Chris Christie's RNC Speech Misled Viewers on Medicare

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The New Jersey governor spoke as if the Republican ticket isn't appealing to the selfish interests of seniors who want their entitlements.



As Chris Christie tells it, Republicans believe "in telling seniors the truth about our overburdened entitlements." The GOP knows "seniors not only want these programs to survive, but they just as badly want them secured for their grandchildren." Speaking at the Republican National Convention late Tuesday, he insisted that seniors "are not selfish," but that Democrats "believe seniors will always put themselves ahead of their grandchildren." In his telling, Democrats "prey on their vulnerabilities and scare them with misinformation for the cynical purpose of winning the next election."

There's just one problem.

Scaring senior citizens about the prospect of Medicare cuts helped Republicans to win the 2010 midterms. And Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are repeating a similar strategy in 2012.

The Romney-Ryan ticket is using the fact that President Obama's health care reform cut $700 billion in Medicare reimbursement costs to claim that he is gutting or stealing from the program, while pointing out that under their proposal, Medicare cuts won't take place for 10 years. In other words, they're counting on the fact that seniors value the status quo more highly than fiscal reforms. Or, to borrow Gov. Christie's formulation, they're counting on seniors voting selfishly on entitlements.

Josh Barro is still right: "What Romney and Ryan are up to is simple: They want to have it both ways on Medicare. They are for Medicare cuts, because Medicare is expensive and the federal budget needs to be controlled. And they are against Medicare cuts, because Medicare cuts are unpopular."

Current seniors get their benefits.

And the seniors who ostensibly lose a portion of their benefits just happen to do so after Romney and Ryan, having served two hypothetical terms, leave office, except that those seniors will inevitably be saved by future Republican politicians who care more about their electability than the deficit. "Never asked, let alone answered... if Romney's Medicare reforms are so painless, why not demand that current beneficiaries accept them?" asks Scott Galupo. "Why is it necessary to spare them from structural reforms that are so self-evidently 'sensible'?"

Compared to Mitt Romney, Gov. Christie is a paragon of telling hard truths, but when he takes the stage on behalf of the current GOP ticket, he is advocating for two men comfortable running a "Mediscare" campaign. To say, as their surrogate, that Republicans respect the altruism of seniors, while Democrats treat them as selfish entitlement-seeking voters, is indefensible.

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Conor Friedersdorf is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He lives in Venice, California, and is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.

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