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:||TV ad “Fantasy”|
|The call:||Regular Foul|
Relevant text of the ad:
“Mark Schauer presented his plan for Michigan's future and the reviews are in. 'Total fantasy.' 'There's nothing in it, no details.' 'Pretty thin – not a single point in there that would actually create a job.' An independent analyst put the plan's price tag at over $2 billion. With a history of raising taxes, we can guess who would pay for his plan. No details, no jobs, that's Schauer's plan?”
The 30-second TV ad funded by the Republican Governors Association attacks former Democratic U.S. Rep. Mark Schauer's blueprint for a better Michigan, a 24-page plan he unveiled in July. Schauer is running for governor against GOP incumbent Rick Snyder in a race recent polls show to be tightening. Through June 30, the RGA had spent $1.5 million in TV ads on behalf of Snyder. The Democratic Governors Association spent $2.9 million in TV ads on behalf of Schauer.
Schauer's plan calls for increased spending for K-12 schools and higher education, infrastructure and tax credits for small business, in addition to restoring cuts in state aid to cities through revenue sharing. It promises to reverse income tax increases signed by Snyder that: eliminated the child tax credit, reduced the low-income Earned Income Tax Credit and homestead property tax credit, and raised taxes on pensions. The plan says these steps would create “thousands” of new jobs. The RGA TV ad quotes from three political observers who question the plan's substance.
“Mark Schauer presented his plan for Michigan's future and the reviews are in. 'Total fantasy.' 'There's nothing in it. No details.' 'Pretty thin.' 'Not a single point in there that would actually create a job.'
The ad quotes Bill Ballenger of Inside Michigan Politics, a Lansing political newsletter; Nolan Finley, editorial page editor of the Detroit News; and Detroit Free Press editorial page editor Stephen Henderson, each of whom expressed some level of skepticism about the plan. Ballenger called it “standard Democratic boiler-plate” in an appearance on the Lansing TV show, “Off the Record.” Despite the implication of the ad, he did not call the plan itself “total fantasy” but rather that the notion it could pass the Republican-controlled Legislature as “total fantasy.” Henderson called the plan “pretty thin” during an appearance on Detroit Public TV, but added, “It's not any thinner than what Rick Snyder's plan was four years ago.”
“An independent analyst put the plan's price tag at over $2 billion.”
In actuality, if the cost of fixing Michigan’s crumbling roads is included, the total cost of Schauer's plan could reach $3.4 billion, according to analysis by former House Fiscal Agency Director Mitch Bean. That includes about $1.1 billion for eliminating tax increases on seniors, families and working poor. Bean pegged the cost of restoring funding to K-12 schools, higher education and revenue sharing at $1.1 billion. State transportation officials say Michigan needs at least $1.2 billion in added funds a year to fix its roads.
To fund roads, Schauer proposes a “bipartisan solution” that requires businesses – which received a $1.6 billion tax cut under Snyder – to “pay their fair share.” That presumably means a tax increase. Schauer does not specify what kind or by how much. He opposes raising the fuel tax to pay for roads. Schauer also said that he would “close loopholes and end tax breaks” that don't create jobs to provide funding for his ideas. Schauer provides no further detail.
“With a history of raising taxes, we can guess who would pay for his plan. [Here the ad shows an incredibly depressed looking family] No details, no jobs, that's Schauer's plan?”
The RGA notes that Schauer voted as state senator in 2007 to hike the state income tax from 3.9 percent to 4.35 percent. Schauer also voted in 2007 to impose a 6 percent tax on a variety of services. Zack Pohl, spokesman for Schauer, noted that Schauer voted in 2009 for the federal stimulus plan that gave Michigan residents $1.9 billion in income tax credits. Pohl asserted that Schauer's plan to give small business tax credits would create jobs, as would the repeal of Snyder's tax increases on individuals.
|The call:||Regular Foul|
The ad is technically accurate in the abbreviated quotes it cites from several political observers, though it does not always furnish their full context. Schauer has not been forthcoming with details on how he would pay for his ambitious plan. It is also true that Schauer has voted for tax increases. If the ad had stuck with the theme of portraying Schauer as a tax-and-spend Democrat it would have been foul free. It did not.
Where the ad gets into trouble is the visuals. By flashing to a working-class or middle-class family that has grim facial expressions, while intoning, “we can guess who would pay for his plan,” the ad is telling viewers that ordinary families would bear the brunt of any tax increase under Schauer. For all the vagueness of Schauer’s plan, his endgame is plain: reverse many of the tax policies championed by Gov. Rick Snyder by making businesses pay their “fair share” of taxes (i.e., more) while lowering the tax burden for individuals, families and the working poor. The visual does not comport with what facts are known.