PoliGraph: Fact-checking the 8th CD debate

This week, contestants in the state’s hottest race – and one of the hottest in the country – debated the issues for the first time.

Republican Rep. Chip Cravaack and his DFL opponent Rick Nolan are miles apart on the economy, health care and regulations. PoliGraph looked at four claims from the debate that highlight those differences.

“Congressman Cravaack has voted repeatedly to end Medicare as we know it, increasing costs for our elderly.” – Nolan

Medicare is a central issue to the 8th district race. As a way to endear themselves to elderly voters both camps are accusing each other of wanting to gut the program.

Nolan is referring to Cravaack’s votes for Republican Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget proposals. Both plans would have replaced the current system with “premium support”- federal dollars given to those who are currently 55 or younger to help pay for a private plan of their choosing.

The first version of Ryan’s plan did not include Medicare as a coverage option, and the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the proposal would cost future seniors $6,400 annually because the premium supports wouldn’t keep up with the cost of health care.

The latest version of Ryan’s plan does include Medicare as a coverage option. The Congressional Budget Office hasn’t said whether there are additional costs. And because of the way the latest iteration of Ryan’s Medicare plan is written, it’s not clear that Medicare would necessarily be among the most affordable coverage options.

Nolan chose his words carefully, saying that Cravaack voted to end Medicare as we know it. He didn’t want to fall into the same trap other Democrats did when they accused Republicans of wanting to eliminate Medicare, which PolitiFact named it their “Lie of the Year.”

Experts are reasonably torn about what Ryan’s proposal would mean for seniors. And while it’s important to stress that Ryan’s proposal wouldn’t eliminate coverage for seniors, Nolan isn’t unreasonable to say that the plan would mean notable changes for Medicare.

“I’m proud to say that I’ve only missed less than 1 percent of the votes in Washington” – Cravaack

Part of Cravaack’s campaign strategy has been to emphasize his commitment to the district. To underscore that point, Cravaack said in his opening statement that he’s rarely missed votes since being elected.

And he’s correct. According to GovTrack.com and numbers pulled from the Washington Post vote tracker, Cravaack has missed 9 of 1550 votes, or less than 1 percent.

“We’ve having one of the biggest tax increases on Americans because of Obamacare.” – Cravaack

This claim is frequently repeated by people who oppose the health care law. It’s true there are significant tax increases in the health care bill, including penalties that people who reject coverage will pay the federal government.

Jerry Tempalski, an analyst with the Treasury Department, looked at various tax increases since 1940, and measured them in raw dollars, inflation adjusted dollars and as percent of GDP, which Tempalski says is best because “it eliminates the effects of inflation, real economic growth, and the size of total federal receipts.”

According to his analysis, the act is the sixth largest tax increase since 1968 among the 21 most significant increases Tempalski looked at.

Other fact-checking organizations have rated similar claims false because those who made the statement called Obamacare the largest tax increase in history or in America. But as Nolan did with his Medicare claim, Cravaack carefully couched this statement, saying it was one of the largest. And that’s a fair statement.

“Congressman Cravaack has voted repeatedly to provide more tax cuts for the super rich in this country, and additionally provide tax cuts for the big multi-nationals to outsource and move their manufacturing overseas.” – Nolan

Once again, Nolan is pointing to the Ryan budget to make his case.

It’s true that the Ryan’s proposal would lower the top tax for individuals and corporations from 35 percent to 25 percent, and create two individual tax rates – 10 percent and 25 percent.

But the Tax Policy Center, which regularly analyzes tax plans from the right and the left, estimated that the changes would result in a tax benefit for the wealthy.

The Ryan plan also contained a provision that would have created a territorial tax system, meaning U.S. companies making money overseas wouldn’t pay U.S. taxes if they brought those profits home. Some tax experts say Ryan’s approach would prompt U.S. companies to move their domestic operations overseas to lower taxed countries.

Cravaack voted in favor of the Ryan plan, as well as a separate bill that would have effectively done the same thing.

The Minnesota DFL also points to other votes Cravaack cast, such as one against a bill that would have required companies to say how many of their jobs are based overseas. That’s not a tax break, but the Minnesota DFL, which provided sourcing on Nolan’s claim, believes it underscores Cravaack’s support for job outsourcing.

And it’s also important to point out that Cravaack successfully included an amendment in the latest highway bill that would boost the U.S. steel industry and U.S. steel jobs.

So, Nolan’s claim isn’t entirely unreasonable, but he exaggerates a bit by saying Cravaack voted “repeatedly” and he glosses over the fact that Cravaack has supported other legislation that would help keep jobs in America.


MPR News, Cravaack and Nolan hold spirited, respectful debate, by Mark Zdechlik, Oct. 9. 2012

U.S. House Budget Committee, Path to Prosperity: Fiscal Year 2012, accessed Oct. 11, 2012

U.S. House Budget Committee, Path to Prosperity: Fiscal Year 2013, accessed Oct. 9, 2012

PolitiFact.com, Did Republicans vote to end Medicare as we know it?, By Angie Drobnic Holan, Aug. 23, 2012

The Kaiser Family Foundation, Comparison of Medicare Premium Support Proposals, accessed Oct. 11, 2012

Congressional Budget Office, Updated Estimates for the Insurance Coverage

Provisions of the Affordable Care Act, March 2012

The Congressional Budget Office, Long-Term Analysis of a Budget Proposal by Chairman Ryan, April 5, 2011

GovTrack.us, Voting Record: Rep. Chip Cravaack, accessed Oct. 11, 2012

PolitiFact.com, Limbaugh, GOP have it wrong: Health care law is not the largest tax increase ever, by Aaron Sharockman, June 28, 2012

Minnesota Public Radio, Campaign against Obama and health care to focus on taxes, by Tom Scheck, June 29, 2012

Department of Treasury: Office of Tax Analysis, Revenue Effects of Major Tax Bills

Updated Tables for all 2010 Bills, by Jerry Tempalski, June 2011

FactCheck.org, Biggest Tax Increase in History?, July 10, 2012

ABC News, Budget hawk: A closer look at the Ryan plan, by Liz Goodwin, Aug. 11, 2012

TaxVox, Paul Ryan’s budget plan more big tax cuts for the rich, March 23, 2012

The National Journal, Ryan slashes tax rates in his budget, March 19, 2012

The Tax Foundation, Paul Ryan’s budget plan, accessed Oct. 11, 2012

TaxVox, Growing Consensus on Corporate Tax Reform? Not So Much, by Howard Gleckman, February 28, 2012

U.S. House, Roll Call vote: HR 6169, Aug. 2, 2012

Rep. Chip Cravaack, Cravaack ‘Buy America’ Steel Amendment Passed Under Long-Term Reauthorization & Reform of Federal Surface Transportation Programs, July 2, 2012

  • Stacie Bosley

    Please be careful to preserve the nuances of complex topics when “fact-checking”. When other news outlets covered Tempalski’s analysis they discussed the types of taxes and penalties and the tax incidence – the “who pays what and why” aspect – which your reporter failed to discuss. I am a devoted MPR listener and sustainer and I expect more than a True/False discussion of vital issues!