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September 1, 2012

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Paul Krugman: The Medicare Killers

Posted: 31 Aug 2012 12:21 AM PDT

Paul Ryan's 'big lie' about Medicare:

The Medicare Killers, by Paul Krugman, Commentary, NY Times: Paul Ryan's speech Wednesday night may have accomplished one good thing: It finally may have dispelled the myth that he is a Serious, Honest Conservative. Indeed, Mr. Ryan's brazen dishonesty left even his critics breathless. ...
But Mr. Ryan's big lie — and, yes, it deserves that designation — was his claim that "a Romney-Ryan administration will protect and strengthen Medicare." Actually, it would kill the program. ...
The Republican Party is now firmly committed to replacing Medicare with what we might call Vouchercare. The government ... would give you a voucher that could be applied to the purchase of private insurance..., the vouchers almost certainly would be inadequate...
Why would anyone think that this was a good idea..., wouldn't private insurers reduce costs through the magic of the marketplace? No. All, and I mean all, the evidence says that public systems like Medicare and Medicaid ... are better than the private sector at controlling costs. ...
So Vouchercare would mean higher costs and lower benefits for seniors. Over time, the Republican plan wouldn't just end Medicare as we know it, it would kill the thing Medicare is supposed to provide: universal access to essential care. Seniors who couldn't afford to top up their vouchers with a lot of additional money would just be out of luck.
Still, the G.O.P. promises to maintain Medicare as we know it for those currently over 55. Should everyone born before 1957 feel safe? Again, no.
For one thing, repeal of Obamacare would cause older Americans to lose a number of significant benefits..., including the way it closes the "doughnut hole" in drug coverage and the way it protects early retirees.
Beyond that, the promise of unchanged benefits for Americans of a certain age just isn't credible. Think about the political dynamics that would arise once someone born in 1956 still received full Medicare while someone born in 1959 couldn't afford decent coverage. ... For sure, it would unleash political warfare between the cohorts — and the odds are high that older cohorts would soon find their alleged guarantees snatched away.
The question now is whether voters will understand what's really going on (which depends to a large extent on whether the news media do their jobs). Mr. Ryan and his party are betting that they can bluster their way through this, pretending that they are the real defenders of Medicare even as they work to kill it. Will they get away with it?

Links for 08-31-2012

Posted: 31 Aug 2012 12:06 AM PDT

DeLong: Democracy in Tea Party America

Posted: 30 Aug 2012 10:39 AM PDT

Brad DeLong:

Democracy in Tea Party America, by Brad DeLong, Commentary, Project Syndicate: When the French politician and moral philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville published the first volume of his Democracy in America in 1835, he did so because he thought that France was in big trouble and could learn much from America. ...
To the "sick" France of 1835, Tocqueville counterposed healthy America, where attachment to the idea that people should pursue their self-interest was no less strong, but was different. The difference, he thought, was that Americans understood that they could not flourish unless their neighbors prospered as well. Thus, Americans pursued their self-interest, but in a way that was "rightly understood."
Tocqueville noted that "Americans are fond of explaining…[how] regard for themselves constantly prompts them to assist each other, and inclines them willingly to sacrifice a portion of their time and property to the general welfare." The French, by contrast, faced a future in which "it is difficult to foresee to what pitch of stupid excesses their egotism may lead them," and "into what disgrace and wretchedness they would plunge themselves, lest they should have to sacrifice something of their own well-being to the prosperity of their fellow-creatures." ...
Nearly two centuries have passed since Tocqueville wrote his masterpiece. ... And the Republicans gathered in Tampa ... to say that the America that Tocqueville saw no longer exists: Americans no longer believe that the wealth of the rich rests on the prosperity of the rest. Rather, the rich owe their wealth solely to their own luck and effort. The rich – and only the rich – "built" what they have. The willingness to sacrifice some part of their private interest to support the public interest damages the souls and portfolios of the 1%.
Perhaps the moral and intellectual tide will be reversed, and America will remain exceptional for the reasons that Tocqueville identified two centuries ago. Otherwise, Tocqueville would surely say of Americans today what he said of the French then. The main difference is that it has become all too easy "to foresee to what pitch of stupid excesses their egotism may lead them" and "into what disgrace and wretchedness they would plunge themselves."

Agents of Misinformation

Posted: 30 Aug 2012 09:42 AM PDT

Steve Benen:

A pass-fail test, by Steve Benen: At the Republican National Convention last night, Paul Ryan told so many demonstrable lies, he raised important questions about his character and what's left of his integrity. What matters next, however, is whether anyone notices.
It's come as something of a relief to see so many media professionals go after Ryan for his dishonesty last night. ... I'm well aware of the fact that the vast majority of Americans will never see any of this scrutiny, but other reporters, editors, and producers will, and if a consensus begins to emerge that Romney/Ryan is fundamentally dishonest, this is likely to influence the public's perceptions of the race.
But let's not ignore those inclined to give Ryan a pass. ...
Not to put too fine a point on this, Ryan, like his running mate, tells obvious falsehoods because he's confident there will be no consequences. He simply assumes he can lie with impunity because the media doesn't care to separate fact from fiction.
This is a critical test of the political world, and a few too many are failing.

They have been doing this with economics for a long time, but it has been difficult for reporters to figure out the difference between legitimate disputes about theory and evidence within the profession, and outright misrepresentations (it's not that hard in every case, and it's frustrating reporters still don't do better than this, but it's at least understandable in some instances).

But this year it is rising to a different level, and what used to bug me about the right's presentation of economics has now been extended to their discussion of everything. The campaign is pretty much laughing at the fact checkers and saying, so what?

The press is supposed to be helping America understand, not helping to mislead them, and it's time for reporters -- political reporters in particular -- to take a long, hard look inward and figure out where they've gone so wrong.

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