There were a lot of interesting aspects to last nights vice-presidential debate between Paul Ryan and Joe Biden. Most of the media commentary has focused on Bidens 82 interruptions of Paul Ryans remarks. Id like to discuss the substance of the debate on health care and tax reform, where Joe Biden told one whopper after another in an attempt to help President Obama regain lost campaign momentum.
(DISCLOSURE: I am an outside adviser to the Romney campaign on health care issues. The opinions contained herein are mine alone, and do not necessarily correspond to those of the campaign.)
Moderator Raddatzs biased, factually wobbly performance
The debates moderator, Martha Raddatz, embarrassed herself at several points in the evening. Her low point from my standpoint was when she asked Ryan a wildly inaccurate question about the Romney-Ryan Medicare plan. "What is your specific plan," she asked Ryan, "for seniors who really cant afford to make up the difference in the value of what you call a premium support plan and others call a voucher?" At several points in the debate, egged on by Raddatz, Biden repeated this falsehood.
Its one thing for Biden to repeat a falsehood that the Obama campaign has been shopping for months. Its another thing for a moderator to do it, one who presumably had time to actually do some homework on how the Romney-Ryan plan works.
Ryan patiently explained that, under the competitive bidding model, not a single senior is exposed to rising health costs relative to the level of premium support. Biden kept interrupting Ryan so as to prevent him from completing his sentences, and then falsely claimed that Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden opposed the Romney-Ryan plan. Indeed, Ron Wyden supported a plan to the right of the Romney-Ryan plan.
The Wyden-Ryan plan capped the growth of Medicare spending at GDP plus 1 percent. The Romney-Ryan plan contains no cap on the growth of Medicare spending. Heres Sen. Wyden, in his own words, explaining why he supports these reforms.
Wyden does oppose other aspects of the Romney-Ryan approach, namely that the Republicans seek to repeal Obamacare and block-grant Medicaid. But Wyden has not renounced Wyden-Ryan, as much as Democrats would like him to.
Biden invents budgetary savings from Medicare drug-price negotiating
Biden also falsely claimed that negotiating drug prices under the Medicare prescription drug program would save the government money. "Martha, if we just did one thing, if we just…allow Medicare to bargain for the cost of drugs like Medicaid can, that would save $156 billion right off the bat," he said.
But when Democrats in the Senate proposed a bill to do just that in 2007, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that its impact would be nearly zero. Allowing the government to directly negotiate drug prices in Medicare Part D, the CBO said, "would have a negligible effect on direct spending."
Biden dissembles on Obamacares Medicare cuts
Biden repeated the Obama campaigns dishonest talking points regarding Obamacares $716 billion in cuts to Medicare. "What we did," he claimed, "is we saved $716 billion and put it back—applied it to Medicare." Thats not true: the $716 billion was used to fund $1.9 trillion in new spending under Obamacare. If Biden wants to insist that the money was "put back" into Medicare, then hes also stating that Obamacare increased the deficit by $716 billion more than the administration otherwise claims.
For my detailed fact-check of these misleading statements, see the piece I wrote about them in mid-August, and also the piece I wrote about the first debate between Mitt Romney and President Obama.
Biden also claimed that seniors have "more benefits" today than they did before Obamacare: "Any senior out there, ask yourself: Do you have more benefits today? You do. If youre near the doughnut hole, you have $600 more to help your prescription drug costs. You get wellness visits without copays. They wipe all of this out." However, as I described last week, Obamacares ratio of Medicare cuts to spending on "new benefits" is 15 to 1.
When Paul Ryan pointed out that Richard Foster, the actuary of the Medicare program, stated that "one out of six hospitals and nursing homes are going to go out of business because of [Obamacare]," Biden denied it. "Thats not what they said," said Biden. Heres a direct quote from Fosters Congressional testimony on the topic: "Simulations by the Office of the Actuary suggest that roughly 15 percent of Part A providers would become unprofitable within the 10-year projection period" as result of Obamacares Medicare cuts. Even more would become permanently unprofitable in future years; i.e., broke.
Ryan also noted that the actuary projected that "7.4 million seniors are projected to lose the current Medicare Advantage coverage they have. Thats a $3,200 benefit cut." Once again, Biden said "That didnt happen. More people signed up."
But, once again, the Medicare actuary wrote: "We estimate that in 2017, when the [Medicare Advantage] provisions will be fully phased in, enrollment in MA plans will be lower by about 50 percent (from its projected level of 14.8 million under the prior law to 7.4 million under the new law)." Robert Book and Jim Capretta calculated that Obamacares cuts to Medicare Advantage work out to $3,714 per beneficiary.
Bidens made-up claim that Ryan will "knock 19 million people off of Medicare"
Biden didnt use the phrase "throw granny off a cliff," but he falsely claimed that Paul Ryans House budgets "will knock 19 million people off of Medicare." No. the House budget would not have kicked a single person off of Medicare, and neither would Romneys plan. The Romney-Ryan plan has zero impact on Medicare for anyone over 55, including current retirees, except for repealing Obamacares Medicare cuts. Bidens figures, once again, are made up out of whole cloth.
Biden repeats false claim that Romney seeks $5 trillion tax cut
Biden repeated the fact-free claim that Romney is seeking a "$5 trillion tax cut" when in fact Romney is seeking a revenue-neutral tax cut. He then went on to say, curiously, that "the American Enterprise Institute study [says that] taxes will go up on the middle class, the only way you can find $5 trillion in loopholes is cut the mortgage deduction for middle-class people, cut the health care deduction for middle-class people, take away their ability to get a tax break to send their kids to college." Thats not true.
Indeed, as I discussed earlier this week, American Enterprise Institute tax experts came to the opposite conclusion: that the Romney tax-reform proposal could be revenue-neutral while reducing taxes for the middle class. As Ryan correctly noted, six studies back up Romneys math: Matt Jensen of AEI, Alex Brill separately of AEI, Stephen Entin and William McBride of the Tax Foundation, Curtis Dubay of Heritage, Martin Feldstein of Harvard, and Harvey Rosen of Princeton.
Who won? All I know is Martha Raddatz lost
It appears from the snap polls that came out after the debate that a plurality of Americans believed Paul Ryan won the debate. A CNN poll of 381 registered voters who watched the debate gave it to Ryan 48 percent to 44. To me, relative to the blowout performance of Romney over Obama in the first debate, the veep show looked roughly like a draw.
I came away from the debate unsurprised that Joe Biden said so many untrue things about health care and tax policy. Hes been doing that on the campaign trail as well, and the media rarely holds him to account. But I was very surprised by how much Martha Raddatz did to cover for him. Her reputation will suffer for it.
Original Source: http://www.forbes.com/sites/aroy/2012/10/12/at-the-vice-presidential-debate-on-health-care-and-tax-reform-joe-bidens-pants-were-on-fire/