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September 16th, 2010
12:19 PM ET

Political Theater: Did Sestak vote to gut Medicare?

Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

(CNN) - Grabbing a U.S. Senate seat is never easy, and it can be particularly challenging in a big, beefy political state like Pennsylvania which politicos nationwide watch for voting trends. So even when Rep. Joe Sestak knocked off long-time Sen. Arlen Specter in the Democratic primary, Sestak knew he would have to run a gauntlet all the way down to the general election.

One of the latest landmines: A commercial from the camp of Karl Rove, the renowned Republican strategist. Rove has formed a group called American Crossroads GPS and it is going after Democratic contenders, especially on the issue of the health care bill.

The ad leveled at Sestak, who is up against Republican Pat Toomey, is one example.

"We're hurting, but what are they doing in Washington?" the announcer says over a photo-shopped caricature of Sestak dining in a fancy restaurant, "Congressman Joe Sestak voted for Obama's big government health care scheme, billions in job killing taxes, and higher insurance premiums for hard hit families. Even worse, Sestak voted to gut Medicare, a $500 billion cut; reduced benefits for 850,000 Pennsylvania seniors."

So what's well done and what's too hard to swallow from all that is being served up here?

For starters, yes, Congressman Sestak voted for the president's health care reform package. Whether it was a "scheme" is in the eyes of the beholder; but $525 billion in job killing taxes? The Congressional Budget Office now estimates the total tax hike at $643 billion, and whether that will cost jobs or not is unclear. Republicans cite economists who say higher taxes force companies to limit growth, or even cut back and that would certainly mean fewer jobs. Democrats argue that since more people will have access to health care that will create more employment in clinics, doctors' offices, pharmacies and all their related industries. Without a reliable crystal ball, we don't know right now which side - if either - will be proven right by the passing years. So to characterize the taxes as definitively "job killing" is a stretch.

The CBO says health care reform will raise insurance premiums for some families by $2100 a year. But the measure also provides subsidies that will reduce the net impact of that bill on family budgets, in many cases to a point much lower than what they are paying now. The ad conveniently omits that little bit of arithmetic.

Did Sestak vote to gut Medicare? The CBO says health reform will mean a 7 percent reduction in the growth of Medicare over the next ten years. Merriam-Webster says gutting is about eviscerating, or extracting all the essential elements out of something. So unless Medicare is in a lot worse shape than we know, this is certainly not a gutting.

And what about those 850,000 seniors reeling from their Medicare benefits cuts? Kaiser says that is roughly the number of Pennsylvania seniors enrolled in Medicare Advantage. That's an extra level of benefits above regular Medicare that seniors can opt into, and yes, Medicare Advantage is being cut back, but they'll still get their full, regular Medicare benefits. This is the closest of all the claims in this ad to pure truth, and it's not really all that close.

So after digging through all of this, weighing the facts and fallacies, and tossing it onto our Sliding Scale of Truth, our verdict: This ad falls somewhere between It's a Stretch and a Tall Tale.

Earlier: DNC v. John Boehner


Filed under: Raw Politics • Tom Foreman
soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. Kim Thornton

    Karl Rove perpetrating lies and deception on the American electorate? Gee, what a surprise. Glad to see nothing's really changed for the GOP.

    September 17, 2010 at 8:20 am |
  2. Annie Kate

    I haven't seen any cuts in Medicare and Social Security disability yet – when did that happen? I don't think we need to be cutting benefits to those who are too old or disabled to work but had worked for years contributing to the funds so they would have some help when they needed it. I haven't seen any cuts for the rich – why is it always those of us who can't afford the cuts or the increased taxes that get hurt?

    September 16, 2010 at 10:12 pm |
  3. Gordon

    I'm told that as soon as the proposed new Medicare cuts go into effect, 40% of the cardiologists that service my hospital will retire. They're close enough so that working for what Medicare will pay won't be worth it. Lots of docs in that situation.
    Whch means there will be a lot of people without doctors.
    Which means the ED's will get busier.
    Which means Hospitals will go broke - they can't provide care for what Medicare proposes to pay.
    When the hospitals close, we all get to go to gummint clinics.

    Sounds like a good plan to me. Especially if you are in government and the rules don't apply to you.

    September 16, 2010 at 5:56 pm |
  4. Gail Samples

    My husband is on Social Security Disability and his payments have not been cut in half. As for job killing taxes-get real the jobs are already gone and guess what-all under the Bush tax cuts! We all have to realize that these people say anything, do anything, and pay anybody to get into office. And just why is that does anybody suppose? Why are millions, even billions, spent to get into a job that pays a fraction of that amount? Just what do these guys get on the side that is worth the money and dishonesty they spend on getting the job?

    September 16, 2010 at 5:48 pm |
  5. Pamela Gentry

    I get disability & have medicare, I would love any information that I can get regarding changes on both.

    September 16, 2010 at 3:12 pm |
  6. ivan hambley

    Registered Republician and disappointed in the AD by Karl Rowe Organization distorting the truth about Congressman Sesak. The effects of the Health Care package is yet unknown. The distortion by the AD is next to criminal. Seek the truth and vote for what is best for America..

    September 16, 2010 at 12:56 pm |
  7. Diane N.

    I don't know, but somebody sure gutted disability. In half!

    September 16, 2010 at 12:46 pm |