"Politifact" Unfairly Attacks The GOP

by Jonathan Chait | June 24, 2011

Republicans have been slamming Democrats for their vote to cut $500 billion out of Medicare as part of the Affordable Care Act:

The NRSC revised and reissued a three-day-old news release that targeted virtually identical statements at Brown, of Ohio, and four other senators who all are Democrats up for re-election next year: Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Jon Tester of Montana, Ben Cardin of Maryland and Bill Nelson of Florida.
"Despite Sherrod Brown's transparent political strategy to mislead Ohio seniors and demagogue Medicare, this serves as another reminder he is the only candidate in Ohio who has voted to cut Medicare by over $500 billion in order to fund government-run health care," said NRSC spokesman Jahan Wilcox.

Politifact slams the Republicans:

The important point in each examination is that $500 billion -- the figure confirmed by the NRSC's citations -- are not taken out of the current Medicare budget and are not actual cuts. Nowhere in the bill are benefits actually eliminated, experts said.
The $500 billion are reductions to future spending. The health care law attempts to slow the projected growth in Medicare spending by that amount over 10 years.
Medicare spending will still increase. The Congressional Budget Office estimated it will reach $929 billion in 2020, up from $499 billion in actual spending in 2009....
The NRSC’s claim cites a real figure -- $500 billion -- that is part of the health reform debate. But it incorrectly describes it as $500 billion in Medicare cuts, rather than as decreases in the rate of growth of future spending.

Sorry, this is just wrong. Indeed, it's ridiculous, and nobody should listen to Politifact on this topic.

Politifact makes two claims here. The first is that the $500 billion isn't a "cut" because benefits are not eliminated. But that's a matter of opinion, not fact. The biggest benefit eliminated is the subsidy for Medicare Advantage, which costs the government 20% more than traditional Medicare. The other savings likewise trim away excessive costs, and ought to have minimal impact on beneficiaries. But obviously things are being eliminated, and the impact this will have is a question of interpretation.

Politifact's second claim is that it's not a cut because the nominal cost of Medicare will still increase. In other words, we're spending $499 billion a year on Medicare now, and as long as we keep that up, we're not cutting it. It's only a cut if we go below $499 billion. Clearly, that an implausible definition of what a cut constitutes. Keeping Medicare at a fixed dollar value would require staggering decreases in the services provided. Indeed, this definition of what a 'cut" constitutes runs directly contrary to the previous definition, which defines a cut as the elimination of actual benefits. You could easily increase the dollar cost of Medicare to the government while slashing actual benefits.

Politifact's crazy position here ought to be seen within the context of its staunch support for cutting entitlements. It's a pro-entitlement cut group -- which is fine, but its views on the subject have nothing to do with what is the "facts."

Source URL: http://www.newrepublic.com//blog/jonathan-chait/90680/politifact-unfairly-attacks-the-gop