Foul called on Medicare claim in Stabenow attack on Hoekstra

MICHIGAN TRUTH SQUAD ANALYSIS: “The Truth About Pete Hoekstra” and “Through Me”

Who: Stabenow for U.S. Senate

What: TV ad and website pages

Truth Squad call: Foul

The campaign material for incumbent U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, attacks Republican Senate candidate Pete Hoekstra for his stand on Medicare, abortion, taxes and other issues.

Questionable statement: “Hoekstra supports a plan that would turn Medicare into a voucher program and force seniors to pay $6,400 more out of pocket every year.”

Hoekstra told a Tea Party gathering he would “embrace” the Medicare proposal forwarded by Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, which would partially privatize Medicare by creating a voucher system for future retirees who are now under the age of 55. The statement refers to a report by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities that calculates a $6,400 cost gap to a typical beneficiary by 2022 under the Ryan plan. The calculation is based on an estimate by the Congressional Budget Office.

But as detailed by PolitiFact, that calculation was off of Ryan's original Medicare plan. He has since revised the details. PolitiFact could not make an explicit determination on a cost gap figure, though its analysis indicated that the gap under the revised Ryan plan would be less than $6,400.

Questionable statement: “Hoekstra wants to outlaw birth control and ban abortion even in the case of rape and incest.”

The website notes Hoekstra's backing of a so-called “personhood” amendment that would establish that life begins at fertilization. According to analysis by the Washington Post, such legislation could ban IUDs, emergency contraception and other hormonal forms of birth control. It would ban virtually all abortions, including those that are the result of rape or incest.

Hoekstra opposes abortion in the case of rape or incest, though a spokesman said he makes an exception to save the life of the mother.

Questionable statement: “Hoekstra wants to let Lansing politicians appoint U.S. senators.”

The statement is a reference to Hoekstra's suggestion that consideration be given to repeal of the 17th Amendment, which provides for direct election of U.S. senators. The issue was reported earlier this year in Roll Call. Prior to passage of the 17th Amendment in 1913, senators were appointed by state legislators amid reports of corruption tainting the process. Hoekstra said the direct election of senators had “led to an erosion of states' rights.”

Questionable statement: “Hoekstra goes from Congress to a Washington lobbying firm.”

After nine terms in the U.S. House, Hoekstra took a job in 2011 with Dickstein Shapiro LLP as senior adviser to concentrate on legislative and regulatory counseling. Dickstein Shapiro is a lobbying firm, but Hoekstra was not a registered lobbyist. In a June 2012 financial disclosure document he listed earnings of $473,285 at the firm.

Questionable statement: “Hoekstra thinks equal pay for equal work protections are a 'nuisance.'”

The statement refers to the Fair Pay Act, which was signed into law by President Obama in 2009. The law expands the opportunities for women to pursue legal challenges alleging pay discrimination by beginning the statute of limitations period with the last paycheck in which discrimination occurred, rather than with the start of the discrimination. It was in response to a court decision in which Lilly Ledbetter, a tire company supervisor, filed suit six months before taking early retirement, but had the case thrown out because the discrimination began years earlier. The details are laid out in this Time magazine article. Hoekstra voted against it, calling it “a nuisance.”

Democrats argued that absent the act, employers could, and did, get away with pay discrimination by keeping it covered up until the statute of limitations expired. Republicans, including Hoekstra, opposed the measure. They warned that it could lead to claims decades after the alleged discrimination began.

Questionable statement: “Hoekstra protects big oil while gas prices rise.”

Hoekstra has taken differing positions on drilling in the Great Lakes. In May, he said at a townhall meeting that he supported onshore drilling in the Great Lakes. Later, a spokesman said he did not support it and that it is a state issue. In 2001, on the House floor, he said “The only appropriate policy is to keep drills out of the Great Lakes.”

Hoekstra has stated his support for Ryan's proposed budget, which would retain tax subsidies for oil and gas companies. Average U.S. gas prices have risen from $3.35 in January to $3.91 in October.

Questionable statement: “Hoekstra thinks America is to blame for China's unfair and illegal trade practices.”

Hoekstra launched his Senate ad campaign with a controversial Super Bowl ad in which an actor playing a Chinese woman thanks Stabenow for supporting fiscal policies that she says move jobs to China. Hoekstra defended the ad in an interview on CNN where he said the “problem is American public policy, American domestic policy. The problem here is not anything that the Chinese are doing at all.”

Questionable statement: “Hoekstra fights for tax breaks for millionaires & billionaires, wants to raise taxes on the middle class.”

Earlier this year, Hoekstra stated his support for unsuccessful Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain's 9-9-9 tax plan. “We're all on board for 9-9-9,” he says in the clip.

9-9-9 would replace the current tax system with a 9 percent personal income tax, 9 percent personal corporate income tax and a 9 percent national sales tax. The assertions about the financial impact are from an analysis the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.

The Washington Post, citing the Tax Policy Center, reported that households making between $10,000 and $20,000 would see a $2,700 increase. Those making between $40,000 and $50,000 would see an average increase of $4,400 and those making between $50,000 and $75,000 would see an average increase of $4,326. According to PolitiFact, that plan would result in an average tax cut for millionaires of nearly $500,000.

Hoekstra states that he will fight to cut taxes and reign in government spending and waste. In 2010 he was singled out by the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste - a fiscally conservative advocacy group - as a “Taxpayer Super Hero” and one of six members in the House with a 100 percent voting record.

Questionable statement: “If anyone wants to eliminate Medicare, they are going to have to go through me.”

Stabenow – speaking at the close of the video attacking Hoekstra – vows to protect Medicare even as she assails Hoekstra for supporting a proposal to offer future enrollees vouchers to purchase their own insurance. Republicans maintain the plan will assure the solvency of Medicare while Democrats say it will lead to the collapse of the system as we know it today. But Stabenow has been reticent with specifics to assure the long-term future of Medicare, which faces the projected insolvency of its hospital insurance trust fund by 2022, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

According to the Population Resource Center, about one in eight Americans is 65 or older today. That is projected to rise to one in five by 2030. Medicare expenditures for hospital costs alone are expected to rise from 1.49 percent of GDP in 2007 to 2.75 percent by 2030. The Simpson-Bowles debt reduction commission in 2010 proposed raising the age of Medicare eligibility if spending targets are not met.

Overall impression: The ads accurately reflect Hoekstra's statements or positions on many issues, including abortion, the Fair Pay Act and his suggestion the 17th Amendment be repealed.  The charge he would force seniors to pay more than $6,400 a year for Medicare is an overstatement. Hoekstra has spoken in favor of the 9-9-9 tax plan that analysis indicates would raise taxes on low- and middle-income earners while cutting them for millionaires. But Hoekstra is credited by a conservative watchdog group for responsible positions on taxation and spending. While warning of Hoekstra's support of vouchers for Medicare, Stabenow is short on concrete reform proposals of her own.

Foul or no foul: Foul. The version of the Medicare plan put forth by Rep. Paul Ryan does not create a voucher system for Medicare for current seniors. And the senior health-cost increase figure is based on an older version of the Ryan plan, not the most recent one.

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Thu, 10/18/2012 - 4:54pm
I wish people would note that Ryan wants to cut Medicaid. Approximately 18% of the people on Social Security only have that income, nothing else. Medicare doesn't pay for nursing homes. The only way a poor person on Medicare can get nursing home care is through Medicaid. Therefore, Ryan would cut current seniors benefits though "technically" it wouldn't cut Medicare. Very clever. "I won't cut Medicare" is correct but what he doesn't admit is that "My plan would cut Medicaid for those seniors who need it.".