October 8, 2012

Truth Test: Summers backs Ryan 'goal,' but ad takes some liberties

By Michael Shepherd mshepherd@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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TRUTH TEST is a feature of MaineToday Media's campaign coverage in which we cast a critical eye on the truthfulness of advertising and public comments by political candidates and groups.

FOR A ROUNDUP of all the Truth Tests we've conducted during the 2012 campaign season, click here.

Canter pointed to the benefits of the law that would go away if it were repealed and not replaced -- free preventive care for those on Medicare and the closing of a coverage gap for those getting prescription drugs, for example. In May, Bloomberg reported a study saying seniors would pay $20,000 more for medical care if it were repealed.

Summers hasn't said he wants to change Medicare like Ryan, who wants to privatize much of it. He has told the Press Herald that he differs with the Ryan plan on large Medicare cuts, which Brandewie reaffirmed Friday. But that's a big part of Ryan's plan: Bloomberg has said Medicare reductions total about $200 billion of the plan's projected $5 trillion spending reduction in its first 10 years.

Verdict: Summers hasn't indicated that he wants to cut Medicare, but repealing the Affordable Care Act will have that effect on benefits unless it is immediately replaced with something. In effect, if it cuts benefits, it cuts Medicare. 

We rate this statement true. 

• "Privatize Social Security" 

Summers said in 2008 he supports some privatization in Social Security. He does now too for future beneficiaries, but not those currently receiving benefits from the system, his campaign says.

Summers also answered a questionnaire in 2008, saying he supported allowing workers to put a portion of their payroll tax into a private account. Brandewie said the answer in 2008 applied to future beneficiaries, and Summers believes the same thing now.

Summers will protect Social Security "for those who've paid in and who are current beneficiaries," Brandewie wrote in an email. But because the system is unsustainable, "he's open to changes to new workers down the road," which includes "the option (to) put partial amounts into private savings accounts."

Ryan's budget plan also "could allow" for some Social Security privatization, according to the Miami Herald. The DSCC didn't cite that as an issue in its ad.

Verdict: Summers' campaign supported it in 2008, and he does now. It isn't full privatization for workers benefiting from Social Security, but it means he thinks those down the road should be able to privatize some of that money. The DSCC is right. 

We rate this statement true. 

• "Protect tax breaks for companies shipping jobs overseas." 

Canter, saying this was another claim relating to the Ryan budget, cited a March article in the Wall Street Journal that said Ryan's budget plan would lower the top corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent.

The newspaper reported that under current law American companies "pay the tax rate of the country where the outpost is located and then, if they bring those profits home, often pay some U.S. taxes as well." Under the Ryan proposal, companies essentially would pay just the tax rate of the country where the profits are earned.

But Summers also parts here. In an email, Brandewie said Summers "does not support that element of the Ryan plan." On taxes, he supports "closing all the loopholes and special exemptions, and lowering everyone's rates."

Verdict: The Democrats had reason to believe Summers supported this because of his assents to the Ryan plan, but he never came out publicly for or against it. We have to strike another compromise here: Summers hasn't been clear on how he differs with Ryan on his plan. 

We rate this statement half-true. 

This ad, relating to Summers' positions, is a mess, since his campaign revealed publicly for the first time to us his opposition to nitty-gritty parts of Ryan's plan.

Its claim of Summers' positions on health care cuts and Social Security are and have been demonstrably true, while its Head Start claim is based on egregious oversimplification of estimates without qualifiers. On the rest, the ad is off-base, but partly because Summers' stance on the Ryan plan hasn't been fleshed out in such detail. We have to call those pieces washes. 

We rate this ad half-true.

Staff Writer Michael Shepherd can be reached at 621-5632 or at:



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