The NYT's Tale of Two Medicare Plans: Obama's Painless 'Savings' vs. the GOP's 'Shrinking'

Washington budget reporter Jackie Calmes' lead story Monday showcased Obama as (finally) coming off the sidelines to engage in the debate over the future of U.S. finances with a Wednesday speech: "Obama To Call For Broad Plan To Rescue Debt - A Challenge To G.O.P. - Proposal Said to Include Some Tax Increases and Military Cuts."

Examine Calmes' word choice: While she portrays Republican plans as involving a "shrinking of Medicare and Medicaid," Obama "envisions a more comprehensive plan" that includes finding "savings in Medicare and Medicaid," as if Obama was making a painless offer. Which phrase will be more palatable to undecided voters nervous over the impact of Medicare cuts?

President Obama will call this week for Republicans to join him in writing a broad plan to raise revenues and reduce the growth of popular entitlement programs, as the battle over the nation's financial troubles moves past Friday's short-term budget deal and into a wider and more consequential debate over the nation's long-term fiscal health.

In a speech to be delivered at a university here on Wednesday, Mr. Obama will in effect come off the sidelines on the debate over reducing the nation's debt, which is reaching dangerous heights as the population ages.


The Republican plan includes a shrinking of Medicare and Medicaid and trillions of dollars in tax cuts, while sparing defense spending. Mr. Obama, by contrast, envisions a more comprehensive plan that would include tax increases for the richest taxpayers, cuts to military spending, savings in Medicare and Medicaid, and unspecified changes to Social Security.

The Times has previously portrayed cuts in Medicare spending increases in less threatening terms when proposed by Obama, versus dire warnings of "cuts" from similar Republican proposals.

- Clay Waters is director of Times Watch. You can follow him on Twitter.