I wanted to write a nice, simple, clear explanation of why the Republican charge--which keeps getting repeated during this campaign season--that the Obama administration has cut $500 or maybe $700 billion from Medicare is false and misleading. It's a complicated issue, however, and therefore hard to explain in a few paragraphs. Anyway, others have done a pretty decent job of laying bare the false and inconsistent Republican charge. (See this John McDonough piece for example.) I say the Republican plan is inconsistent, and I would also say it is hypocritical, because the Ryan budget, as well as Romney's plans, would cut far more from Medicare than the Obama administration has authorized. And unlike Obama, the Republicans would cut benefits and leave seniors holding the bag, while the Obama administration's changes to Medicare achieve savings without reducing benefits.
It's ironic that the only Republican attack on the president that ever seems to gain any traction is the charge that Obama has reduced spending on one of the government's largest entitlement programs. Especially ironic since the Ryan budget uses some of the same means to achieve some of the same savings. For example, a big part of the administration's plan is to crack down on Medicare fraud to save money. So when Romney goes around promising audiences on the campaign trail that he is going to restore the cuts the Obama administration is making in the Medicare program, is he promising that he will not go after fraud? Of course not. If Republican candidates wanted to be honest about the Medicare issue, instead of just trying to score political points, what they would have to say is that they agree with most of the Obama administration's changes to the Medicare program that are designed to save money without cutting benefits, and that they have more changes of their own to propose, that will save even more money by forcing seniors to pick up more of the costs themselves. They would have to say that because that is in fact the Republican position.
But here is the president in Iowa doing a better job than I or most anybody else could explaining the differences between the Romney/Ryan plan and the Obama plan for Medicare.
There's another difference that the president does not mention. The Obama plan is currently the law. Let's keep it that way.
UPDATE (8/16/12): Yesterday Romney acknowledged in an interview with a local tv station that there are in fact no significant differences between his plans for Medicare and Paul Ryan's plans. So that clears up one bit of confusion.