Political Animal


December 06, 2011 8:40 AM An absurd choice for a health care award

By Steve Benen

Politico will host an awards dinner tonight, honoring “Policymakers of the Year” in a variety of categories and fields. That wouldn’t be especially interesting, were it not for the news organization’s choice for “Health Care Policymaker of the Year.”

When House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan released his budget plan in April, the Wisconsin Republican instantly changed the conversation about health care in America. It wasn’t always a polite conversation. And it gave way to new Democratic charges that Republicans want to “end Medicare.”

But Ryan got everyone talking about ways to get health care entitlements under control — and he gave Republicans the most detailed illustration to date of how market forces could be used to do that. He has influenced how Republican presidential candidates such as Mitt Romney talk about health care, as they use variations of his Medicare plan in their campaigns. And if Republicans gain power after the 2012 elections, his blueprint is sure to be the starting point for their future health care policies.

Giving an award to someone for getting “everyone talking” seems like an unusual standard for tributes. Indeed, when a policymaker gets “everyone talking” about how ridiculous his proposal is, this generally isn’t rewarded with some kind of year-end honor.

It’s been several months since the political world debated Paul Ryan’s approach to health care in detail, so perhaps Politico has forgotten some of the more important realizations from the debate. Let’s remind the publication of the relevant details.

First, Ryan’s health care agenda repealed the entirety of the Affordable Care Act — in the process, taking coverage away from millions of Americans — and replaced it with nothing. What’s more, by scrapping the ACA altogether, Ryan would add billions to the deficit, and his plan simply asserted the opposite without evidence.

Second, Ryan’s plan claimed to control health care costs. A closer look reveals that Ryan’s claims were wrong. Indeed, Ryan pushed to shift Medicare cost burdens from the government to families, and apply the savings to more tax cuts.

Third, accusations that the Ryan plan would “end Medicare” were accurate. The right-wing lawmaker intended to scrap the existing program, replacing it with a privatized voucher scheme — and the vouchers wouldn’t cover escalating costs.

Fourth, though it often went overlooked, Ryan’s proposed changes to Medicaid were a tragic mess.

And perhaps best of all, independent scrutiny found that the numbers in Paul Ryan’s plan simply didn’t add up.

To know all of this, and give this guy an award “Health Care Policymaker of the Year” anyway, is madness.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


Post a comment
  • paul on December 06, 2011 8:43 AM:

    I guess in the same vein that gave Hitler a Man of the Year cover from Time Magazine...

  • Mudge on December 06, 2011 8:45 AM:

    But they had to give it to a Republican! Can't be one-sided. Can't have Republicans calling Politico liberal! With that caveat, Ryan is as good as any other Republican for the award.

  • c u n d gulag on December 06, 2011 8:48 AM:

    Calm down.
    Remember who this is - Politico. P-O-L-I-T-I-C-O!

    The Conservative apparatchiks there would vote for Congressman Joe Walsh as "Father of the Year," and give Newt a lifetime achievement award for "The Most Faithful Husband."


  • Brenna on December 06, 2011 8:50 AM:

    Politico is a republican-loving garbage dump.

  • Mad_nVt on December 06, 2011 8:54 AM:

    Down the rabbit hole. Around the bend. And under a rock.

    Got to be loud and clear about what's going on. Or the delusionists will win.

  • GW on December 06, 2011 9:06 AM:

    Why doesn't anybody ever talk about the fact that even if Ryan's numbers are accepted as true and his projections accepted as likely to happen (both whopping big ifs), according to his plan the budget doesn't come into balance for OVER FIFTY YEARS!

  • TT on December 06, 2011 9:08 AM:

    No doubt Politico won the morning with this announcement.

  • T2 on December 06, 2011 9:13 AM:

    Politico is a surrogate for MSNBC (as in NBC). NBC wants what all big Corps want, a Conservative pro-money, pro-private enterprise storyline. So they find a way to double their message - build a cable news outlet that purports to represent a more "liberal" view (which is in fact just another "they all do it" outlet) and then support a political wing, Politico, that lands squarely on the establishment Conservative side most of the time. It's no coincidence that Poltico was the entity outing Herman Cain (conservatives worst nightmare). Sure from time to time they'll throw in a "what's up with these crazy Republican's" story, but they'll balance it with a "tax and spend Dem" story most of the time.

  • DisgustedWithItAll on December 06, 2011 9:18 AM:

    If Politico were around in 1946, it would have posthumously given Hitler the "Malthusian Award for Tackling Humanity's Overpopulation Problem."

  • scott_m on December 06, 2011 9:19 AM:

    That award says less about Paul Ryan or the projected costs of health care than it says about Politico. And everything says nothing about Politico, I knew already.

  • sven on December 06, 2011 9:24 AM:

    I agree with everyone here who is loudly proclaiming Politico's conservative bias. The truth remains however that much of both the political and media world treat Politico as a respected member of the establishment. Their biases are the biases of much of the village elite and their breathless, gossipy, high-school popularity-contest oriented coverage fits well with the 24-hour news cycle. For these reasons, Steve's takedown is an invaluable service. The only thing preventing the Politicos of the world from simply constructing a 'truth' about issues such as healthcare is existence of more reality-oriented outlets such as MaMo. This is clearly why Hippy-Punching is so fun for these media types. They are throwing a party and grumps like Steve who insist on 'facts' and 'evidence' are like a turd in the punchbowl.

  • KevinMc on December 06, 2011 9:26 AM:

    Channeling Kevin Drum’s comment from yesterday, is Politico giving their Nutritionist of the Year award to Hannibal Lecter (or Jeffrey Dahmer) for getting people to talk about the value of good nutrition?

