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July 28, 2015

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Line of Attack: Mitt Romney ad has hits and misses in the message

Nothing's Free

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: “Obamacare” will cost the little guy. It raids $716 billion from Medicare, taxes wheelchairs and pacemakers, and raises taxes on families making less than $120,000.

Method of Delivery: “Nothing’s Free” is the latest television ad from Mitt Romney, the now-official Republican candidate for president. Fresh on the heels of the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., it directly attacks Obama’s biggest legislative achievement.

Strategy: The Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare if you prefer, gave Republicans a big attack target. But pounding the president for wanting to require individuals to have health insurance is problematic because when he was governor of Massachusetts, Romney signed legislation that included an individual health insurance mandate.

So this ad digs down into other specifics of Obamacare and its purported costs on seniors, the disabled and those making less than $120,000.

Fairness Meter: To dig into the details of the ad, it’s important to understand that the Affordable Care Act has to at least be cost-neutral to the federal government. Providing insurance to a lot more people requires combinations of cost savings (or cuts) and tax increases.

The ad claims the Affordable Care Act is “raiding” $716 billion from Medicare. That number, which you’ve been hearing a lot about recently, comes from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, in a letter to Republican Speaker John Boehner.

Those Medicare cuts would come from reductions in payments to hospitals and insurance companies and the elimination of a premium Medicare insurance plan. Democrats argue that the cost savings will reflect the cutting of waste as opposed to outright cuts.

They also note, more relevantly, that Rep. Paul Ryan, the vice presidential nominee, makes similar cuts in his own budget proposal. So while that number is based in fact, we say this Republican attack makes our eyes roll.

Next, there’s the claim that the budget will tax wheelchairs and pacemakers. There is, indeed, a 2.3 percent tax on medical devices to help pay the costs of the Affordable Care Act, raising an estimated $29 billion over 10 years. The tax won’t directly be on consumers’ purchases for individual use but rather on device manufacturers. While its effect on consumers is disputed by Democrats, there is indeed a tax on these devices that wasn’t there before. So that attack is Legit.

The last claim is that Obamacare raises taxes on families making less than $120,000. Indeed, some individuals may have to pay a tax penalty for not having health insurance. And the Romney campaign points to a Congressional Budget Office document that says 76 percent of those paying the penalty for not having health insurance will make less than $120,000 a year — about 3 million people. But for the ad to claim “raising taxes on families making less than $120,000” implies a much broader hit than that. The claim is Laughable.

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