Monday, April 30, 2012

CD8: The Surrogates Battle in Race To Finish Giffords' Term

Posted By on Mon, Apr 30, 2012 at 12:00 PM

As we mentioned in last week's feature story about the race between Democrat Ron Barber and Republican Jesse Kelly to finish Gabrielle Giffords' term, we're likely to see a lot of national money pouring into the district.

The National Republican Campaign Committee rolled into town over the weekend with a TV ad that hits Democrat Ron Barber on a standard GOP talking point: Obamacare is bad. The NRCC started out with a $150,000 buy of ad time and doubled it to $300,000, according to press reports.

The National Democratic Campaign Committee responded with an ad hitting Kelly for saying that he'd "love to eliminate" Social Security and supports phasing out Medicare. The DCCC is spending $150,000 to air the ad, matching the original buy by the NRCC.

The NRCC ad makes two claim that have been declared "false" by Politifact.

The first is the question of whether Obamacare cuts Medicare by $500 billion. This is a frequent GOP attack line that Politifact has repeatedly rated as false:

There’s a small bit of truth here. The Affordable Care Act does reduce Medicare spending by $500 billion over the next 10 years. But here’s the catch: Those dollars aren’t taken out of the current budget, they are not actual cuts, and nowhere does the bill actually eliminate any current benefits.

The $500 billion is all in future spending reductions and come through the law’s attempts to slow projected growth, not cut spending.

PolitiFact National has highlighted the biggest bits of savings: About $220 billion comes from reducing annual increases in Medicare payments to health care providers. Another $36 billion comes from increasing premiums for higher-income beneficiaries. Administrative changes land another $12 billion in savings. A new national board is set to come up with $15.5 billion in savings — but can’t get those savings from a reduction in benefits. The last big chunk of $136 billion comes in changes to the Medicare Advantage program, which has become more expensive than initially anticipated.

Still, given all these changes, Medicare spending is expected to increase — something we pointed out in our fact check on Bruun a year ago. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projects Medicare spending will reach $929 billion in 2020, up from $499 billion in actual spending in 2009.

The claim that Democrats voted to cut $500 billion from Medicare is especially amusing when you consider that the Ryan budget that GOP members in the House overwhelmingly supported earlier this year includes those same reductions in spending growth. (Kelly, who is far more cautious about what he says to the press in this year's campaign, declined to say whether he'd support the Ryan budget when we asked him about it during the GOP primary.)

FWIW, Barber said last week that he would not support cuts to Medicare benefits.

The second claim is that Obamacare "puts a board of unelected bureaucrats in charge." That's a reference to the Patient Advisory Board, which has been a frequent target of attack by Republicans. Politifact has rated those attacks "False."

The DCCC references statements that Kelly made to the Tucson Weekly in a lengthy interview regarding Social Security and Medicare, in which he expressed a desire to do away with both programs over time.

We have no first-hand experience with the third claim in the DCCC ad, which is that Kelly would cut taxes for millionaires in half. But Kelly has expressed support for the elimination of corporate taxes and a 10 percent flat tax for all Americans, which would indeed be a major tax cut for most of America's wealthiest citizens, given that individuals who now earn more than roughly $194,000 in adjusted gross income are in a 35 percent tax bracket.

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