100 million. We had already demonstrated there were serious problems with that figure, and urged Ryan to update his talking points.
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