Jonathan Cohn is a senior editor at The New Republic.
Paul Ryan introduced a new argument about Medicare yesterday. I love it, because it shows that his critics have been right all along: Ryan isn't nearly as candid about policy and trade-offs as his reputation suggests.
The argument is about the $716 billion of Medicare cuts in the Affordable Care Act. Ryan and Mitt Romney have been citing those reductions as proof that Obamacare "raided" Medicare. If you haven't heard the line in one of their speeches, then perhaps you caught it in their new advertisement, which has all the sublety of Cialas ad.
It's true that Obamacare will reduce Medicare spending by $716 billion in the next ten years. It's also true that the Ryan budget calls for the same cuts. And while Obamacare actually offers seniors new benefits, including free wellness visits and more prescription drug assistance, the Ryan budget takes those benefits away. Whatever you think of those cuts, Ryan has no standing to criticize them.
Chris Moody, a reporter from Yahoo! News, had the good sense on Thursday to ask Ryan about this:
You're criticizing President Obama right now for taking money from Medicare to pay for Obamacare. But your budget plan includes those cuts. What's your response to that?
First of all, those are in the baseline, he put those cuts in. Second of all, we voted to repeal Obamacare repeatedly, including those cuts. I voted that way before the budget, I voted that way after the budget. So when you repeal all of Obamacare what you end up doing is that repeals that as well. In our budget we've restored a lot of that. It gets a little wonky but it was already in the baseline. We would never have done it in the first place. We voted to repeal the whole bill. I just don't think the president's going to be able to get out of the fact that he took $716 billion from Medicare to pay for Obamacare.
Ryan is saying the budget document doesn't matter, because he and the rest of the House Republican caucus voted, separately, to repeal the Affordable Care Act. And that repeal included repeal of the Medicare cuts.
Well, fine. But there's a reason the budget document kept the Obamacare Medicare cuts. They saved money. A lot of money! A budget that didn't include those cuts would have to find dramatic cuts elsewhere. And the Ryan budget already makes dramatic cuts elsewhere.
We've seen this before. Romney himself vowed to restore the Affordable Care Act's Medicare cuts. But the numbers just don't add up. Either Ryan and Romney want to make big cuts in Medicare, as big if not bigger than the ones Obama made. Or their budget promises are even more implausible than they sound.