Democrats have a long history of smearing and distorting the various budget proposals offered by Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan. Here are five outrageous myths about Ryan his critics have sought to propagate.
1. The Ryan budget "ends Medicare."
Democrats have made this claim ever since the House of Representatives first passed Paul Ryan’s budget resolution in April 2011.
The "House Republicans’ vote to end Medicare is a shameful act of betrayal," wrote House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) in a fundraising email.
"[The Republican] budget eviscerates—it eliminates Medicare," Vice President Joe Biden said in August 2011.
"Put simply, it ends Medicare as we know it," President Obama said of Ryan’s plan in an April 2011 speech that Ryan attended at the invitation of the White House.
"[Ryan’s] plan also would end Medicare as we know it by turning it into a voucher system," wrote Messina.
The oft-repeated claim is so blatantly false that the fact-checking website PolitiFact awarded it the dubious honor of "Lie of the Year 2011," having thoroughly debunked the charge in nine separate fact-checks rated either "False" or "Pants on Fire."
Ryan has proposed to restore solvency to Medicare by gradually transforming it from a fee-for-service government program into a "premium support" system. Americans aged 55 and above would not be affected.
Ryan’s plan, which he has since revised with the help of Oregon Democratic Senator Ron Wyden, would provide government subsidies to future retirees that would allow them to purchase health insurance plans from a variety of private options. Under the Ryan-Wyden proposal, traditional Medicare would be preserved as an option.
The plan proposes to drive down Medicare’s unsustainable costs through market forces, namely increased competition. It would limit the program’s growth to an annual rate of GDP plus 0.5 percent, which is identical to what President Obama has proposed.
Obama’s plan for Medicare involves a 15-member board of healthcare experts, appointed by lawmakers, which would be tasked with reducing costs by a certain percentage every year. Congress and the president would have very little authority to prevent or alter the cuts once they have been proposed, which has caused concern among many Democrats.
The Independent Payment Advisory Board was included in the president’s controversial healthcare law and is scheduled to go into effect in 2014, meaning current seniors will be affected, unlike in Ryan’s plan.
Medicare chief actuary Richard Foster has said that although Ryan’s proposed reforms have the "potential" to prevent Medicare from going bankrupt within the next 10 to 12 years, he is "less confident" about Obama’s plan.
2. Ryan favors "austerity" policies
Left-wing commentators hailed the wave of anti-incumbent elections in Europe earlier this year as a rejection of so-called "austerity" policies implemented in the name of deficit reduction.
Ryan’s detractors have often criticized him for promoting such European-style austerity.
However, Ryan’s budget proposes nothing of the sort.
Whereas the Ryan budget would reduce the federal deficit by $5.3 trillion over the next decade through a combination of spending cuts and entitlement and tax reforms, "European-style austerity" has relied heavily on tax increases.
The ratio of tax increases to actual spending reductions among European countries between 2010 and 2011 was nearly 9-to-1, according to official European Union statistics.
Ryan says his goal is to avoid painful austerity measures that would be imposed if lawmakers fail to bring the country’s fiscal house in order, something already occurring across Europe.
Raising taxes, as Democrats have proposed, is a particularly ineffective way to reduce deficits and promote economic growth, studies show. One report from the American Enterprise Institute looked at data from select countries between 1970 and 2007 and found "strong evidence that expenditure cuts outweigh revenue increases in successful consolidations."
3. Ryan’s budget "slashes" federal spending
The Associated Press wrote that Ryan "is synonymous with his revolutionary budget that slashes spending for safety-net programs for the poor, remakes Medicare and cuts personal and corporate taxes while pushing the deficit down to a manageable level."
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) described the Republican budget as "dismantling Medicare and slashing funding for critical domestic programs."
However, Ryan’s budget actually would increase federal spending by $1.3 trillion (36 percent) over the next decade. President Obama has proposed a more dramatic increase in federal spending—$2 trillion (53 percent) over the same period.
Federal spending would rise at a rate of about 3 percent per year under the Ryan plan, in line with the average rate of U.S. GDP growth since World War II. Obama’s budget would grow spending at an annual rate of 4.5 percent.
"Hardly draconian, I would argue," Ryan said of his budget earlier this year at Georgetown University. "But that’s sort of the way Washington works, which is if you don’t sign up to the massive proposed increase and you increase spending at a slower rate or something, that’s considered a big cut."
On domestic discretionary spending, the portion of the federal budget that includes most of the social welfare programs Democrats accuse Ryan of "slashing," the Republican budget allocates, on average, just $35 billion less per year than the president’s plan—less than 1 percent of what the federal government plans to spend in 2012.
Federal spending under the Ryan plan would reach 19.8 percent of GDP by the year 2022, in line with the historical average from 1950 to 2000. The Obama budget would increase spending beyond historic levels, to 22.8 percent of GDP, over the same period.
4. Ryan is a "Tea Party darling"
According to the New York Times, Ryan "is now unquestionably the face of the Tea Party caucus in Washington."
"Paul Ryan: Hawk on budget and tea party darling," read a Philadelphia Inquirer headline over the weekend.
Ryan may draw significant support from the Tea Party movement, but he is hardly its "darling." For instance, Ryan was one of only 20 Republicans to vote for the controversial Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), most commonly known as the bank bailout, in October 2008.
Popular outrage over TARP was a primary factor in the creation of the Tea Party and the movement that led Republicans to a historic takeover of Congress in 2010.
"Though he talks like Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman, some of Ryan’s most high-profile votes seem closer to Keynes than to Adam Smith," Lewis wrote in February 2010. "For example, in the span of about a year, Ryan committed fiscal conservative apostasy on three high-profile votes: The Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP (whereby the government purchased assets and equity from financial institutions), the auto-bailout (which essentially implied he agrees car companies—especially the ones with an auto plant in his district—are too big to fail), and for a confiscatory tax on CEO bonuses (which essentially says the government has the right to take away private property—if it doesn’t like you)."
Conservative columnist Michelle Malkin has raised similar concerns from the right regarding Ryan’s support for government bailouts. "Crikey. How many strikes do ‘Republican rising stars’ get?" she wrote of Ryan. "… I hope someone in Madison will ask why Tea Party activists should trust him not to crumble the next time the big government juggernaut yells ‘emergency!’"
In May 2011, as Ryan was being mentioned as a potential Republican nominee for president, Tea Party congressman such as Allen West (R., Fla.) tellingly declined to weigh in on the prospect of a Ryan candidacy. Other GOP freshmen cited Ryan’s votes for TARP and the auto bailout as reasons why he would make a less than ideal candidate.
Ryan’s voting record since 2010 is not viewed as particularly conservative, according to Heritage Action for America, an offshoot of the Heritage Foundation that ranks lawmakers based on their votes for and sponsorship of conservative legislation.
Ryan currently has a Heritage Action rating of 75 percent, placing him just slightly above the House Republican average.
5. Ryan enjoys killing elderly women, often by chucking them over a cliff.
Democrats have repeatedly charged that Ryan’s budget, if implemented, would cause the deaths of untold numbers of senior citizens.
An ad from one liberal group depicts Ryan literally throwing an elderly woman off a cliff.
The Washington Free Beacon has found no evidence that Ryan has even been charged with, or successfully prosecuted for, murder.