How we make the call
Truth Squad assigns five ratings to the political statements we review, in descending levels of accuracy:
|Who:||Republican Governors Association|
|What:||Four television ads, “The Schauer is Over,” “Foreign,” “Agua” and “Nurse.”|
|The call:||Warning on “The Schauer is Over”|
|The call:||No foul on “Foreign”|
|The call:||No foul on “Agua”|
|The call:||Flagrant foul on “Nurse.”|
The RGA ads criticize Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark Schauer for supporting the “failed” federal stimulus program and a cap-and-trade energy proposal while serving in Congress, voting to raise taxes while serving in the state Legislature, introducing a bill to tax bottled water and supporting a fee on nursing home beds.
Each commercial is punctuated with the refrain, “Wrong. Expensive. Choices.”
The ads begin with grim, black-and-white video of rain showering down on abandoned buildings, meant to signify Michigan’s gloomy economy prior to Gov. Rick Snyder’s election in 2010. The ads end with this tagline: “The Schauer is over.” Get it?
Statements under review:
“In Congress, he voted for the failed stimulus and a massive energy tax. In Lansing, he supported taxes 40 times.”
As a member of Congress, Schauer did vote for the economic stimulus, formally known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. It resulted in $832 billion in government spending intended to ease the effects of the Great Recession, the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
The stimulus program financed a variety of jobs programs, including infrastructure and renewable energy investments, and pumped billions of dollars into the depleted coffers of state governments.
Michigan, which struggled with the near collapse of the auto industry, received more than $17 billion in stimulus money, according to ProPublica.
Was the stimulus a “failed” program as the ad claims? The question has been much debated by supporters and critics. Republicans, who generally prefer tax cuts over government spending to stimulate the economy, say it largely failed because it didn’t create enough jobs. Democrats say the stimulus program succeeded because it headed off a full-blown economic depression. If anything, they say, it wasn’t big enough to counter the full impact of the banking crisis and the recession.
The nonpartisan U.S. Congressional Budget Office has issued periodic reports on the effectiveness of the stimulus program. In general, the CBO said the stimulus boosted economic output and employment above what would have occurred had it not been implemented. The CBO estimated the stimulus was responsible for between 700,000 and 3.3 million jobs, and gross domestic product growth of between 0.7 percent and 4.1 percent in 2010, though the CBO has also said the impact of the stimulus diminished in later years.
Schauer also voted for the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009. The bill had a cap-and-trade provision designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 83 percent between 2005 and 2050. In a cap-and-trade system, the government caps greenhouse gas emissions at a certain level. Affected companies are allowed to buy and sell permits to emit these gases.
The bill passed in the House, but failed in the Senate and therefore did not become law.
The RGA ad also says that Schauer voted 40 times to raise taxes while serving in the state Legislature. But it does not provide a source for that claim.
Schauer did vote for the federal stimulus package and another bill that would have implemented a cap-and-trade program to reduce greenhouse gases. Certainly, the claim that the stimulus “failed” is problematic given the findings of the nonpartisan CBO. But the word “failed” is so subjective, depending on one’s political perspective, to be categorically labeled as true or false.
Statement under review in “Foreign”:
“In Congress, he voted for the stimulus, which sent our tax dollars to foreign companies.”
The ad’s text says Schauer voted to send “tax dollars to foreign companies for wind energy.” This refers to a provision in the 2009 stimulus package that provided $21 billion in incentives for the development of renewable energy, including solar and wind.
Republicans have long claimed that much of the money to develop wind energy went to foreign manufacturers. The assertion is based on 2009 and 2010 reporting by Russ Choma of American University’s Investigative Reporting Workshop.
Choma reported that foreign companies manufactured 1,219 of the 1,807 wind turbines built using federal stimulus funds.
But later, he wrote that the manufacturing sourcing issue is “complicated.”
“Some of those foreign-owned turbine manufacturers have factories in the United States and some American-owned turbine manufacturers have factories overseas. We simply don't know where all of the parts were made,” Choma wrote.
