A Three Pinocchio Lie On Social Security And Medicare

KEY TAKEAWAY:  “As with the previous ad, this is another case of the kettle calling the pot black. It is a bit more policy-oriented than the Kentucky Opportunity Coalition ad, but these are attacks right out the Democratic playbook, based on the slimmest of reeds. Thus it is also worthy of Three Pinocchios.”

Senate Majority PAC’s Attack On Ernst
The Washington Post
Glenn Kessler
September 4, 2014
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/fact-checker/wp/2014/09/04/follow-the-money-say-ads-funded-by-big-money-groups/

“Follow the money. It’s the oldest rule in politics. Out of state oil billionaires, the Koch brothers, are spending millions supporting Jodi Ernst’s campaign. Why? Because Jody Ernst shares their priorities: a scheme privatizing Social Security and a plan cutting Medicare’s guaranteed benefit — all to pay for tax breaks for oil billionaires. Oil billionaires like the Koch brothers. So if Joni Ernst has got their back, we can’t trust her to protect ours.”

— voiceover of Senate Majority PAC ad

In this ad, the Senate Majority PAC (which has spent more than $25 million this election cycle on attack ads) is dishing it out against the big-money groups funded by the Koch brothers, which include Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Partners.

We will overlook the dubious claim that “follow the money” is the “oldest rule in politics.” As we noted, it only dates to 1976.

The ad tries to make the case that because Ernst, the GOP candidate for the open Iowa Senate seat, benefits from Koch-funded advertising, she will simply follow their policy prescriptions. Then the ad cites two of the Democrats’ favorite attack lines — support for privatization of Social Security and an end to Medicare’s guaranteed benefit. Supposedly, the savings from cutting entitlements would go to keep tax breaks for billionaires.

We have delved into these kinds of attacks in the past and generally found them to be huge stretches. In fact, Senate Majority PAC (and the companion House Majority PAC) appears to have a cookie-cutter approach, tossing out similar attacks no matter which Republican is running. (A spokesman provided nine pages of documentation for the ad’s claims, but much of evidence is tendentious.)

The reference to Social Security stems from a remark made by Ernst in a campaign forum about having a “discussion” about “looking at transitioning our younger workers onto individual plans or individual savings accounts [while] protecting our seniors.”

That’s a far cry from “privatizing” Social Security; in fact, it could be similar to a plan advocated by Al Gore when he was the Democratic nominee for president in 2000 — or Mitt Romney when he was the GOP nominee in 2012. In any case, even the voluntary plan advocated by President George W. Bush in 2005 was killed by his own party. As we noted earlier this year, “it’s time for Democrats to stop playing this particular scare-seniors card.”

The same goes for the Medicare claim, which is based on an old House GOP plan dating from 2011. (That’s why the ad has 2011 citations.) Ernst was not in Congress but as a state lawmaker voted against a resolution in the Iowa senate that opposed GOP Medicare proposals — a nonbinding vote clearly only designed as honey for attack ads.  The current version of the GOP plan, however, retains traditional Medicare as an option.

The Pinocchio Test

As with the previous ad, this is another case of the kettle calling the pot black. It is a bit more policy-oriented than the Kentucky Opportunity Coalition ad, but these are attacks right out the Democratic playbook, based on the slimmest of reeds. Thus it is also worthy of Three Pinocchios.

Three Pinocchios