  • Elizabelle on December 06, 2011 9:29 AM:

    Sickness is upon us.

  • James on December 06, 2011 9:29 AM:

    It's helpful to come to grips with the fact that the Politico triad -- Mike Allen, Jim VandeHei, John Harris -- haaaaate Democrats and hate liberals even more. So I am sure that they are enjoying sticking us all in the eye with this "award." I can well imagine them giggling with glee and high-fiving each other behind closed doors. That's just how it is.

    There is really no reason to accord them any credibility, but helpful to read their stuff to know what's really going on in Washington. All political journos ravenously ingest their stuff every day and swoon over their output. Because they have THE inside line on the Republicans.

    When you accept that as a fact of life, there is no need to become enraged. The more shocked and enraged you get, the better they like it. It's better to understand that, and ridicule the mindset every chance you get. But never, NEVER give them any credibility. Even in the rare instance that they write something you like.

    DISCLAIMER: Don't get mad at me, I'm just describing reality.

  • Lifelong Dem on December 06, 2011 9:30 AM:

    Am I the only one who thinks it's bizarre for a self-proclaimed news organization to host an awards dinner for politicians? The sound you hear is H.L. Mencken rolling over in his grave....

  • Gov't Mule on December 06, 2011 9:46 AM:

    Giving a health care award to Paul UniBrow Ryan is no different than the American Diabetes Association honoring Chris Christie for his diet and exercise regimen.

  • FlipYrWhig on December 06, 2011 9:52 AM:

    And the Politico award for getting people to talk about the issue of citizenship goes to... Donald Trump! The award for getting people to talk about sobriety... Charlie Sheen! The award for getting people to talk about sexual harassment... Herman Cain! Policymakers of the Year, all of them!

    Nevermind that they have made no policy. That's just an asterisk.

  • lls404 on December 06, 2011 10:08 AM:

    I do hope, wherever this event is held, (in DC I assume) that members of the Occupy movement will show up in massive numbers, accompanied by cancer survivors. Truly disgusting.

  • OKDem on December 06, 2011 10:19 AM:

    James - As you say POLITICO is useful only as a gauge of establishment Republican, ummm..., whatever passes as thinking on their part.

    I read Novak for many years not because I believed a word he said but because he had inside channels to the Heart of Darkness [Beltway Republicans] that gave warnings of the next outbreak of mindless savagery.

  • Rich on December 06, 2011 10:21 AM:

    Politico is owned by a big Bush donor. It's run by people who give tongue baths to people like Gingrich and played the Clinton-penis card ad nauseum. Rather than "outrage" about "unfairness, etc.", this should be an opportunity to point out the obvious and get people talking about that.

  • SW on December 06, 2011 10:27 AM:

    These are fucking hacks pure and simple. Why anyone takes them serious is a case study in what is wrong with what passes for journalism in this country. Nauseating. Just sickening.

  • jjm on December 06, 2011 11:29 AM:

    Whenever I used to see someone from Politico being used as a talking head on any news show on MSNBC, I knew that the company has demanded that--they are pure shills for the GOP. And I sped past them on my DVR.

    But even Olbermann still seems to be fooled by them on Current TV and that surprises me.

  • TCinLA on December 06, 2011 12:12 PM:

    To know all of this, and give this guy an award “Health Care Policymaker of the Year” anyway, is madness.

    No, it's not madness, at least not if you're a far right disinformation propaganda operation, which "The Politico" is. It's nice when they show their true stripes like this, makes it easier to identify them as The Enemy.

  • Marc on December 06, 2011 12:21 PM:

  • AndThenThere'sThat on December 06, 2011 12:43 PM:

    The more shocked and enraged you get, the better they like it. It's better to understand that, and ridicule the mindset every chance you get.

    Which is why I propose, henceforth, renaming the Politico "Health Care Policymaker of the Year" award to the Politico "Don't Get Sick And If You Do Die Quickly Policymaker of the Year" award.

    All in favor say aye.

  • gunste on December 06, 2011 1:03 PM:

    The award by Politico to Ryan turns a thoughtful reporting site into Comedy Central DC. It is quite analogous to Trump hosting a GOP debate. It would all be laughable, if the country were not in such dire straits and politics trump sensible governance at every turn.
    Our plutocratic oligarchy, claiming to be a Democracy, is on the ropes, just to benefit the top 1% incomes and corporate bottom lines.

  • keith on December 06, 2011 2:28 PM:

    Are you not aware that Politico is owned by a conservative billionaire? They have usually been remarkably fairminded, under the circumstances.

  • Aaron S. Veenstra on December 06, 2011 3:45 PM:

    Forget the merits of giving this award to Ryan for a moment. In what sense is it appropriate for Politico to be handing out Policymaker of the Year awards in the first place?

  • Kyle on December 06, 2011 3:49 PM:

    No different than Obama winning the nobel peace prize. It's all a mess.

  • Anonymous on December 07, 2011 12:31 AM:

    Didn't Paul Ryan vote for the Bush's medicare D and iraq war and vote against bowles-simpson deficit reduction plan?

    how do we not hold someone like him accountable for creating more deficits?
    worse, his budget plan doesn't even reduce debts according to CBOs and it did not pass beyond house.

    if we would award people for just having plans that didn't become laws,
    there are millions with great ideas for deficit plans as well.

  • Linda on December 07, 2011 5:59 AM:

    Silly you. You thought that "policy maker" was someone with real policy solutions, where the numbers fit together and everything. No, it's "newsmakers who generated the most page hits." If you understand that you're getting it.