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“Republicans Voted To End Medicare”: Is That The Biggest Political Lie of 2011?

Submitted by on December 24, 2011 – 4:38 pm8 Comments

Non-partisan fact-checking website PolitiFact.com announced that their 2011 Lie of the Year was the Democratic claim that “Republicans voted to end Medicare”– and the editors have received an earful about their choice.

Politifact was quick to remind readers that they choose “Lie of the Year” based on how influential the statement became on the nation’s discourse, not on how severely false the statement was.

At no point though has PolitiFact wavered in their judgement of the statement. Several similar statements received the site’s lowest “Pants on Fire” rating.

The statement was usually made in reference to a Republican budget proposal from Rep. Paul Ryan and voted for by many Congressional Republicans. The budget plan would maintain Medicare as it is for seniors currently on the plan, but would ultimately privatize the program and distribute vouchers for healthcare.

Many criticisms argued frankly that the “Lie of the Year” was in fact true. Even Politifact itself rated the statement that that “Republicans want to privatize Medicare”  as “Mostly True”; and this presents a problem of perception and semantics. Many liberal critics would argue that privatizing Medicare is ending it; that Medicare is at its core a government-funded health care program, and that Ryan’s changes would create a gutted program that is “Medicare” in name alone.

But Politifact stood by their judgement, and emphasized the extent to which Democrats spread the false message. The End of Medicare became a platform issue in special Congressional elections; candidates wrongfully stated how much the changes might increase costs, or misled current seniors to think it would affect them.

Other finalists included Rep. Michele Bachmann’s doozy that the HPV vaccine could cause mental retardation, and Sen. John Kyl’s assertion that abortion services are “well over 90% of what Planned Parenthood does”, which led to an aides infamous qualifier that the Senator’s claim was “not intended as a factual statement.” But PolitiFact noted that neither of these lies became as contentious as anything about health care, a topic that has inspired PolitiFact’s Lie of the Year since 2009 (“death panels” and “government takeover,” respectively).

While health care is a huge part of the economy, it seems to me that certain falsehoods about our economic system were more prevalent this year, as short-term economic concerns have dominated the national conversation, and sometimes literally ground government to a halt.

What do you think? What’s your No. 1 political lie of 2011?

[via PolitiFact]

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