Monday, April 30, 2012

FACT CHECK: Natl Republicans Earn An "F" On Ad Attacking Arizona Democrat; Frequently Debunked Claims

The new NRCC (National Republican Congressional Committee) attack ad airing in southern Arizona for the special election to replace retired Rep. Gabrielle Giffords implores voters not to "send Obama and Pelosi a rubber stamp" by electing Democratic nominee Ron Barber.  However, their ad provides something of a "rubber stamp" of a frequently-used Republican claim that has been frequently found to be false.

We transcribed the ad in our previous post, but will paste it here, too:

(clip of Barber)  "...Because I've seen what we need to do: rebuild our middle class."(serious female announcer)  That sounds nice, but Ron Barber supported the same failing agenda that has hurt Arizona.  Barber supported Obamacare, which cuts $500 billion in Medicare and puts a board of unelected bureaucrats in charge.  Positions on the issues matter.  We can't send Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi a rubber stamp.  The National Republican Congressional Committee is responsible for the content of this advertising. 

The claim about "the same failing agenda that has hurt Arizona" is a bit difficult to fact check.  It is unclear what it refers to specifically, and "failing" and "hurt" can be somewhat of "an eye of the beholder" situation.  There is no doubt that Arizona/Arizonans - like the rest of the country and the world - has sufferered as a result of the economy.  It is indisputable that that economy - and Arizona's housing bubble, in particular - started to burst while Obama was campaigning and there was a Republican in the White House and an Arizona Republican running against Obama.  Many Republicans do try to muddy the timeline and do dispute whether his policies (both attempted and what he was able to from Congress) were the best for our economy.

However, there is no such problem in fact checking the claims about Medicare, and both are false or, at best, very misleading.  Republicans have been using the "cuts $500 billion in Medicare" claim for the last two years and every fact-checking found it to be "false".  To summarize their analyses - which I encourage you to check out - the healthcare insurance reform law now widely known as "Obamacare" attempts to slow future increases in spending on Medicare but does not make cuts to benefits or current spending.*

The "board of unelected bureaucrats in charge" has some basis in fact but is very misleading.  The law does set up the Independent Medicare Advisory Board, which is what the ad is apparently alluding to.  However, the board is neither "unelected bureaucrats" nor "in charge."  The IMAB will be made up of people from many different walks of life and specialties - including health insurance companies, employers, consumers and the elderly - they are appointed by the President with input from leaders of both parties in each house of Congress, and they have term limits.  (Read pages 502-504 of the PPACA.)  In addition, any proposals that this Board comes up with are submitted to Congress for consideration, and they cannot propose reducing Medicare payment rates before 2018. (Read pages 491 forward, at the link above.)

As for the rubber stamp claim, that is a matter of opinion, given that there is no track record to see how he will vote if he is elected in the June special election.  (Realistically, there will probably be even fewer key votes between June and the November election than at other times.)  But, Barber has indicated that the law "is far from perfect" and need to be revised.  That may or may not make him a non-rubber stamp, because it is unlikely that Obama and Pelosi feel that the law is perfect, either, and the latter two might actually encourage Barber to propose amendments if elected.

But, the overall ad against Barber continues to spout scare lines that have been repeatedly denounced as false and misleading.  Repeating proven false-isms do not turn them into truths, and it is not only maddeningly annoying, but should be met with well-publicized venom.

For that, the NRCC ad deserves not just one "F", but three.  In this case, the "FFF" grade stands for "False with Freakin' Frequency".

* A good paragraph from one PolitiFact article:  "The projected $500 billion in savings will come from changes that include higher insurance premiums for wealthier seniors, reductions in payments for Medicare Advantage plans, a new panel to oversee reimbursement rates, and a slowing of increases in payment rates to hospitals and other service providers each year. (Neuman explains the changes in a video tutorial on the Kaiser Family Foundation's website.)" 

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