Jackie Calmes is a decent reporter, and except for two disconnected paragraphs added, I suspect, by her dishonest editors, she wrote a worthwhile story for today’s New York Times. Calmes reports on the numerous misleading and outright false GOP claims about the changes to Medicare enacted in the Affordable Care Act. If you read the story through, it’s a straight forward dismantling of the GOP’s numerous lies — and how they conflict with their own actions — and the lies are still being repeated by GOP leaders, including Mitt Romney.
From the very beginning, the GOP’s descriptions of what the ACA did with Medicare have been both patently dishonest, and brazenly hypocritical. They lied about “death panels,” and Sarah Palin is still lying about that. No one in the GOP has ever disowned this lie. During the 2010 campaign, the GOP misled voters about Medicare cuts and framed them as though the ACA’s efforts at provider cost containment, which everyone knows are necessary to get private health care costs under control, were instead cuts to Medicare benefits.
As Ms. Calmes correctly reports, that was a lie (aka, a “flat untruth”). She also correctly reports how the GOP claimed the ACA’s cost cuts were unreasonable threats to Medicare, even though virtually every Republican twice voted for the identical cuts and more. They also voted for the Paul Ryan budget that would eliminate Medicare as we know it and replace it with a voucher (“premium support”) program that would, over time, reduce Medicare support and shift more health costs onto seniors. But the GOP is still criticizing Democrats for “cutting Medicare.”
In short, the GOP descriptions of the Medicare provisions of the ACA have been nothing short of a massive disinformation campaign, lying to seniors to frighten them, and hiding their own positions; and it worked. That’s the story Ms. Calmes reports, adding the GOP is doing exactly the same thing in 2012 with the GOP’s Presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, joining in the lying. All this is correctly reported.
So how do Ms. Calmes’ editors portray her reporting? First, there’s the false headline: “Delicate Pivot as Republicans Blast Rivals on Medicare Cuts.” Uh, there is nothing “delicate” going on; the story is about blatant dishonesty and fear mongering by the Republicans. And it’s not a “pivot.” They lied about the ACA from the beginning and they have not stopped lying about the ACA. The only thing new is that the GOP’s Presidential nominee has joined the lying.
But the editors-who-should-be-shamed can’t leave it there. Here’s what (I suspect) they wrote and inserted near the top to put a different spin on a story that’s otherwise about persistent GOP lying, fear mongering, and hypocrisy:
The result is a messaging mess, even by the standards of each party’s usual election-year attacks that the other is being insufficiently supportive of older people’s benefits.
And in this year’s contests, which both parties describe as a referendum on who can best correct the nation’s economic course, such talk underscores how far Republicans and Democrats are from truly squaring with the public about curbing the growth of the major entitlement programs: Medicare, Medicaid and, to a lesser extent, Social Security. That growth is driving the projections of a federal debt that is mounting unsustainably as the population ages and health care costs rise.
First, this is not a “messaging mess.” It’s about lying. The only “mess” here is what a hash the editors have made by trying to spin a story about GOP lying into another “they both do it” story. Except there isn’t a single verified fact in the entire article that shows a misrepresentation by the Democrats.
Next, notice how the editors have managed to combine Social Security with Medicare and Medicaid to spin this into another entitlements => deficit hysteria. There’s nothing in the story about Social Security, and it’s not a threat to the federal debt, nor is there any mention of any other factors affecting long-term debts. (And see Dean Baker.) That distracting shiny object is what you expect from the editorial hacks at the Washington Post.
But even the references to Medicare and Medicaid are wrong. Calmes’ article is about the measures Democrats took in the ACA to help slow the rise in private health care costs in the Medicare program, and how the GOP lied about them. The ACA savings occurred because Dems voted to cut back the 14 percent subsidies that private insurers were getting for providing Medicare (Advantage) equivalent coverage; they created an independent advisory board to evaluate which medical treatments were effective and which not; they began dozens of experiments in alternatives to the expensive fee for service model, hoping to reduce costs paid for adequate treatment; they moved to fix the drugs “donut hole”; they expanded coverage for preventive care that can save treatment costs later. So how is this about both parties not facing the problems of long-run costs?
Even though the article notes the GOP opposes all of these cost reducing measures when included in “ObamaCare” –even though they twice voted to keep the identical measures in the GOP House budgets — the Times editors portray this as both sides equally unable to confront exploding costs in Medicare and Medicaid. And worse, the Times never once mentions that the reason Medicare and Medicaid costs are problematic is because private health care providers charge substantially more than their counterparts in all other advanced countries with equal or better care and universal coverage, and those costs are increasing too fast. This is a private health care cost problem, not a problem of exploding government entitlements, but the editors, like those at the Washington Post, hijack the article to make it a hit on entitlements.
Now perhaps Ms. Calmes wrote the unsupported spin, because it was expected, thus distracting from her own reporting, and her editors are simply not doing their jobs. But it’s hard to believe when all the actual reporting says one thing, but the obvious editorial inserts quoted above are claiming something completely unsupported by the reporting. Either way, Ms. Calmes and the readers of the New York Times deserve better editors.