Sahil Kapur is TPM's senior congressional reporter and Supreme Court correspondent. His articles have been published in the Huffington Post, The Guardian and The New Republic. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @sahilkapur.
The Romney campaign's new ad blitz reinforces its latest attack -- that President Obama cut Medicare spending by $716 billion -- with an ominous warning to seniors. But the Affordable Care Act's cuts and other Medicare reforms don't touch benefits, they target waste in provider payments.
In fact, the totality of Obama's Medicare reforms expand benefits for seniors and lower out-of-pocket costs. The Affordable Care Act actually enhances Medicare benefits by closing the prescription drug coverage gap known as the "doughnut hole" and expanding free preventive services, including an annual wellness visit.
Early in 2010, a little-known congressman named Paul Ryan introduced a radical blueprint to remake the federal budget. Two and a half years later, having won over nearly all congressional Republicans in updated versions of the proposal, he is the party's vice presidential nominee to be.
Rep. Paul Ryan's "Roadmap For America's Future," was the precursor to his sweeping budget proposals in 2011 and 2012 that nearly all Republicans voted for. Updated versions of some of its components, like the plans to remake Medicare and the tax code, were included, while others, like the proposals to privatize Social Security, were dropped.
Here's a guide to some of its most sweeping reforms.
During the 2008 presidential campaign, then-Sen. Barack Obama attacked John McCain for proposing Medicare cuts similar to the ones he enacted and is now being criticized for by Mitt Romney.
As reported in a Huffington Post article that the Romney campaign circulated to reporters Tuesday, Obama bashed McCain in an ad and on the stump for proposing $800 billion in Medicare savings.
McCain's proposed cuts, like Obama's $700 billion, did not affect Medicare benefits. According to a Wall Street Journal article at the time, McCain's senior adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin "said the Medicare and Medicaid changes would improve the programs and eliminate fraud, but he didn't detail where the cuts would come from."
Republican National Committee spokesman Tim Miller piled on in an email Tuesday.
"In 2008, Obama attacked McCain for supposedly proposing to cut Medicare to pay for health care," he wrote. "Then, as president, Obama did just that. More evidence his political demagoguery on Medicare can’t be trusted."
McCain's embrace of the cuts in 2008 reflect the bipartisan nature of finding savings within the program, which was also affirmed after congressional Republicans voted to keep the cuts in Paul Ryan's budget blueprint.
One of Rep. Paul Ryan's many past proposals to remake the federal safety net included a sweeping plan to privatize Social Security and risk the program's solvency in attempting to save it. He championed the idea as recently as 2010 but pushed it under the rug the following year. Mitt Romney, who recently selected Ryan to be his vice presidential nominee, is steering clear of the plan.
The proposal was in Ryan's 2010 "Roadmap For America's Future," a broad blueprint to remake the federal budget which elevated the little-known congressman into the Republican Party's visionary. It involved shifting Social Security funds to private retirement accounts as well as reducing benefits and gradually raising the age of eligibility.
Mitt Romney has been talking up Rep. Paul Ryan's bipartisan credentials since he unveiled the congressman as his running mate early Saturday. But the mild-mannered Wisconsinite's record reveals a near-total absence of Democratic support for his many ambitious proposals, very few of which have won enough support to become law.
Lost in the back and forth between the Obama and Romney campaigns over who's the real Medicare cutter is a critical difference between visions: President Obama's plan is to make the program solvent by reducing payments to health care providers, while Rep. Paul Ryan achieves his savings by transforming Medicare into a voucher-like system.
On the Sunday talk shows, Republicans continued to deflect criticism of Mitt Romney vice presidential pick Rep. Paul Ryan's controversial Medicare plan by pointing out that 'Obamacare' cuts the program by $700 billion. But the same cuts are in Ryan's budget.
"This president stole -- he didn't cut Medicare -- he stole $700 billion from Medicare to fund Obamacare," said Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, on NBC's "Meet The Press." "If any person in this entire debate has blood on their hands in regard to Medicare, it's Barack Obama. He's the one that's destroying Medicare."
The remarks oversimplify reality. The Affordable Care Act included $700 billion in reimbursement reductions under Medicare to hospitals, drug companies and supplemental private insurance plans, in an effort to slow the cost growth of the program. Benefits remain untouched; the cuts only target providers.
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) on Sunday slammed President Obama's reelection campaign as one of the most "disgraceful" and negative he's ever seen, but conceded that the attacks have "succeeded to a certain degree" at disqualifying Mitt Romney with voters.
Obama campaign senior adviser David Axelrod said Sunday that Paul Ryan is against Medicare, period.
"They do not believe in Medicare," he said on ABC's "This Week." "Let's be clear. Congressman Ryan is an ideologue who doesn't believe in the Medicare program, wanted to do away with it. Newt Gingrich called it 'right-wing social engineering' when [Ryan] surfaced his Medicare plan, and he was right about that."