Paul Ryan has trouble with the truth

If Paul Ryan were so serious and brave as many on the right claim, why wouldn’t he just give an honest speech detailing the plans he has for America? If he and Romney really believe we need to turn Medicare into a voucher program, why wouldn’t he make that case in his speech, instead of lying about what Paul Ryan did with Medicare?

The Lyin’ Ryan meme is starting to gain some momentum. The fact-checkers are having a field day, and the one at USA Today offers a scathing take-down of Ryan’s lies and distortions from his speech.

From a purely political point of view, I understand what they are trying to do, particularly on Medicare. If the American people know their real plans to take away the Medicare entitlement, we’d have a revolt and they would get crushed in November, so they have to try to confuse low-information voters.

But it’s odd how clumsy and blatant Ryan and Romney can be with their other lies and distortions. Romney consistently makes statements that are refuted by simple videotape. As for Ryan last night, he ripped Obama for not supporting Simpson-Bowles, when Ryan and his House GOP buddies on the commission killed it by voting against it. It’s laughable. He blames Obama for the closing of a GM plant that was announced in December of 2008 while Bush was still in office. Then the far right lemmings try to defend this outrageous charge by saying the last worker left in April 2009. So that plant closing was announced under Bush, but it’s Obama’s fault because around 100 workers stuck around through April to fill the last order? How desperate are these guys?

When you’re afraid to defend your own ideas, you come up with these distortions. Yes, both sides are attacking and this campaign is very rough, but Ryan is setting himself up to be humiliated when the fact checkers have to argue about the top five lies and distortions in his speech.

An end to the Medicare promise

This new ad from the Obama campaign hits Mitt Romney on Medicare.

We all know that the national debt needs to be addressed, but undercutting the fundamental entitlement of Medicare isn’t the way to accomplish this. By choosing Paul Ryan, Romney has doubled down on this fundamental change to to Medicare, and the Obama campaign will hammer him on this through election day.

Romney has tried to fight back by focusing on Obama’s cuts to Medicare, but those cuts have nothing to do with benefits for seniors. The only way to address the nation’s long term medical costs is too reform the way we pay for health care, particularly through Medicare. We can’t continue the destructive fee-for-service system we have in place, and we need to stop reimbursements for expensive procedures that don’t work.

Game on . . .

President Barack Obama delivers a speech on the U.S. fiscal and budgetary deficit policy at the George Washington University in Washington, April 13, 2011. Obama proposed cutting ballooning U.S. budget deficits by $4 trillion over 12 years and called for talks with Democratic and Republican lawmakers to address the worsening fiscal woes. REUTERS/Jason Reed (UNITED STATES – Tags: POLITICS BUSINESS)

The 2012 election has begun. The Republicans have foolishly embraced Paul Ryan’s plan to privatize Medicare, and President Obama saw a huge political opportunity and took full advantage of it.

Obama’s speech the other day laying out his plan for deficit reduction put forward an impassioned defense of Medicare and the safety net.

Speaking of the Ryan plan, Obama explained:

It’s a vision that says America can’t afford to keep the promise we’ve made to care for our seniors. It says that 10 years from now, if you’re a 65-year-old who’s eligible for Medicare, you should have to pay nearly $6,400 more than you would today. It says instead of guaranteed health care, you will get a voucher. And if that voucher isn’t worth enough to buy the insurance that’s available in the open marketplace, well, tough luck -– you’re on your own. Put simply, it ends Medicare as we know it.

He then puts the proposed cuts in the context of Ryan and the Republicans proposing even more tax cuts for the wealthy.

They want to give people like me a $200,000 tax cut that’s paid for by asking 33 seniors each to pay $6,000 more in health costs. That’s not right. And it’s not going to happen as long as I’m President.

This vision is less about reducing the deficit than it is about changing the basic social compact in America. Ronald Reagan’s own budget director said, there’s nothing “serious” or “courageous” about this plan. There’s nothing serious about a plan that claims to reduce the deficit by spending a trillion dollars on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires. And I don’t think there’s anything courageous about asking for sacrifice from those who can least afford it and don’t have any clout on Capitol Hill. That’s not a vision of the America I know.

I’m still stunned that the GOP leadership was stupid enough to let Paul Ryan’s plan to privatize Medicare become the central plank in their push for deficit reduction. It’s political suicide for a simple reason – the health care entitlement is critical to the quality of life Americans hope to have in their senior years. Imagine a person who is 85 and sick having to shop for health insurance with a voucher! It’s ridiculous.

