poligraph-accurateIn the last days of the election campaign, the liberal group Alliance for a Better Minnesota is pouring money into the U.S. Senate race to try to make sure Republican Mike McFadden doesn’t defeat Sen. Al Franken.

The group’s latest spot, which is costing more than $480,000, targets McFadden for his views on how to sustain entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security.

“McFadden says he wants to raise Medicare’s retirement age and said he would consider privatizing Social Security. Privatizing Social Security means risking our retirement savings in the stock market. That might be good for Wall Street and millionaire investment bankers like McFadden, but not for us.”

For the most part, this ad is correct.

The Evidence

The Alliance for a Better Minnesota is a well-funded group that supports Democratic candidates. It gets most of its money from wealthy individual donors, including Gov. Mark Dayton’s ex-wife, and from unions.

The group’s latest ad against McFadden plays on two themes we’ve seen a lot of this year and in other election years: an appeal to seniors, some of the most reliable midterm election voters, and the proposition that McFadden, being wealthy, isn’t like most Minnesotans. (McFadden’s opponent, Sen. Al Franken, is wealthy, too.)

Earlier this year, McFadden told MinnPost that he would consider raising the eligibility age for Medicare. MinnPost reporter Eric Black had to drag it out of McFadden. Here’s the exchange:

MM: So on Medicare you’ve got two issues: you’ve got a demographic issue and a cost issue. And I think we need to look at the retirement age and what age an individual becomes eligible for Social Security, excuse me, for Medicare.

EB: Obviously look at raising it?

MM: Yeah. Absolutely. And you know, Eric, if we were progressive, when this was put into place when the average lifespan was significantly lower than it is today, you’d almost put it in as a formula, take the average lifespan minus some number of years.

McFadden doesn’t go so far as to say he will raise the Medicare eligibility age as the ABM ad states. But McFadden is clearly open to the idea.

It’s also true that McFadden said he would consider privatizing Social Security. To most, privatizing Social Security means having workers put their Social Security contributions into a personal account and then investing those funds to grow their retirement savings.

Here’s how McFadden responded to a question from MPR News’s Tom Scheck in an interview from July, 2013 regarding the programs sustainability.

MM: “Also, I’d like to see them have more choices in terms of how they think about their retirement plan and how they put dollars away.”

TS: “Does that include perhaps allowing some of that public money to be invested in the stock market, what some people say is privatization?”

MM: “Potentially. Potentially. I’d want to look at that Tom. I think everything needs to be on the table. We need to save these programs. They are important to our seniors.”

In both the case of Medicare and Social Security, McFadden is careful to say that any changes he’d support in the Senate to ensure the survival of both programs wouldn’t affect those who are nearing retirement, though he hasn’t said exactly who would be affected by the changes he’s considering supporting.

Whether privatizing Social Security is a good thing is a matter of debate between conservatives and liberals and has been for decades.

Back in 1997, Dan Mitchell of the conservative Heritage Foundation wrote that, “Replacing the payroll tax with a system of private savings accounts would boost the anemic level of savings in the United States. It also would boost the creation of jobs by sharply reducing the tax penalty imposed on employment.”

Meanwhile, around the same time, two experts at the Brookings Institution agreed that shifting to a private system could boost savings – but it may also be risky and come with disparities.

“The worker’s ultimate retirement benefit would depend solely on the size of the worker’s contributions and the success of the worker’s investment plan. Workers who made larger contributions would receive bigger pensions, other things equal,” the duo wrote.

The Verdict

The Alliance for a Better Minnesota’s ad says that McFadden will raise the eligibility age for Medicare. That’s not quite true, though McFadden has said he’s open to the idea to keep the program alive.

Aside from that nuance, the Alliance for a Better Minnesota’s ad gets McFadden’s record on entitlement programs mostly right. But it’s a matter of reasonable debate whether moving to a privatized retirement system is a good idea.

Good morning!

In Minnesota

The Republican Party of Minnesota today agreed to change a television campaign ad critical of Gov. Mark Dayton, after a woman complained about the use of her dead grandson’s picture. (MPR News)

Republican gubernatorial candidate Jeff Johnson is going up with three more ads before he faces off against Gov. Mark Dayton on Nov. 4. (MPR News)

In the final stretch of the campaign, the conservative Minnesota Jobs Coalition is targeting vulnerable House DFLers in a six-figure television ad buy. (MPR News)

Former Secretary of State and likely 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton rallied voters for Gov. Mark Dayton and Sen. Al Franken. (AP/MPR News)

Vice President Joe Biden did the same with 8th District Rep. Rick Nolan. (AP/MPR News)

NPR also covered Biden’s rally with Nolan. (NPR)

Gov. Dayton is taking heat for avoiding reporters with questions about a key insurance provider’s exit from the state’s health care exchange. (AP via KSTP)

National Politics

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy announced that streamlining government agencies will be a central goal in the new Congress. (Politico)

Cutting federal health and retirement spending has long been at the top of the GOP agenda. But with Republicans in striking distance of winning the Senate, they are suddenly blasting the idea of trimming Social Security benefits. (Washington Post)

Economic anxiety is a major undercurrent of this election. (Politico)

In the final stretch of the campaign, the conservative Minnesota Jobs Coalition is targeting vulnerable House DFLers in a six-figure television ad buy.

It is the group’s first television campaign and it will target eight competitive districts, said Minnesota Jobs Coalition chairman Ben Golnik. Republicans need to win seven seats to take control of the Minnesota House.

One of the group’s targets is Rep. Andrew Falk, who represents House District 17A near Murdock.

“Falk can run, but he can’t hide from his record of failed policies,” the ad states while images of Falk jogging away from a Jobs Coalition tracker flash across the screen. “Falk voted with Minneapolis liberals to bring Obamacare to Minnesota.”

Like the Republican Party of Minnesota, GOP candidates and their allies, the Jobs Coalition is capitalizing on the perception that Gov. Mark Dayton and the DFL Legislature have ignored the needs of greater Minnesota and are out-of-step with average voters.

Golnik said similar ads will run in House Districts 12A, represented by Rep. Jay McNamar, 2A, represented by Rep. Roger Erickson, and 10A, represented by Rep. John Ward.

Additional ads will focus on spending and tax increases in four suburban districts, including 42A, represented by Rep. Barb Yarusso, 56B, represented by Rep. Will Morgan, 42B which is represented by Rep. Jason Isaacson, and 36B represented by Rep. Melissa Hortman.

All of the Jobs Coalition targets are districts where Democrats narrowly won election in 2012 or where former presidential candidate Mitt Romney won two years ago.