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Gene Lyons: Romney’s bold-faced lie

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People who lie a lot also tend to whine a lot, particularly when their prevarications are exposed. As a presidential candidate, Mitt Romney gives the impression of never having been in a fair fight. He’s remarkably thin-skinned for somebody in public life.

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Everybody expects politicians to embellish the truth, but Romney’s epic misrepresentations continue to astonish. Yet he appears flabbergasted that anybody’s allowed to talk back. Why, my dear fellow, it simply isn’t done!

Maybe this works in the executive suites and country clubs where Romney’s spent his life. But it’s a dubious strategy in an American presidential campaign. Regarding his taxes, for example, Romney could easily quell suspicion that he’s hiding something politically disqualifying. Release five years’ worth of returns (half the number President Obama’s put on the record), and move on.

Instead, he essentially demands that voters take his gentleman’s word that he’s never paid less than (a meager) 13 percent in taxes. However, his recent statement didn’t specify “federal income taxes,” a significant omission for somebody who made his fortune manipulating the tax code. If Romney’s arrived at the 13 percent figure by combining state, local, sales, excise, as well as real estate taxes on his several mansions, voters deserve to know.

Reporters should also ask, straight up, if Romney took advantage of the IRS’s 2009 one-time amnesty for money hidden in foreign bank accounts.

Yes or no?

But Romney’s taxes are trivial compared to the ugly falsehoods his campaign’s spreading about Medicare — sowing fear and division among seniors in a transparent attempt to divert attention from his and Paul Ryan’s plan to “save” the program by turning it from a guaranteed insurance benefit to a privatized voucher system.

Here’s the script of a new TV ad the Romney campaign’s running:

“You paid into Medicare for years. Every paycheck. Now, when you need it, Obama has cut $716 billion from Medicare. Why? To pay for Obamacare. So now the money you paid for your guaranteed health care is going to a massive new government program that’s not for you.”

Got that? Your benefits, paid for by your Medicare taxes, are supposedly being taken away and given to others. In case that’s too subtle, Romney himself has said “there’s only one president that I know of in history that has robbed Medicare.” He told an audience in Ohio that Obama “has taken $716 billion out of the Medicare trust fund. He’s raided that trust fund.

“And do you know what he did with it? He used it to pay for Obamacare, a risky, unproven federal takeover of health care.”

On “Meet the Press,” Republican National Committee Chairman Rience Priebus declared, “This president stole ... $700 billion from Medicare to fund Obamacare. If any person in this entire debate has blood on their hands in regard to Medicare, it’s Barack Obama.”

Robbed, stole, raided, blood on his hands.

Then who IS Obamacare for, if not for you and yours?

A recent letter to my local newspaper spelled out what Romney’s too tasteful to say: “obese, lay-about, cigarette-smoking, drug-taking, welfare-sucking, emergency-room-visiting no-accounts ... (who) expect the government to provide them everything for free.”

That’s right, THEM.

THEY are getting YOUR benefits.

Of course, Romney’s smart enough to understand what the letter writer clearly doesn’t, which is that YOU’VE ALWAYS PAID for others’ medical care in the most wasteful, inefficient way possible. No matter who’s elected, you’ll keep paying until Congress passes a law saying hospitals can refuse sick and injured patients who can’t pay. Which would not only be immoral, but a public health menace.

That’s why Massachusetts has “Romneycare,” the only worthwhile accomplishment of Mitt’s public career, which he now wants people to forget.

Romney’s also smart enough to know that not a single dime has been robbed, stolen or otherwise removed from the Medicare trust fund. Indeed, its life has been extended. Nobody’s benefits have been altered in any way.

It’s a lie so craven and demagogic you’d think even Mitt Romney would be embarrassed.

What the Affordable Care Act does do is something conservatives have long clamored for: It cuts not benefits, but Medicare’s future costs by roughly 10 percent (or $700 billion) over a 10-year period by A.) reducing corporate subsidies to insurance companies administering Medicare Advantage plans, and B.) slowing the rate of growth in payments to hospitals.

Furthermore, the health care industry agreed to these changes during negotiations over the new law: insurance companies because they’re gaining millions of new customers; hospitals because Obamacare virtually eliminates their huge problem of non-paying patients.

Got that? Because almost everybody will have health insurance under Obamacare, hospitals, private insurance companies, Medicare and Medicaid alike can quit robbing Peter to pay Paul, effecting significant savings.

These economies are in your interest whether you’re a Medicare beneficiary or not.

That is, if you’re clear-eyed enough to see through the Republican candidate’s shameless falsehoods.

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Gene Lyons, Arkansas Times columnist, is at eugenelyons2@yahoo.com.

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