TAMPA, FLA. -- Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan's acceptance speech may have wowed the delegates at the party's national convention here on Wednesday, but it drew instant scorn from his political opponents, who claimed it contained lies and distortions.
Among other charges, Ryan's critics argued it was misleading to criticize President Obama for cutting Medicare by $716 billion because Ryan also included those cuts in his own plan as chairman of the House Budget Committee. Also, critics charged that it was hypocritical to attack Obama's failure to act on a deficit commission plan that Ryan himself voted against.
These criticisms are likely to be repeated by Democrats when they meet in Charlotte, N.C., next week for their own convention. But they aren't quite so damning on closer inspection.
In his speech, Ryan said, "Even with all the hidden taxes to pay for the health care takeover, even with new taxes on nearly a million small businesses, the planners in Washington still didn't have enough money. They needed more. They needed hundreds of billions more. So, they just took it all away from Medicare."
The substance of this is true. Obama's national health care law is projected to spend about $1.7 trillion over a decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office. In order to finance that spending, the law increases taxes by about $1 trillion and reduces Medicare spending by $716 billion.
When Ryan took over as chairman of the House Budget Committee in January 2011, Obama's national health care legislation, with its Medicare cuts, was already the law of the land. That means that even though Ryan voted against the health care law and voted to repeal it on a number of occasions, it was already part of the budget yardstick used by Congress, the CBO's current law baseline.
"Because the Affordable Care Act was signed by the president into law, the budget chairman had no choice but to have those cuts in his baseline," Doug Holtz-Eakin, former CBO director and economic adviser to John McCain's 2008 campaign, told The Washington Examiner in a telephone interview Thursday.
Though Ryan factored the projected savings into his budget, he used those savings for debt reduction instead of using them for a new government program as Obama did.
In criticizing Obama's lack of action on the nation's debt problem, Ryan said, "He created a bipartisan debt commission. They came back with an urgent report. He thanked them, sent them on their way and then did exactly nothing."
Though it's true that Ryan served on the commission and voted against the final report, this doesn't negate his criticism of Obama. The reason is that throughout 2010, Obama touted the commission as a key part of his plan for reducing the nation's long-term debt. In July 2010, Obama vowed, "We have put forward a fiscal commission that is then going to examine how do we deal with these broader structural deficits. So this isn't just an empty promise."
Months after voting against the fiscal commission's recommendations, Ryan issued his own long-term budget plan, which contained even deeper spending cuts. By contrast, Obama not only ignored the recommendations of his own fiscal commission, but he also did not introduce a debt reduction plan of his own.
Obama's treasury secretary, Tim Geithner, conceded as much last April in an appearance before Ryan's Budget Committee. "We're not coming before you to say we have a definitive solution to that long-term problem," Geithner said. "What we do know is we don't like yours."