In 2012, presidential candidate Mitt Romney claimed the stimulus program sent money to foreign wind turbine and solar companies, resulting in the “outsourcing of American jobs.”
Politifact, the fact-checking service of the Tampa Times, rated the claim “half true.”
Politifact said stimulus dollars did go to foreign companies, but it was because of a lack of American companies building key components to produce wind and solar power.
|The call:||No Foul|
Stimulus funds to expand wind energy did go to foreign companies that built turbines for U.S. wind farms. While the ad failed to state that it was because of a shortage of U.S.-made components, political ads are not required to acknowledge all sides of an issue. That would be known as a “poor” political ad.
Statements under review:
“As a state legislator, he [Schauer] pushed for a 20-cent-per-gallon tax on bottled water. Water!”
In 2007, Schauer introduced Senate Bill 544, which would have enacted a 20-cent-per-gallon excise tax on companies “engaged in the business of bottling water in this state.” It would not have been a retail sales tax levied on consumers, although one could get that impression from the ad.
The bill would have required that $20 million a year from the tax to go to the state’s clean water and water quality protection funds. Any money collected above that amount would have gone to the state’s general fund. Schauer’s bill was sent to the Senate finance committee and was never put up for a vote.
“Who taxes water?” a woman in the ad asks.
The city of Chicago, for one. Though technically – and crucially – it is a tax on the bottling of water, not water itself. Chicago enacted a five-cent a bottle retail sales tax on bottled water in 2008. That tax, and efforts around the country to ban or discourage the use of plastic water bottles, are meant to address environmental concerns.
The debate in Michigan has centered more on whether bottled water companies should pay taxes or royalties for the right to bottle and sell the state’s water resources.
Former Lt. Gov. John Cherry proposed http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SLjcSEb3cCo a 10-cent-per-gallon tax on bottled water companies during a short-lived bid to become governor in 2010.
|The call:||No Foul|
Schauer did introduce the bottled water tax bill, as the ad states. It arguably could have been more specific in explaining that the tax was proposed on businesses that bottle Michigan water, and was not a direct tax to consumers. But it was a tax, which is what the ad claims.
Statements under review:
“Mark Schauer is a politician who has made wrong, expensive choices. Some defy reason. In the state Legislature, Schauer supported a new fee on nursing home beds.”
In 2002, Schauer voted for the Medicaid Quality Assurance Assessment Program. It enacted a nursing home bed fee, which the state used to leverage additional federal Medicaid money and increase Medicaid reimbursements to nursing homes. Money from this federal “matching fund” program went back to nursing homes that took part in Michigan’s Medicaid program. The program was supported by then-Gov. John Engler, a Republican, and won bipartisan support in the Legislature.
“Michigan’s coming back without more fees on nursing home beds.”
Gov. Rick Snyder, Schauer’s Republican opponent (who this attack ad is intended to benefit) extended the nursing home fees to Oct. 1, 2015. In supporting the extension, Snyder’s office boasted at the time that the nursing fee would return more federal dollars to nursing homes than the homes would pay out in fees.
Snyder’s support for the same fee attacked in this TV ad was not lost on Schauer’s team. The ad hits "a new low by attacking Mark Schauer for a bill that was signed and extended by Rick Snyder," Schauer spokesman Zack Pohl told MLive. "This is the height of hypocrisy, and Rick Snyder should be ashamed."
|The call:||Flagrant Foul|
Schauer’s vote to enact a nursing home bed fee did not “defy reason,” as the ad states. It benefited nursing homes by allowing the state to obtain additional federal Medicaid dollars to increase Medicaid reimbursements to those same nursing homes. Put simply, the tax would eventually return more money to nursing homes than was taken away.
Given that Snyder not only supported, but extended, the same fee, the ad’s failure to acknowledge this support is disingenuous. All of which makes the criticisms leveled again Schauer here cynical in the extreme.