Chris Matthews: Paul Ryan's Medicare Plan Will 'Kill Half the People Who Watch My Show'

MSNBC's Chris Matthews on Monday spent much of show scaring viewers about Congressman Paul Ryan's (R-Wisc.) recently released budget proposal.

So apoplectic was the "Hardball" host that he told liberal guests Howard Fineman and Richard Wolffe that Ryan's Medicare reform plan "is going to kill half the people who watch this show" (video follows with transcript and commentary):

HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: The good thing for the president is the Paul Ryan Medicare plan, because it makes people angry. And, first of all, it scares seniors.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Yes. Well, it should.

FINEMAN: Yes, and it should. But, at the same time, it exempts 55 and over, so it’s going to really annoy younger people who are going to at some point get -- supposed to get the Medicare benefits -- 40 to 55...

If it exempts people 55 and over, why should it scare seniors? Exempts means they're not impacted by this whatsoever. Why should anybody be scared by something that doesn't impact them?

People are encouraged to remember this as Matthews either doesn't understand it, or is an extremely dishonest person:

MATTHEWS: Howard, you know -- you’re close to me in age. Let me just point this out.

FINEMAN: Yes. Right.

MATTHEWS: Most people who follow the news and watch the newspapers every day and watch television shows like this on FOX or this network, MSNBC, or anywhere, on CNN, they -- those most attuned to this debate over the budget are either retired or close to it.

FINEMAN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: They are very sensitive to the fact that they have planned in their retirement that their medical costs will be covered by their Medicare plan. They don’t have to save $20 million so they can pay for their medical expenses when they get older, right, which are going to get more costly as they get older.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: The federal government promised that back in the ‘60s, that they would take care of people who have worked their whole life for their medical costs.Now the Republicans are saying, no, no, we’re not going to do that anymore.

FINEMAN: I totally agree. My only point was, in addition to scaring everybody for those very valid reasons...

For the record, Matthews turned 65 last December. This means he is already eligible for Medicare and would not be impacted by Ryan's plan. I couldn't find Fineman's birthday, but as he graduated high school in 1966, he's probably 62 or 63 making him also exempt from Ryan's plan.

As such, there's absolutely no reason for them to be scared that their Medicare benefits are at all at risk by what the Wisconsin Congressman has proposed, and no one 55 or over should be either.

Yet, in the ensuing minutes, Matthews and his guests were actually going to wonder why seniors don't understand this:

MATTHEWS: Right.

FINEMAN: ... it’s not going to win points among younger people below 55 either.

MATTHEWS: Why not?

FINEMAN: Because they’re going to turn it into the plan where you only get a certain amount of money.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

FINEMAN: In other words, all the changes are going to be for those younger people. So they’re the ones who ultimately will get screwed.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Here’s your Borders book $10 gift certificate that’s going to pay for your million dollar health care costs. It’s a joke.

(CROSSTALK)

RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. But here’s the perverse thing. For a start, the age exemption didn’t work for Bush when it came to Social Security.

MATTHEWS: It went nowhere.

WOLFFE: So they know that’s political...

MATTHEWS: Why? Because people don’t hear this?

FINEMAN: They don’t hear it. They don’t hear it.

WOLFFE: They don’t hear it.

Indeed. They don't hear it, because people like this misrepresent it. If Matthews, Fineman, and Wolffe all made it clear that Ryan's bill doesn't impact anyone 55 and older, retirees and soon-to-be retirees wouldn't be afraid of it.

Instead, Matthews ignorantly or dishonestly claimed: "The federal government promised that back in the ‘60s, that they would take care of people who have worked their whole life for their medical costs. Now the Republicans are saying, no, no, we’re not going to do that anymore."

And Fineman responded, "I totally agree. My only point was, in addition to scaring everybody for those very valid reasons, it’s not going to win points among younger people below 55 either."

And these so-called journalists why the exemption age of 55 didn't work for Bush when he tried to reform Social Security in 2005, and why it's going to be problematic for Ryan's Medicare reform plan. It's because shills like these are intentionally trying to scare and confuse the public.

But the best was still to come:

WOLFFE: But that’s a political opportunity that, perversely, this White House is not going to leap on right now. There may be lots of people in the Senate on the Democrats’ side who say, let’s use it as a political football, but this president...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Well, they’re saving it for November.

WOLFFE: This president -- no, no. The president is going to say, if there’s a deal out there, let’s do it, but the deal has to be reasonable; the deal has to include taxes. What’s unreasonable...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: This is smart. In other words, don’t...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Don’t let it be dead on arrival.

WOLFFE: No.

MATTHEWS: Let the Republican sit out there, sit out there, as the basis for a compromise.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: They’re that smart? They’re that smart?

(CROSSTALK)

WOLFFE: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: They’re that smart?

(CROSSTALK)

WOLFFE: They are smart enough to play that game, but they’re going to say, if you are serious about deficits, you cannot leave taxes off the table.

MATTHEWS: OK.

FINEMAN: Yes. He...

MATTHEWS: Will -- will that ever sell with the country? Will the Congress ever adopt a combination of some modification or cost-cutting, which we know has to come into place, somehow squeeze the costs of Medicare -- medical costs, and a tax increase for people who can afford it, as a -- as a more democratic, a more fair way to deal with this problem? Will they get that through and signed by the president, or is that just a posture?

HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think it’s a possibility but they’ll be glad to talk about it for the next few months. The one thing the president doesn’t want to do is talk about tax increases in isolation.

MATTHEWS: Fair enough. I’m with you.

FINEMAN: As Richard was saying, you’ve got -- you can’t -- that won’t work for Democrats, even if you’re just going to tax rich people. You have to put it in the context of a plan.

MATTHEWS: OK. So, guys are so smart. I’m with the smart people here.

FINEMAN: Right.

MATTHEWS: So, the plan is the president says, look, let them offer a big slash in Medicare, which is going to kill half the people who watch this show.

So the reform package for Medicare in Ryan's budget will kill half of the people who watch "Hardball."

And this is sadly what passes for journalism at MSNBC.

Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of NewsBusters, passed away in March of 2014.