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Is the Medicare debate elevated or enervating?

The selection of Paul Ryan as Mitt Romney’s running mate promised a clear, above-board debate over budgetary choices. The Obama-Biden ticket foresees some cuts in entitlement spending combined with higher taxes for the wealthy. Romney-Ryan proposes across-the-board tax cuts combined with more sweeping changes in entitlements, including turning Medicaid into a block grant to states and giving future Medicare recipients vouchers to buy insurance on the private market.

So it was both puzzling and dispiriting to see Romney standing in front of a white board last week, pointing out that Obama has sliced $716 billion from Medicare while Romney-Ryan would restore full funding. These claims defy fact-checking because almost any provision, looked at in the abstract, can be presented as either a cut or an attempt to deliver benefits more efficiently. (This is true with both the Obamacare cut in Medicare reimbursements and Romney’s voucher plan.)

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