Networks Falsely Paint Ryan as Spending Cutter Who Could ‘Destroy’ Medicare

Previewing the choice of Paul Ryan as the GOP vice presidential candidate, the ABC, CBS and NBC morning shows all used Democratic framing to describe the House GOP budget plan that Ryan championed as a plan to, as CBS’s Bob Schieffer put it, “cut more than $5 trillion over the next ten years.” ABC’s Bianna Golodryga passed along the demagogic rhetoric of liberals: “Democrats, meantime, contest that it will destroy Medicare and Social Security.

But Ryan’s plan would actually increase federal spending over the next ten years, from about $3.6 trillion this year to just under $4.9 trillion in 2022. The $5 trillion in “cuts” are merely reductions from the much-higher spending anticipated by President Obama’s budget. (See tables starting on page 88.)

While Ryan’s approach — assuming it passed and future Congresses continued to abide by its limits —  would slow the growth in federal spending so it would amount to just under 20% of the overall economy, it also forecasts uninterrupted budget deficits (and, therefore, a rising national debt) through 2022. Yet not one of the morning shows today carried any suggestion that Ryan should be criticized for taking too mild an approach to the fiscal crisis.

Instead, the networks all included some variation of the Democratic charge that Ryan’s plan would include, as ABC’s Golodryga claimed, “sharp cuts in federal spending.” CBS and NBC even cited Newt Gingrich as an authority, recalling his quickly-retracted “right-wing social engineering” slam from early last year.

NBC’s Chuck Todd argued that Democrats have “successfully” used Ryan’s plan as a campaign tactic “in some congressional races, we are seeing it get some traction, basically running against the idea of what Ryan wants to do to Medicare. Help Democrats in Senate races in some red states.”

Of course, the Democrats owe much of their success in demonizing the Ryan plan to the so-called “news” media, which mis-portrays it as deeply cutting spending, as opposed to mildly slowing the growth of spending.

Key quotes from the August 11 morning shows, all of which aired a couple of hours before Mitt Romney made the official announcement of Ryan’s selection:

# ABC’s Good Morning America:

BIANNA GOLODRYGA: A bold choice, but not one without risks. Paul Ryan is 42-years-old. He’s been elected to the House from his district in Wisconsin seven times, but he’s now best-known for his controversial budget proposal, which some within his own party has distanced themselves from. He’s pushing for sharp cuts in federal spending, including programs like Medicare. Now, his proposal is set to be a focal point of this election. Will Republicans be forced to fully embrace it now? Democrats, meantime, contest that it will destroy Medicare and Social Security.

# CBS This Morning

BOB SCHIEFFER: I think conservatives are going to be delighted. They’re going to say that Mitt Romney finally did something bold. This is what the Wall Street Journal was urging, this is what the Weekly Standard, Bill Kristol, a strong voice of conservatism -- both were saying this week this is the guy.

But I tell you the other part, Rebecca, is I think Democrats are going to be delighted as well. Because Paul Ryan’s budget, it’s right there in black and white. The numbers are there. He wants to cut more than $5 trillion over the next ten years. But where he cuts is where Democrats are going to try to make it an issue. He wants to cut spending from Medicaid. He wants to cut spending for Food Stamps, for student loans. All of these social programs. He also wants to change Medicare. He wants to have seniors buy insurance, and they will get a government subsidy to help them do that.

So this campaign has now been joined. It’s been really about silly stuff up until now quite frankly in my view. Now it’s going to be about something, about what do we want to do with these social programs- and government spending. Where do we want to make these cuts.

You know, back there early on, I remember in the Republican campaign, Newt Gingrich actually said, well, he branded Paul Ryan’s budget ‘right-wing social engineering.’ And he said, you know, that’s no more welcome than left-wing social engineering. So, we’ll see where he comes down on it now.

# NBC’s Today:

DAVID GREGORY: He’s part of a conservative wave in the House of Representatives who put his own name to the House budget blueprint which was pretty controversial. It didn’t pass. It talked about cutting spending and also changing the Medicare program for seniors, introducing the voucher program. Made it very controversial from the start. Even among some fellow Republicans. Newt Gingrich notably called it right wing social engineering. But conservatives have rallied around Paul Ryan. He talks in big, bold strokes about the fiscal crisis, the debt crisis, and he’s going to be a powerful voice for Mitt Romney on dealing with both the economy and the fiscal crisis that the country faces, but there are downsides as well.

LESTER HOLT: And Chuck, before I turn to you, we’ve just learned that the app that the campaign has put together has formally confirmed the pick of Paul Ryan as the VP candidate. But, Chuck, let me ask you -- the notion that this now turns the conversation toward deficit cutting, towards the budget, does it cut both ways for Republicans here? Does it open them up for more criticism on that side?

CHUCK TODD: Well, it could. I mean, it’s gonna put this issue of Medicare, the future of Medicare, the future of Social Security, but Medicare in particular, that’s the centerpiece of Paul Ryan’s budget reform plan that he put out both last year and this year. Democrats politically have been able to successfully use this in some congressional races, we are seeing it get some traction, basically running against the idea of what Ryan wants to do to Medicare. Help Democrats in Senate races in some red states. So this has a lot of downside as well.