Rachel Maddow Indifferent or Oblivious to Facts on Paul Ryan's Roadmap

"News is about stories," Rachel Maddow intones in this MSNBC "Lean Forward" promo. "It's about finding all the disparate facts and then finding their coherence. Doing this right takes rigor and a devotion to facts that borders on obsessive. ... At the end of the day, though, this is about what's true in the world."

Just as the purpose of this promo is to convince MSNBC viewers and advertisers that Maddow is so nobly inclined, despite a never-ending supply of inconvenient facts to the contrary.

On her show Monday night, for example, Maddow talked about Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin being selected to provide the Republican response to President Obama's State of the Union speech and Ryan as author of "A Roadmap for America's Future," his detailed legislative proposal for reducing federal debt, when she said this:

This is the road map, remember, that gets rid of Medicare. Gets rid of Medicare and replaces it with coupons. So let's say you're 90 years old or let's say you have a life-altering disability. Paul Ryan's Roadmap says, no more Medicare for you. Instead, Paul Ryan will give you a coupon, wish you well, and tell you to buy private insurance on the open market hoping to get a discount with your coupon. So you're 90 years old, you've been retired for more than 20 years, go buy yourself a private health insurance policy, here's your coupon! Good luck! And did I mention that you're 90 years old?! Shop around, we don't need Medicare. That's Paul Ryan's Roadmap.

Wow, bet you didn't know this about Paul Ryan. You know, the part about him wanting to push blind, widowed, wheelchair-bound nonagenarians down flights of stairs. Then again, he is a Republican, so this doesn't surprise anyone at MSNBC.

Doesn't "a devotion to facts that borders on obsessive" imply an enduring respect  -- or at least a passing familiarity -- with factual accuracy? Apparently what is meant in the promo is Maddow's "obsessive" need for appearing devoted to this, the better for her to shrug it off as needed.

Those 90 years young or any other age taking the time to read through the Roadmap -- which Maddow conspicuously avoided quoting, hmm -- will  find different facts than the drive-by graffiti passing as journalism from Maddow.

Here, for example, is what the document in its "Health Care Security" section says about Ryan's proposed changes to Medicare --

Medicare payment. For those Medicare beneficiaries who are now under 55 or younger (those who first become eligible on or after 1 January 2021), the proposal creates a standard Medicare payment to be used for the purchase of private health coverage. Currently enrolled Medicare beneficiaries and those becoming eligible in the next 10 years (i.e., turning 65 by 1 January 2021) will see no changes in the current structure of their Medicare benefits. ...

Retention of Medicare for Those 55 and Older. Clearly, the transition to this restructured Medicare Program should protect those at or near retirement -- people who have long planned on the existing Medicare Program for their retired years. That is why the transition to the individual purchase of private health insurance applies to those eligible starting on 1 January 2021. For those eligible prior to that date (those 55 and older), the existing Medicare Program remains, and is strengthened with changes, such as income relating of drug benefit premiums, to strengthen its long-term sustainability.

As for that "coupon" Maddow disparaged, avoiding any mention of its value, here's what the Roadmap states --

When fully phased in, the average payment is $11,000 per year (the average amount Medicare currently spends per beneficiary), and is indexed for inflation by a blended rate of the CPI and the medical care component of the CPI.

Ryan's proposal also calls for smaller payments to wealthier recipients, an aspect of the plan that would surely appeal to Maddow had she dared delve into its specifics --

Income-relating. The payment amount is modified based on income, in a manner similar to that for current Medicare Part B premium subsidies. Specifically: beneficiaries with incomes below $80,000 ($160,000 for couples) receive full standard payment amounts; beneficiaries with annual incomes between $80,000 and $200,000 ($160,000 to $400,000 for couples) receive 50 percent of the standard; and beneficiaries with incomes above $200,000 ($400,000 for couples) receive 30 percent.

Maddow, who regularly complains about Republicans not willing to appear on her show, declined to invite Ryan to describe a document he wrote. How do I know this? Because had she invited him and Ryan turned her down, Maddow would surely have brandished this as evidence of the plan's inherent weaknesses. Maddow made no mention of inviting Ryan on her show. Had Maddow done so and he accepted, I'd be writing instead about him demolishing her spurious claims. (The segment can be seen in its entirety here at Maddow's MSNBC site).

Instead of extending an invitation to Ryan, Maddow searched high and low down the nearest hallway and turned up with MSNBC colleague Ed Schultz, who proceeded to dutifully nod in vigorous agreement. Within moments of Maddow introducing him, Schultz showed that his reverence for accuracy is as flimsy as hers (audio) --

MADDOW: How important do you think it is that Paul Ryan is doing the response for the Republicans? What do you think that says about what they're offering the country?

SCHULTZ: Well, from a liberal perspective, obviously he's radical. Any time you talk about changing Social Security and working with people who are living on fixed incomes, and you want to take that away, and you want to reduce it almost immediately, you're hurting a lot of Americans.

In its "Retirement Security" section, here's how the Roadmap's proposed changes to Social Security are described --

Individuals 55 and older will remain in the current system and will not be affected by this proposal in any way: they will receive the benefits they have been promised, and have planned for, during their working years. All other workers will have a choice to stay in the current system or begin contributing to personal accounts.

Ryan is clearly guilty, in Schultz's view, of an unseemly willingness to  "talk about changing Social Security." Doesn't Ryan realize it is New Deal sacrosanct, a pure and unalterable edifice in perpetuity? In response to such heresy, liberals like Maddow and Schultz resort to the incivility of rhetorical vandalism.


 

Jack Coleman
Jack Coleman
Ex-liberal from People's Republic of Massachusetts