Last updated on 2012.08.11
Ignorance is Kristi Noem's greatest strength. If voters remain ignorant of her actual record, they can believe whatever she says about it. If voters look at the facts alongside her cynically deceptive spin, Noem loses to Barth, Varilek, or a cold cheese sandwich.
Consider Noem's latest misrepresentation of her vote to end Medicare as we know it. She continues to peddle the worn-out line that since Medicare faces increased costs, her vote to gut the program, replace it with VoucherCare, and set seniors adrift on the ice floes of the private insurance market was really a vote to save Medicare.
Well, we voted to save Medicare. It's going to go broke in nine years if we don't do anything. So the vote that we placed was to save it, and I wholeheartedly believe it was the right decision to make. Especially because if you look at the situation, if we don't fix Medicare now, if we wait two or three years to fix it, there's no way to fix it without cutting benefits to seniors. And that was the one thing we really keyed in on. We wanted to make sure that all those 55 and above, that we keep that plan the same, that there's no changes for them to give them the certainty that they needed in the program. So it's certainly a necessary fix to a program that's not going to be around in the future if we do nothing. The status quo isn't acceptable in my book [Rep. Kristi Noem, interview with Jonathan Ellis and Ledyard King, that Sioux Falls paper, July 2011; quoted on KristiforCongress.com].
I do not dispute that, in the status quo, Medicare faces serious budget constraints. But, at peril of falling into the Nesselhuf literary device pit, let's try an analogy.
Suppose Medicare is Grandma. Suppose the doctor says Grandma has a tumor. It's operable, but if we don't remove it soon, Grandma will die in a few months.
The status quo for Grandma is unacceptable. However, Dr. Ryan and Nurse Noem propose to save Grandma by euthanizing her. They then propose to shack Grandpa up with some other woman, a stingy old bitty who doesn't bake. She can pinch my cheek and invite me to call her Grandma, but she ain't Grandma.
But Rep. Noem insists the Ryan plan is not what it is. Specifically, she denies that it is a voucher program:
It's not a voucher program, though. I think that's something a lot of people like to label it. It's essentially where insurance plans are going to be subsidized by the federal government. So it's not where I get a voucher and pick an insurance plan. It's totally different. It's where the seniors get to come in and pick the plan that best fits them. Then the federal government will step in and subsidize those plans. So the voucher doesn't ever come to the senior and they get out and shop around [Noem, July 2011].
Rep. Ryan too likes to say his plan is not a voucher plan but "premium support." But for all practical purposes, the Ryan plan for Medicare is a voucher plan. Ask columnist Robert J. Samuelson, whom Rep. Ryan quotes on his official House website:
Ryan proposes to change that. Beginning in 2022, new (not existing) Medicare beneficiaries would receive a voucher, valued initially at about $8,000. The theory is simple. Suddenly empowered, Medicare beneficiaries would shop for lowest-cost, highest-quality insurance plans providing a required package of benefits [Robert J. Samuelson, "Why We Must End Medicare 'As We Know It'," Washington Post via Ryan.House.Gov, 2011.06.05].
Let's be clear: the Ryan-Noem plan does not erase the word Medicare from the law books. It does not eliminate the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. However, the Ryan-Noem program that Medicare would describe and that CMS would administer would be entirely different from the current program.
Rep. Kristi Noem and Rep. Ryan and every other apologist for giving up on guaranteeing health coverage for seniors can quack all they want. But Rep. Noem voted for what she voted for. Rep. Noem voted to kill Medicare. She voted to replace it with program that quacks, walks, and acts like a voucher program. And as her language demonstrates, Noem knows that if she can't keep voters ignorant of those facts, she loses in 2012.
Related: The South Dakota Democratic Party also points out Noem's Newspeak on her vote to dismantle Medicare.