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June 2, 2015

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Line of Attack: Does the GOP want to kill Medicare, outsource jobs and raise taxes?

Editor’s note: Line of Attack is a weekly feature in which we parse a political attack, looking at the strategy behind it, how the campaign is delivering it and what facts support or refute it. We’ll assign it a rating on the fairness meter: Legit, Eye Roll, Guffaw, Laughable or Outrageous.

Attack: Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan -- oh and Dean Heller too -- plan to end Medicare, outsource your job and increase your taxes so the rich can get richer.

Method of Delivery: It started as a series of web ads running on Nevada-focused sites (including this one). Now, we’re one of 23 states in which members of the AFL-CIO, MoveOn.org and AFL-CIO affiliated Super PAC Workers’ Voice are going door-to-door handing out viewers’ guides to the Republican National Convention.

Strategy: Rain on the Republicans’ parade worse than Hurricane Isaac. The conventions are the first burst of the parties’ big finish, like that moment in Stars and Stripes Forever when the flag above the band is supposed to unfurl: If it goes off without a hitch, the audience claps and cheers you all the way home; if it’s botched, everyone leaves unsatisfied. Republicans have centerstage all week, and while the AFL-CIO can’t hijack the GOP show, they can try to influence the at-home audience with a bad pre-performance review.

Fairness Meter: We’ve been hearing this line of attack on a loop for the past year, but let’s parse this now charge by charge.

Ryan’s plan wouldn’t end Medicare. Yet it raises the age of eligibility by two years (from 65 to 67) and changes Medicare from an insurance program to an insurance-subsidy (or voucher) program. That likely leaves seniors with less bargaining power, and hence, less purchasing power, as the subsidy is pegged to the Consumer Price Index, which isn’t rising as fast as the cost of health care. Still, it’s not ending Medicare, so this attack ranks a Guffaw.

On outsourcing: Romney wants the US to adopt a “territorial” system where companies only pay taxes on income made on US soil, instead of the difference between the national 35 percent rate and foreign rates (average: 26 percent) when they bring profits home. Opponents say making foreign income permanently tax-free encourages more outsourcing. But Romney’s plan also drops the US rate to 25 percent, severely lessening the blow vis-a-vis most foreign countries, like China -- but not the Caymans. Eye roll.

Finally, they charge Romney cuts taxes for the rich while raising them on the middle class. The Bush tax cuts expire at the end of the year; Democrats want to extend them on income up to $250,000; Romney favors extending them for everybody. But his tax plan doesn’t extend some tax benefits popular with lower- and middle-class filers -- bringing their effective tax rate up. Legit.

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