Chris Bowers caught the Very Serious Man of Integrity Paul Ryan in a slick little sleight of hand:
Earlier today on national television, he attacked President Obama for even supposedly saying that healthcare drives the deficit (emphasis mine):
“I don’t think that the president actually thinks we have a fiscal crisis,” Ryan said on NBC’s “Meet The Press” in his first live interview since the 2012 presidential campaign, when he was Mitt Romney’s running mate. “He’s been reportedly saying to our leaders that we don’t have a spending problem, we have a healthcare problem. That leads me to conclude that he just thinks we ought to have more government-run healthcare and rationing.”
That is a remarkably dishonest statement from Ryan, given that only 13 months ago he actually told Ezra Klein that health care is the main driver of long-term deficits:
Back in December 2011, I asked Rep. Paul Ryan, budget guru to the House Republicans, for his favorite chart of the year (yeah, I get down like that). He sent me one from the Bipartisan Policy Center showing four lines. One, labeled “discretionary spending,” was drifting down. Another, “mandatory spending,” was also falling. A third, denoting Social Security expenses, was rising a bit, but not by enough to worry anyone. The fourth, health-care spending, was shooting skyward. “Government spending drives the debt, and the growth of government health-care programs drives the spending,” Ryan explained.
Here’s the chart:
Now it does sound as though Ryan is outright lying doesn’t it? But he isn’t exactly. In fact, both times he’s actually just being cleverly misleading but in different ways, misdirecting the listener into thinking he’s saying something different than he is. Today he wants the audience to think the president only says deficits are caused by health care spending because he wants to further expand government programs in order to deny people their health care benefits. (This is bizarre but seems to have some internal logic to the right wing brain.)
Before he just wanted to imply that the reason health care costs were being run up was because the government was inefficient and needed to be taken out of the equation. That too was misleading in a huge way because government health care programs are actually more efficient and cheaper than the private sector. And his voucher plan would have very effectively rationed health care for the oldest and sickest among us while preserving the most important part of the system: health insurance and provider profits. (Of the two lies, this one was really the biggest.)
What’s happened is that the terrain has changed and his Party has to be very, very careful about the way they talk about health care costs. We know they’re talking about Medicare, of course. That’s what “government spending driving health care costs” is all about. And Paul Ryan is the guy who set forth a plan to voucherize it that proved to be very unpopular just two years ago. So he can’t be as upfront about his agenda as he once was. But it hasn’t changed, obviously. He still wants to privatize Medicare. He just has to circle around it in ever more convoluted ways in order to keep the older base of the GOP on board. To do that he needs to pretend that he and his nice young men in the GOP are all that’s standing between them and the scary man in the White House who wants death panels to turn them into Soylent Green.
I think what’s most ironic about all this is that if they would just shut up, President Obama, with his offers to raise the Medicare eligibility age and cut Social Security every few months would make their case for them. Instead they can’t stop making him into a cartoon and it makes them look like fools every time. I guess it’s just reflex.