Medicare mailbag: mixed metaphor edition
By Louis Jacobson
Published on Thursday, April 21st, 2011 at 4:24 p.m.
On Wednesday, we gave the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee a Pants on Fire for claiming in a Web ad that "seniors will have to find $12,500 for health care because Republicans voted to end Medicare."
The rating didn't sit well with many readers. They complained we were too kind to the Republicans -- one said it was proof that we had "jumped the shark" -- and several liberal blogs criticized our ruling.
To poke holes in our logic, readers offered a wide variety of metaphors involving everything from chickens to dogs to murdering a spouse.
Our Truth-O-Meter article determined that the DCCC ad was incorrect in describing the impact of a budget proposal by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., chairman of the House Budget Committee.
The ad shows seniors running a lemonade stand, cutting the grass, and even stripping at a bachelorette party -- all to raise money to pay for Medicare. "Seniors will have to find $12,500 for health care," the ad says, "because Republicans voted to end Medicare."
We noted several problems with the ad, particularly its suggestion that the Republican plan was now in force and that seniors will have to pay more.
The ad also lacked critical qualifiers that other Democrats, including President Obama, have used -- such as saying that Republicans "want to" end Medicare "as we know it."
We concluded that "both Republicans and Democrats would no doubt agree that Ryan’s plan for Medicare is a dramatic change, but we don’t agree with the ad’s contention that the proposal ends Medicare -- particularly for people 55 or older." They would continue to get Medicare, while people younger than 54 would get vouchers they could use to buy coverage once they become seniors.
Readers overwhelmingly disagreed with our conclusion. They said that the Ryan plan was such a dramatic overhaul that it can still be considered an end to Medicare.
Then came the metaphors:
-- "If I replace the U.S. Postal Service with a system to distribute FedEx and UPS coupons but get rid of all the actual post offices and mail carriers, I've actually ended the USPS no matter if I keep the name."
-- "If I call my chicken a bald eagle, it doesn't mean my chicken now has protected status... duh."
-- "If Congress voted to replace the Army with a voucher system for private mercenaries, it would be safe to say it was a vote to end the Army, no matter what you named the resulting force."
-- "A dog has four legs. Calling a tail a leg doesn't make it one. Calling the Republican voucher program ‘Medicare’ doesn't make it Medicare."
-- "If someone takes your car but gives you a bicycle, you still have no car no matter how loudly they say you still have a vehicle."
-- "If you replace a St. Bernard with a hamster, it's ludicrous to call it a ‘restructured’ dog."
-- "If a dictator took over a democracy, and rigged the vote so he could always win, would it be a lie to say he ended democracy? Or do I have to say, 'he ended democracy as we know it?’"
-- "A rose by any other name is still a rose, but if I take that rose and give you a thistle and say you still have a rose, I’m lying."
-- "If your pet dies, and you replace it with another with the same name, the first pet is still dead."
-- "It would be like murdering my wife, marrying another woman with the same name, and then showing my second wife as proof that I didn't murder my first wife."
One creative reader sent along a satirical letter:
"We just wanted to thank you guys for your excellent work on the Democrat Medicare ad. We didn't realize we had such a reliable ally in Politifact, but now that we do, we can really accomplish a lot.
"Next, we're going to tweak Social Security a little bit -- you know, just fundamentally undermine the nature of the public guarantee in favor of a privatized crapshoot that drastically reduces benefits. Great to know that when we propose this, and the Democrat party starts whining about our plan to ‘end’ Social Security, we'll have you in our corner.
"Because you know that as long as we CALL it the same thing, it doesn't matter if it actually IS the same thing. Great job guys!
Republican National Committee"
Reader comments received via e-mail and Facebook.
Researchers: Louis Jacobson
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