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Tammy Baldwin and Leah Vukmir

Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin, left, and Republican challenger Leah Vukmir are shown here before a debate Oct. 8 at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. They also debated Oct. 13 in Wausau. Vukmir has claimed that under Baldwin's plan, "Medicare goes away," which is an outrageous lie. Baldwin has countered Vukmir's deceptive claims and pointed out that the study Vukmir cited "actually shows that doing nothing would cost more.” PHOTO BY MICHAEL SEARS VIA ASSOCIATED PRESS

Donald Trump and the Republican candidates he is struggling to shore up in the election are so afraid of the momentum in favor of Medicare-for-all that they are now lying about this practical, economical, and morally necessary health care reform. It is always troubling when a president lies. It is also troubling when the media amplify those lies. But the fact that USA Today published a repurposed set of partisan talking points from the president as an op-ed piece last week — under the scorchingly dishonest headline “Democrats (sic) ‘Medicare for All’ plan will demolish promises to seniors” — should be read as evidence that the movement to replace health care profiteering with a single-payer health care system is winning.

The president and his partisan mandarins are agitated about the momentum that the movement for Medicare-for-all has gained in recent years — so agitated that they are making up arguments against a reform that the August Reuters-Ipsos survey found 70 percent of Americans (85 percent of Democrats, 52 percent of Republicans) now support.

With their desperate lies about Medicare-for-all, Trump and his fellow Republicans are inviting a debate that they will lose.

Trump’s opinion piece was nothing more than a rehash of the frantic line of attack that Republican strategists have been spinning out for the party’s candidates in congressional races around the country. The presidential diatribe was so riddled with inaccuracies that Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler determined that “almost every sentence contained a misleading statement or a falsehood.”

In a transparent attempt to scare seniors, Trump claimed that proposals to expand the popular Medicare program to cover all Americans “would end Medicare as we know it and take away benefits that seniors have paid for their entire lives.”

That’s the same line that Republican Senate candidates have been peddling in recent weeks as part of a desperate attempt to lie their way into competition against Democratic incumbents who believe that every American has a right to get needed care without being forced into bankruptcy by corporate racketeers. Last week, when U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., faced her conservative challenger in their first debate, Republican Leah Vukmir attacked the incumbent for backing Medicare-for-all legislation sponsored by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

“Senator Baldwin’s plan is going to gut everything. Everything!” ranted the right-wing state senator.

Vukmir hit a fever pitch as she turned toward Baldwin and claimed that “under her plan, Medicare goes away.”

That is an outrageous lie.

But Baldwin did not make the audience wait for the fact checkers to call Vukmir out.

The senator settled the matter immediately, by administering a dose of logic. “Leah Vukmir, unfortunately, thinks that expansion of Medicare gets rid of Medicare,” explained Baldwin.

Vukmir may not be the ablest advocate for the insurance industry, which she has served for so many years as a conservative state legislator and a national leader of the corporate-funded American Legislative Exchange Council. But she’s good at mimicry. Her bumbling recitation of anti-reform talking points echoed that of Republican candidates across the country — including embattled incumbents such as Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

The talking points come straight from the president, who is now claiming that building on the successful model of Medicare “would eviscerate Medicare.”

Trump and Vukmir are also trying to confuse Americans regarding the cost of reform. In his op-ed, Trump asserted that the Sanders plan “would cost an astonishing $32.6 trillion during its first 10 years,” without acknowledging the whole story of the study — by the Koch-funded Mercatus Center at George Mason University — from which his numbers are drawn. That study determined that, under the Medicare-for-all plan proposed by Sanders, Baldwin and other progressive senators, “national personal health care costs decrease by less than 2 percent, while total health expenditures decrease by only 4 percent, even after assuming substantial administrative cost savings.”

That’s right. A report that was supposed to discredit the single-payer solution found that, even after the benefits of a Medicare-for-all program are realized — ”additional health care demand that arises from eliminating co-payments, providing additional categories of benefits, and covering the currently uninsured” — it would cost less than maintaining the current system.

That was a point Baldwin made in the first Wisconsin debate, where she countered Vukmir’s deceptive claims — and, by extension, the half-truths the president is now peddling — by explaining, “The study that you cite actually shows that doing nothing would cost more.”

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Health care professionals agree. “What even this corporate-funded study concedes is that we can actually guarantee health care for everyone in this country, without the devastating, rising costs of premiums, deductibles, and co-pays — at less than we spend as a nation today on health costs,” said National Nurses United Co-president Jean Ross, RN.

Sanders has actually thanked the Koch brothers “for accidentally making the case for Medicare-for-all!” Now, the senator can thank Donald Trump for turning attention to the movement for genuine health care reform and providing an opportunity to counter the president’s “numerous lies about Medicare-for-all.”

Like Baldwin, Sanders is ready for that debate.

“No, Mr. President,” Sanders declared after reading Trump’s opinion piece on Wednesday. “Our proposal would not cut benefits for seniors on Medicare. In fact, we expand benefits. Millions of seniors today cannot afford the dental care, vision care or hearing aids they desperately need because Medicare does not cover these vitally important needs. Our proposal covers them. In addition, Medicare-for-all would eliminate deductibles and co-pays for seniors, and significantly lower the cost of prescription drugs.”

That’s a winning argument. And it will prevail.

As Sanders said, “The time is now for the United States to join every other major country on Earth and guarantee health care to every American as a right not a privilege, and Donald Trump, the insurance companies and the drug companies will not stop us.”

John Nichols is associate editor of The Capital Times. and @NicholsUprising. 

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