Truth Squad gives foul for image used in anti-Schauer ad

How we make the call

Truth Squad assigns five ratings to the political statements we review, in descending levels of accuracy:

Accurate
No factual inaccuracies in the statement and no important information is missing
Mostly accurate
While the statement is largely accurate, it omits or exaggerates facts, or needs some clarification
Half accurate
Truths are interspersed with mistruths, or the speaker left out significant facts that render his/her remarks misleading in important respects
Mostly inaccurate
The major point or points made are untrue or misleading, even while some aspects of the claim may be accurate
False
The statement is false, or based on false underlying facts

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.

Screen Shot 2014-08-27 at 10.25.33 AM

“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.

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Comments

Mark G
Wed, 08/27/2014 - 11:54am
"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." But if the ad had been for Schauer it would have been 'no foul' (judging by other such stories on this site). How do you know that the family shown is 'working-class or middle-class'? Wouldn't a working-class family be most impacted by raising taxes on small small businesses and thus possibly putting them out of a job? "It is also true that Schauer has voted for tax increases." Actions, not words.
David Zeman
Wed, 08/27/2014 - 12:18pm
Mark G, not sure what point you are making here. Of course Truth Squad would call a foul on either side when we see an apparent inaccuracy or misleading statement. Truth Squad, it's also worth noting, cleared 90 percent of this ad of any problems, but pointed out specifically where the ad went too far, in making the suggestion that Schauer's plans would hit hardest on families, when in fact his (limited) plan states the opposite. The evidence just is not there to support the point that image was trying to make. Happy to hear your thoughts on that further explanation.
Mark G
Wed, 08/27/2014 - 2:13pm
Truth Squad did not call a foul on the ad against Schutte, even tho it falsely states that Schutte said children would be better being 'raised as orphans' (than being adopted by gay couples), the Truth Squad "There is no record that Schuette ever said he believed that children would be 'better off as orphans,' rather than being raised by a same-sex couple." But yet, that only merits a warning. THIS wasn't even a statement, merely a picture that the viewer has to interpret, and it gets a 'FOUL'. I don't see how that picture actually makes the 'suggestion that Shauer's plans would hit hardest on families'. When, in fact, the ad says that Schauer's HISTORY would imply that it would, a history the Truth Squad seems to acknowledge, "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." Snyder freezing income tax at 4.25 percent is actually LOWER than what Schauer voted for. "Schauer also said that he would 'close loopholes and end tax breaks'" Does that mean he would be for bringing back the exemption on pension tax? Or the elimination or modification of certain other tax breaks or credits? (See: http://www.freep.com/article/20130216/NEWS06/130216005/Michigan-resident... ). Certainly the exemption was a 'loophole' or 'tax break'. Or was that part of what Zack Pohl was talking about when he said, "the repeal of Snyder’s tax increases on individuals"? Or was not letting the income tax drop somehow equates to raising taxes? Because I am otherwise unaware of how Synder increased taxes on individuals. Of course, here it seems that sometimes 'eliminating tax breaks' equates to 'increasing taxes on individuals', at least when it was when Snyder did it. But apparently when Schauer 'possibly proposes' doing the same thing it is suddenly 'repealing tax increases'. Of course, I haven't heard anybody offering to stop tacking sales tax on our Michigan gas tax. We live in the only state in the Union that has a sales tax on the gas tax, we are being double-taxed at the pump. As for 'cleared 90 percent of the ad', I'm sorry, that is not how the readers see these articles. There is no TRUTH lines on these articles, you are only calling out misrepresentations, and calling a FOUL on an ad calls FOULD on the entire ad in the reader's eyes (at least in my opinion). Just look at the top of the article: Who: Republican Governors Association What: TV ad “Fantasy” The call: Regular Foul
John
Thu, 08/28/2014 - 9:51am
I agree with Mark G's sentiment here. Simply based on Truth Squad's "How we make the call" box this ad should receive a Warning, not a Regular foul. Regardless of our political opinions or how deeply ingrained they are, we're all inherently biased. Truth Squad is no different.
Joshua
Thu, 08/28/2014 - 10:39am
Mark, I agree. Unfortunately, The 'Truth' Squad has shown a bias against Republicans on several occasions. Sadly, this time it also shows it does not understand economics, which shows that hurting business ultimately hurts the working class through job loss, lower pay, and higher prices. I don't feel that I can trust the 'Truth' Squad to provide accurate analysis of political ads.
Duane
Thu, 08/28/2014 - 11:30am
