Tom Foreman | BIO
(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
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