PoliGraph: some caveats, but Obermueller’s ad holds up

Mike Obermueller, who is running against Republican Rep. John Kline in Minnesota’s 2nd Congressional District, says the budget Kline supports doesn’t add up.

“When John Kline voted for the Republican budget, I ran the numbers,” Obermueller said in a new ad.

“He would make seniors pay $6,400 a year more for their Medicare benefits so millionaires can pay $265,000 a year less in taxes. John Kline’s budget ends Medicare as we know it and ads $8 trillion to the deficit,” Obermueller goes on.

Obermueller bases this ad on reasonable estimates and data, but fails to point out the differences between the budgets he’s talking about.

The Evidence

Like Democrats across the country running for Congress this year, Obermueller is linking his Republican opponent to Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan’s Path to Prosperity proposals. Ryan is also Mitt Romney’s running mate, so his budget is getting a lot of scrutiny.

Ryan has introduced his budget proposal twice, once in 2011 and once this year, and both times Kline supported the legislation.

Both plans would have replaced the current Medicare 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. It’s a tactic to help drive down the deficit and the cost of health care.

Based on a 2011 report by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, at least two think tanks have found that Ryan’s plan would have increased average annual Medicare costs for future seniors around that much. That’s because Ryan’s Medicare “premium support” wouldn’t have kept up with the cost of health care.

But Ryan tweaked his latest version of the plan to assuage concerns about his premium support proposal. The impact hasn’t been analyzed by the CBO, so it’s hard to say whether seniors would have to pay more for Medicare under the latest version of the plan.

Obermueller also says the budget would allow millionaires to “pay $265,000 a year less in taxes,” which comes from the Tax Policy Center, an organization that critiques tax plans from both sides of the aisle. That figure assumes current tax cuts are extended, and the Center cautions that the number is a ballpark figure because some of Ryan’s proposal is too vague to account for.

In his ad, Obermueller also accuses Kline of supporting a budget that “ends Medicare as we know it,” another popular talking point among Democrats.

It’s a fair statement. Ryan’s latest budget would replace the current Medicare system with premium support. And while it would include Medicare as an option for future seniors, it’s not clear that Medicare would necessarily be among the most affordable coverage options.

Lastly, Obermueller claims that the first version of the Ryan budget would increase the deficit by $8 trillion over 10 years. We’ll assume that Obermueller meant to say that Ryan’s budget would increase the nation’s debt by $8 trillion, which is true according to Ryan’s first budget proposal.

That figure includes things like the Medicare and Social Security trust funds. Debt held by the public, which includes only federal debt held by individuals, corporations and governments, would increase by about $5.7 trillion.

In the latest version of his budget plan, Ryan doesn’t give any information on how much the nation’s total debt would increase, but he does estimate that debt held by the public would increase by about $4 trillion over 10 years.

The Verdict

By and large, Obermueller’s ad is correct. But PoliGraph quibbles with some aspects of the spot.

First, Obermueller is not talking about a budget plan Kline authored, he’s talking about Ryan’s budget plan, which Kline voted for.

Secondly, he mixes aspects of Ryan’s first plan, such as Medicare costs for seniors, with Ryan’s second plan, which included changes to make sure seniors don’t have to pay so much for coverage.

But in the end, Kline voted for both proposals, so Obermueller’s ad leans toward accurate.


Mike Obermueller, “Numbers,” Oct. 18, 2012

MPR News, PoliGraph: Fact-checking the 8th CD debate, by Catharine Richert, Oct. 12,2012

THOMAS, Roll call vote 277, April 15, 2011

THOMAS, Roll call vote 151, March 29, 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

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

PolitiFact, Barack Obama ad says Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan could raise costs for Medicare beneficiaries by $6,000 each, by Louis Jacobson, Aug. 23, 2012

The Kaiser Family Foundation, Proposed Changes to Medicare in the “Path to Prosperity,” April 2011

The Tax Policy Center, House Republican Budget Plan without Unspecified Base Broadeners; Baseline: Current Policy; Distribution of Federal Tax Change by Cash Income Level, 2015, April 9, 2011

Roll Call, Both parties see Ryan budget as gift, By Steven T. Dennis and Anna Palmer, April 6, 2011

Interview, Joe Rosenberg, Tax Policy Center, Oct. 24, 2012

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