Mark, It seems you have confronted the issues, the Truth Squads version of the 'Fairness Doctrine', and the path to diminishing impact the Truth Squad seems to be contimplating. Both are intertwined. It seems that the Truth Squad misinterprets why poltical campaign ads are so prevalent and if the public really cares. If the Truth Squad were truly providing a value to the public there would be a following of such that they would have a stand alone webpage, there would a tracking of their findings in other information sources, the public would be asking for their work on other issues not just at campaign time. As best I can tell they are a subpart of a subpart of the Bridge webpage. With a lack of understand of why there are the campaign ads or even why the ads may have an impact, the Truth Squad has moved from straight forward fact verification to apply their person emotional preferences on to images rather then doing any fact verification. If they didn't like the visuals on the ad I would have thought they would have check to see if they were actually a family or simply 'actors', if they were posed for the ad or was that their expression were reflection of their feeling about the ad content or if it was some share picture they used. It seems like the Truth Squad has made a mini jumping of the shark moment. On TV that happens when the producers feel that the audience is on the wane and they are desperate to spart interest, I wonder why with the Truth Squad. On a personal note I had hoped the Truth Squad would have been more effective, but once I saw they were simply venting their frustrations with partisan ads and not trying to understand why the ads were growing in number and why they were precieved to have an impact (what need did/does the public want filled) I lost interest. I read Bridge regularly, but with so little in competing topics I read this article. Without you comments this article has little relevance and interest, but you gave me pause to think so thank you. I am willing to bet that if you and I and a coule of others had a conversation about the campaign ads in general we could identify some of the reasons why/what needs they are trying to fill and even how those needs could be better addressed to create more informed voters.
John
Wed, 08/27/2014 - 10:03pm
Nice job here in calling out the Republicans here. I am not a fan of either political party (seriously couldn't we cut about 90% of what each party raises for political adds and use that money for doing things like supporting worthy causes or maybe to help pay for better roads. The two party poltical system means no democracy. We look more like the USSR vs. USA). Sorry got off track. The Republicans have given huge tax breaks to big business and increased taxes on retirees. Now they are trying to paint a pciture that they are for the middle class...rediculous. Like I stated earlier come on both parties, agree to take 90% of money earmarked for countless political ads and put it to use for worthwile causes:)
Michael K
Thu, 08/28/2014 - 9:56am
Yeah, John - it's about time they called out the Republicans! (LOL) Serious question, David: Have you ever issued a foul for a visual before? That seems to be reeeeeeeallllly stretching things just so you can issue a foul for this ad. And PLEASE - don't ever start pointing out that quotes in political ads do "not always furnish their full context." No political ever has ever included quotes in full context.
Jarrett Skorup
Thu, 08/28/2014 - 10:39am
The MBT repeal mostly repealed taxes for small businesses - larger corporations pay a flat 6 percent rate. So calling for a repeal of that change could very well mean a hike on small businesses. Is it the position of the "Truth Squad" that the family in the ad couldn't possibly be small business owners?
Charles Richards
Thu, 08/28/2014 - 12:10pm
Businesses do not, in fact, pay taxes. They collect taxes from various individuals and forward them to the state. They collect taxes from employees in the form of lower compensation, they collect taxes from people's pension plans and retirement accounts in the form of lower returns, they collect taxes from consumers in the form of higher prices. So that family in the photo was perfectly justified in looking depressed. Societies that devote a larger proportion of their income tend to grow significantly slower because those resources are employed less efficiently than they are in the private sector. The Truth Squad is just looking at the first order effects. Economic growth is by far the best social program.
Barry Visel
Thu, 08/28/2014 - 6:00pm
I am sooooo tired of hearing the phrase "pay their fair share". Until we eliminate all tax credits, deductions and exemptions, there is no such thing as FAIR. I challenge the 'truth squad' and Bridge to examine the State Budget appendix on tax expenditures, and start educating Michiganders on the $30 Billion of uncollected revenue we give away as tax expenditures. Once again, here's the link: http://www.michigan.gov/documents/treasury/ExecutiveBudgetAppendixOnTaxC... I agree with those that take the 'truth squad' to task on this one...how in the world do you know who those folks are in the picture? Let's take Schauer to task for not telling us how he's going to pay for his plan.
Mon, 09/01/2014 - 10:42pm
In all fairness Truth Squad did a good job reporting facts. Images are a powerful force in ads and the people depicted were Not of the upper class. I didn't see any $1000 T-Shirt on their backs. Assuming, as nothing pointedly states, that small, small business would be hit with higher taxes is just that...an assumption. Where has small business gotten anywhere with Snyder? His last law was enacted to 'prevent small business from operating'. Schauer will get the $$ from high...high income business' who have been avoiding paying their fair share of anything anymore. They don't even pay their water bills in Detroit. So, if the ad were factual, the people should have been wearing a suit and tie. Thanks Truth Squad for seeing the 'conflict' and rating it appropriately.
James Scott
Tue, 09/02/2014 - 7:41am
I don't know how to break this to people... Working families pay ALL the taxes. When the government imposes a tax on a business, they pass it along to their customers in the form of higher prices. There is no such thing as a free lunch. If the State spends $2 billion, it comes out of OUR pockets.