FACT: Paul Ryan would end Medicare as we know it by turning it into a voucher program, costing seniors up to $6,350 a year.— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) August 11, 2012
This was merely an official tweet from Barack Obama, but Democrats have been promoting this for years. No matter how many organizations analyze this framing of the Ryan plan as "ending Medicare as we know it," the Democrats will cling to something that they think works.
Joe Biden, Ryan's presumptive opponent in the vice presidential debate in October, has been banging the drum for a long time. Democratic lawmakers up and down the ticket across the country have tried to scare people about Ryan's plan to "end Medicare." Don't expect them to come up with anything more original in the next few months.
Mere minutes after Ryan's pick leaked out, the liberal blogs were jumping on this talking point. ThinkProgress popped out "Ryan's Original Medicare Plan Ends Medicare, Period," using a claim that was called the "lie of the year" by liberal-friendly Politifact and a "whopper of the year" by Factcheck.org. ThinkProgress went on to repeat the claim while also smearing Ryan, a devout Catholic, as an Ayn Rand disciple. DailyKos called Ryan the leader of the "committee to end Medicare." Earlier this year, The American Prospect produced a "Guide to Ending Medicare As We Know It," in an attempt to bring some seriousness to the charge.
Factcheck.org noted earlier this year that, despite being roundly criticized by the news media, Democrats have stuck with the "end Medicare" claim - brought to us earlier this year by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. As they wrote in their "whopper of the year" edition:
[T]he truth: The budget plan that Republicans pushed through the House in 2011 would have radically changed Medicare in the future — for workers now under age 55. Starting in the year 2022, the GOP plan called for new Medicare beneficiaries to purchase private insurance with the help of federal subsidies.
But the plan would have continued the present Medicare system indefinitely for those now getting benefits, and also for all those who reach age 65 during the next decade.
But the truth didn’t stop Democrats from misrepresenting the proposal shamelessly to scare senior citizens and win election votes. They tested this tactic in a May 26 special House election in New York state, running ads accusing the Republican candidate of endorsing a plan that would “essentially end Medicare” and amount to “cutting benefits for seniors,” claims that were far from the truth.
Take a look at the assembled list of those who have used this line of attack: Joe Biden. Sherrod Brown. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. That list is not going to get any shorter in the next few months, and their claims aren't going to get any better than (and I hate these Politifact ratings, but whatever) "pants on fire" and "false." What's important, however, is to push back. The Ryan plan does not "end Medicare as we know it" according to any reasonable rubric under which one could be considered to "end Medicare." Ryan does implement some very important changes - but a program that is going to bankrupt the country needs very important changes. This year's update that Ryan released even keeps a traditional Medicare FFS program for seniors to enroll in and raised the maximum level of spending growth of the program.
No matter, however. This isn't about truth or honesty for the Democrats. It's about winning elections at any cost - even lying to the American people.