Paul Ryan’s Fuzzy Medicare Math and Revisionist Social Security History
Rep. Paul Ryan is apparently feeling the sting after hearing his infamous “makers and takers” philosophy referenced in the President’s inaugural address.
“The commitments we make to each other through Medicare, Medicaid and social security, these things do not sap our initiative, they strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers, they free us to take the risks that make this country great.” President Barack Obama Inaugural address
Clearly Congressman Ryan is hoping some revisionist history combined with fuzzy math will gloss over his well known antipathy for Social Security and Medicare (trying to clean the slate for 2016?). The fuzzy math part of his strategy came in his incredible “maker-taker” rework in an interview with Politico after the inauguration:
“When the president does kind of a switcheroo like that, what he’s trying to say is that we are maligning these programs that people have earned throughout their working lives,” he said. “So it’s kind of a convenient twist of terms to try and shadowbox a straw man in order to win an argument by default…No one is suggesting that what we call our earned entitlements, entitlements you pay for like payroll taxes for Medicare and Social Security, are putting you in a taker category,” Ryan said. “No one suggests that whatsoever. The concern that people like me have been raising is we do not want to encourage a dependency culture.” Rep. Paul Ryan, January 22, 2013
Hmmmm. There’s that “dependency culture” again, another favored Ryan meme along with the safety net hammock he frequently claims lulls retirees into “dependency and complacency.” See the recurring theme here?
“Right now about 60 percent of the American people get more benefits in dollar value from the federal government than they pay back in taxes,” Ryan said. “So we’re going to a majority of takers versus makers in America and that will be tough to come back from that. They’ll be dependent on the government for their livelihoods [rather] than themselves.”Paul Ryan, 2010
This is why it’s impossible to believe that retirees were ever excluded in his “makers-takers” metric. If Rep. Ryan isn’t including the approximately 40 million seniors who receive Social Security and Medicare in his political equation, you simply can’t get to his 60% number. No matter how fuzzy the math or revisionist the history.
**Additional note. Not only is it impossible, Mother Jones provides this must-read break down of exactly where that 60% number comes from and the fact that is DOES include Social Security and Medicare, despite Congressman Ryan’s claims to the contrary.
Which leads us to another incredible bit of political sloganeering devoid of facts, in the same Politico interview:
“These programs, because of the way they were designed in the last century — which did not predict the aging of America, the baby boomer generation retiring at a tune of 10,000 people a day, and the cost of health care, which compounds these issues — are going bankrupt.”
Pretending that because Social Security was designed “last century” (which also means just fourteen years ago but we digress) the program is somehow archaic or inflexible not only revises history but completely ignores it. Social Security has been amended 30 times (1939, 1950, 1952, 1954, 1956, 1958, 1960, 1961, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1969, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1977, 1980, 1981, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1989, 1990, 1993, 1994, 1996, 1999, 2000) since it’s creation in response to changing needs and an evolving nation. In fact, the 1983 reforms raised the retirement age and payroll tax rates creating the Trust Fund surplus in advance of the baby boomers’ retirement. To claim that the United States didn’t “predict the aging of America” or know about the baby boom generation is absurd.
Social Security and Medicare aren’t going bankrupt. Medicare is suffering from the same high health costs hurting our economy system wide. We must reign in those costs but not just in Medicare. Medicare reform has already started with the addition of 8 years of solvency thanks to the Affordable Care Act (legislation Paul Ryan wants repealed). Social Security currently has a $2.7 trillion dollar surplus and even if nothing is done (which no one believes will happen) the program will have enough incoming payroll contributions to pay 75% of benefits come 2033. As the Chairman of the House Budget Committee, Rep. Paul Ryan knows that is not bankruptcy.
This single interview shows just how far those who’ve set their sights on radical reforms to Social Security and Medicare will go to hide their true goals. We say: