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Transcript: Thom Hartmann: Liar, Liar...are Politifact's pants on fire? 13 December '11

For some reason - Politifact - the Pulitzer Prize-winning website that checks facts for various political claims - they're giving Paul Ryan and the Republican Party - the Republicans in the House of Representatives - cover.

You might remember earlier this year - Budget Chairman and right-wing "Young Gun” Paul Ryan introduced a radical new vision for American in the 2012 Republican budget proposal.

The proposal championed by Ryan ends Medicare as we know it.

And when it was put up for a vote in the House of Representatives in April - 235 Republicans voted for it.

235 Republicans voted for trashing the national health insurance program and guaranteed coverage for American’s seniors that has been in place since 1965 - and voted to replace those guarantees with an $8,000 voucher to cover their medical expenses in the private market.

According to an analysis on the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities - in 2020 - that $8,000 voucher would only cover about 62% of the average medical costs for a person 65-years-old.

And by 2032 - that $8,000 voucher will only cover a third of a typical senior citizen's medical expenses...just a third.

So to recap - the Paul Ryan plan completely transforms Medicare from a government insurance program that actually covers medical expenses for senior citizens - into a voucher program in which the government hands over an $8,000 check to seniors - and says good luck finding your own coverage.

Knowing that Republicans had just dismantled one of America’s most accomplished - and popular social programs - Democrats seized on that vote and ran a few campaign ads calling out Ryan and the Republicans for ending Medicare.

But now Politifact - is going to bat for Paul Ryan - and naming the Democrats’ claim that he and his colleagues voted to end Medicare as one of the year’s biggest lies.

According to Politifact:

To say the Republicans voted to end Medicare, as the ad does, is a major exaggeration.

Politifact goes on to argue that the Democrats' claim is a "pants on fire" lie because:

A. Seniors would still get coverage in the "Medicare" program...although they would have to buy that coverage on their own in the private health insurance market with an insufficient voucher.

B. The ad doesn't clarify that the Paul Ryan plan doesn't affect people who are 55 and older.

And - C. The Budget resolution was non-binding - as in it couldn't go into effect until it was passed by the Senate and signed by the President.

So essentially what Politifact is saying is - that despite completely gutting the program and changing the primary way senior citizens will receive health insurance coverage - it's a pants-on-fire lie to point that out, because the new voucher program is named "Medicare" - and because Ryan's plan only wipes out full coverage for people younger than 55 - and because Democrats would oppose it in the Senate - therefore Democrats are lying when they say Republicans voted to end Medicare.

Not only is Politifact and the Republicans lying - they are "pants on fire" lying - and are responsible for one of the biggest lies of the year.

It would be like if I took this can of coke - poured out all the coke - filled it with milk - and said I now have a can of milk - and then Politifact comes along and says I'm a pants of fire liar -'s still in a can labeled coke - and anyone looking at it would identify it as a coke can.

But it’s not coke, assuming I actually poured it out and out the milk in.

And under Ryan’s plan Medicare is not Medicare - it's a voucher program.

Ultimately - Politifact actually admits that:

Yes, the Republican plan would be a huge change to the current program.


Both Republicans and Democrats would no doubt agree that Ryan’s plan for Medicare is a dramatic change of course.

So why did they give the claim its lowest rating - and then parade it as one of the biggest lies of the year?

Our nation right now is in the midst of one of the most radical assaults on our Social Safety net ever seen.

And for a so-called principled fact-checking organization to ignore that reality - and play a game of semantics to cover up the Republican effort to destroy Medicare - is not only sloppy…it’s downright irresponsible.

And here's the kicker....

Remember when Rick Perry said this:

The republican candidates are talking about ways to transition this program, and it is a monstrous lie.

Politifact took that one on too.

They rated it "False" - but not "Pants on Fire" like they did the Democrats - it was just "false."

It's not one of the lies of the year according to's just false.

So they're basically saying - Rick Perry's claim that Social Security is a Ponzi Scheme - which, by the way, is a completely absurd statement that has absolutely no bearing in reality since Social Security is an insurance program and is not a scam - and has worked great for 75 years and will continue to. That lie by Rick Perry has a bit more truth in it than the Democrats' claim that Republicans voted to end Medicare.

So the question in my mind is...what agenda does Politifact have?

That's The Big Picture.

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to understand how to respond when they’re talking about public issues with coworkers, neighbors, and friends. This book explores some of the key perspectives behind his approach, teaching us not just how to find the facts, but to talk about what they mean in a way that people will hear."