When you also consider that much of our deficit problems can be traced directly to the Bush tax cuts, it’s even more absurd the the Republicans would try to use the current debt crisis to justify this radical change in our safety net.

It’s a political gift to Obama and the Democrats, and Obama made clear with his speech that he fully intends to take advantage of it.

Krugman likes Obama’s budget

Paul Krugman has been pretty tough on Barack Obama, but he’s very pleased with the budget.

Elections have consequences. President Obama’s new budget represents a huge break, not just with the policies of the past eight years, but with policy trends over the past 30 years. If he can get anything like the plan he announced on Thursday through Congress, he will set America on a fundamentally new course.

The budget will, among other things, come as a huge relief to Democrats who were starting to feel a bit of postpartisan depression. The stimulus bill that Congress passed may have been too weak and too focused on tax cuts. The administration’s refusal to get tough on the banks may be deeply disappointing. But fears that Mr. Obama would sacrifice progressive priorities in his budget plans, and satisfy himself with fiddling around the edges of the tax system, have now been banished.

For this budget allocates $634 billion over the next decade for health reform. That’s not enough to pay for universal coverage, but it’s an impressive start. And Mr. Obama plans to pay for health reform, not just with higher taxes on the affluent, but by putting a halt to the creeping privatization of Medicare, eliminating overpayments to insurance companies.

On another front, it’s also heartening to see that the budget projects $645 billion in revenues from the sale of emission allowances. After years of denial and delay by its predecessor, the Obama administration is signaling that it’s ready to take on climate change.

And these new priorities are laid out in a document whose clarity and plausibility seem almost incredible to those of us who grew accustomed to reading Bush-era budgets, which insulted our intelligence on every page. This is budgeting we can believe in.

Krugman goes on to explain that cutting the deficit with this plan is definitely plausible. We’ll see how it plays out, but Obama seems to have support from the left.

They’re just getting started

Now that the stimulus package has been approved, Fortune offers an inside look at Barack Obama’s economic team.

At this White House there’s no time to settle in. Even as their wall art sat in bubble wrap, Obama’s economic team was pushing through Congress the most expensive emergency spending package in the nation’s history. And they were helping Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner craft his own sweeping plan to rescue the nation’s banking and housing sectors, phase two of a $700 billion effort launched by his predecessor, Hank Paulson.

That’s just the start. The team is fast at work on health-care reform, energy independence, vast changes in banking regulations, and the possibility of a “grand bargain” to curb entitlement costs that envisions historic sacrifices on both sides of the aisle: Republicans supporting tax increases and Democrats conceding to benefits cuts. “This is not a small-ball President,” says Summers, Obama’s top economic advisor and chair of the National Economic Council. “He wants to take on the large issues.”

There is a breadth and breathlessness to these under-takings, a frenzy of policymaking that will shape the contours of America’s economic future. Top Obama advisors who talked (often as they walked) with Fortune in early February put a premium on speed – speed to catch the right moment to turn around a deepening recession, speed to take advantage of this moment of crisis to put in place a Democratic vision of government’s role, speed to pass major legislation while the President is riding high in the polls. Obama’s White House has been endlessly compared to Lincoln’s team of rivals, or J.F.K.’s best and brightest. But we might also toss in the image of Sandra Bullock trying to control a runaway busload of passengers before the bomb goes off. (That scene was of course from the movie – “Speed.”)

It’s becoming clear that the upcoming budget will drive home Obama’s desire to pursue a very ambitios agenda.

The President’s first budget, expected to be unveiled by budget director Peter Orszag within weeks, will chart much of the administration’s ambitious course beyond stimulus and TARP – and it will be a document that Obama’s own shop, not Congress, produces. “In his budget the President is going to lay down markers around his seriousness on all the major issues,” notes Summers.

It’s likely that the decisions and debates on these issues – ranging from health-care reform to what government programs should be cut to ease the deficit – will keep on coming at Congress at mind-numbing speed. The President wouldn’t have it any other way.

I’m anxious to see which cuts they will be proposing. Our current budget is littered with programs that waste money, from farm subsidies, unnecessary weapons systems and much of the war on drugs. It’s also littered with tax loopholes bought by lobbyists, along with ridiculous restrictions preventing the government from negotiating bulk prices for drugs purchased by Medicare. If Obama can offer some serious cuts here, he’ll gain considerable credibility in his attempt to reorder the priorities of the nation.

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