Today’s Post has a big story quoting a number of bipartisan deficit experts who are very upset that the tone of the debate over Medicare in Campaign 2012 has taken a nasty turn. One after another, they complain that both candidates are making a serious discussion about Medicare’s long term problems — and the deficit — impossible.
Can we please talk about this?
The problem is not that both candidates are equally responsible for making this debate impossible. Rather, one candidate is far more than the other for making this debate impossible. The candidate who is far more responsible is Mitt Romney.
There is no comparison between the claims Romney is making and the claims Democrats are making. Dems are making two main assertions: They argue that Romney and Paul Ryan would “end Medicare as we know it,” and that people could die as a result of the GOP agenda. The first of those claims is a legitimate topic for argument, but it’s not factually false. The plan actually would gradually end Medicare’s core mission as it’s been defined for decades, and replace it with a differently organized program. Meanwhile, Republicans keep arguing that the Ryan plan would not change anything for people over 55. But the GOP plan to repeal Obamacare would change things for those people, driving up their health care costs.
The second charge is a harsh one, to be sure. But as Paul Krugman writes, it’s not unreasonable to assume that people could die as a result of repealing Obamacare, depriving untold numbers of people of insurance, as well as deep cuts to Medicaid and other social programs. Policy changes have actual real world consequences for real people.
Romney, meanwhile, is making claims that are designed to obfuscate, rather than clarify, the differences between the candidates. The Romney camp continues to claim Obama “raided” Medicare for $716 billion to pay for Obamacare, casting Obama as the real threat to Medicare and to seniors. But those savings are wrung from providers, not benefits, and Obamacare lowers costs for the very same seniors Romney and Ryan are pretending to defend from the alleged “cuts” to Medicare.
Some news organizations are beginning to subject the Romney/Ryan Medicare claims to serious scrutiny. The Associated Press has a great piece today detailing that Romney’s vow to undo those savings would actually make the program insolvent faster. As the AP piece demonstrates, the Romney position is completely untenable.
More broadly, the GOP ticket is proposing a tax plan that they say they is revenue neutral without telling you how its deep tax cuts for the rich would be paid for. And only one side is actually willing to take real steps towards compromise on the deficit. As the supercommittee talks showed, Dems are willing to accept Medicare cuts — to a fault, in the minds of liberals — in exchange for tax hikes on the rich. Republicans are not willing to accept tax hikes on the rich in exchange for Medicare cuts.
Here’s hoping for more reporting that shows there really is no equivalence between the two sides on this.
* Dems fight back, and whining ensues: Yes, the Dems’ charges against Romney are harsh. But as Dana Milbank details, all that’s really happening is that they are hitting back hard, whereas in the past, they too often assumned a fetal position. Apparently it’s irksome in some quarters that Dems aren’t playing to type this time around.
* Obama reelect reality check of the day: Gallup finds that Obama’s numbers on the economy remain absolutely terrible, with only 36 percent approving of his performance in this area. As I’ve been saying here, Obama’s team may be merely hoping to fight Romney to a draw on the economy, in order to win in other areas.
* Obama hits “trickle down snake oil”: Obama, in Iowa, harshly attacks the Romney plan to spread prosperity by cutting taxes on the rich and doing away with regulatory responses to the nation’s most pressing problems:
“They have tried to sell this trickle-down snake oil before. It didn’t work then; it won’t work now.”
If Obama is to fight Romney to a draw on the economy, persuading voters that we’ve already tried Romney’s approach before will be crucial.
* Obama leads in Pennsylvania, but race is tightening: A new Franklin and Marshall poll finds that Obama leads by six in the state, 44-38, but that’s down from a 12 point lead in June. As Christian Heinze notes, Romney is beating Obama narrowly on the economy, but he’s being dragged down by his dismal his favorable numbers — and by Obama’s clear edge on which candidate cares about ordinary people.
The dynamic here is similar to what we’ve seen in other swing states and nationally: Obama and Romney are roughly tied on the economy, but Obama holds a clear lead on personal attributes and empathy. Neither side is advertising in the state, suggesting neither thinks its in play, but that could change if the numbers keep tightening.
* Dems use Medicare to go on offense in House races: The DCCC is up with its first ad hitting a vulnerable GOP incumbent over Medicare, pointing out that he voted for the Paul Ryan plan. Dem polling has found the target, GOP Rep. Dan Benishek in Michigan’s first district, to be vulnerable, and this will be a test case to see whether Romney’s elevation of the architect of the GOP plan to end Medicare as we know it will resonate in down ticket races.
* Jobless claims inch up, but remain stable: Steve Benen has it in chart form.
* Can battle over Medicare help with Obama gender gap? E.J. Dionne talks to on-the-ground Dem organizers and fleshes out whether the elevation of Ryan can help Obama with a specific demographic: Non-college white women. This demographic, which prioritizes health care as an issue, may be key for Obama, because it could help limit expected large losses among non-college whites generally, exacerbating a gender gap that has emerged as unexpectedly pivotal to his hopes of winning reelection, given his struggles among male voters.
* And a new effort to “Swift Boat” Obama: Scott Shane has the goods on a new campaign by former special operations and CIA officers attacking Obama for allegedly taking too much credit for the Bin Laden killing and for leaks under his administration. While there has been bipartisan criticism of the leaks, it appears that the group’s video shows footage of Obama’s announcement of the killing that deliberately edits out his praise for military men and women — which, of course, makes it a bit easier to portray him as hogging credit for himself.