The Corner

Re: Mediscare: 2011’s Lie of the Year

Tevi — I’m not sure I agree that this news says much that’s good about “fact-checking” sites. While I support Paul Ryan’s Medicare reforms, and I don’t doubt that Democrats lied about them from time to time, the site does not make a good case:

— They ignored the fact that the Ryan plan would not affect people currently in Medicare — or even the people 55 to 65 who would join the program in the next 10 years.

— They used harsh terms such as “end” and “kill” when the program would still exist, although in a privatized system.

— They used pictures and video of elderly people who clearly were too old to be affected by the Ryan plan. The DCCC video that aired four days after the vote featured an elderly man who had to take a job as a stripper to pay his medical bills. 

“Ignor[ing]” something may have the effect of presenting an incomplete picture, but it’s not a “lie,” and official Democratic propaganda does not purport to offer a complete picture. The second point is considerably stronger — people who don’t follow politics could have gotten the impression that the government would no longer help seniors with their health care at all, and “privatize” and “voucherize” are far more precise words than “end” — but even these claims are well within the bounds of normal political discourse: The Ryan plan is a deep, serious reform — it ends some of the program’s major features, and if traditional-Medicare supporters see those features as the core of the program, it’s fair for them to say it ends the program. And regarding point three, as Matthew Yglesias points out, only the elderly are eligible for Medicare, so it makes sense to use the elderly in ads, even if today’s elderly aren’t the ones affected.

It’s true enough that Democratic ads are a bad place to go for a clear, unbiased account of what the Ryan plan would do. But I don’t think any of these examples rise to the level of “lie,” much less “Lie of the Year.”

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