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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

We Rebut American Progress Action Fund’s Rebuttal

We posted the following update to our Oct. 20 article, “Obama’s False Medicare Claim

Update, Oct. 21: The Center for American Progress Action Fund issued a rebuttal to this article, claiming our analysis is “flawed,” that this article “relies solely on the denials of McCain senior policy adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin” and that we failed to conduct a “thorough analysis of the implications” of McCain’s health care proposals.

We disagree. Our criticism of both Obama and American Progress is that they themselves misinterpret and misrepresent what Holtz-Eakin said to the Wall Street Journal in the first place. He was quoted in the Journal, and stated again to reporters in a conference call, that what McCain is proposing is to reduce the costs borne by Medicare and Medicaid, and that benefits will not be reduced. American Progress simply ignores that clear statement in its analysis, and the Obama ads take the extra step of telling seniors that McCain plans to cut benefits, when McCain says the opposite.

The American Progress argument rests on the idea that because McCain has also promised to make his health care plan budget neutral – neither raising nor cutting total federal spending – and that because American Progress’ analysis concludes that he cannot achieve the savings that he claims, that McCain therefore must be forced to break his promise not to cut benefits.

We are also skeptical that McCain can achieve such savings, and we said so at the outset of our article. And we’ve twicecalled into question the campaign’s claim that its plan is budget neutral. But it is false logic to conclude that Medicare benefit cuts would be McCain’s only option should his promised savings fail to materialize. McCain could simply run up the deficit. Or he could choose to water down his health care plan to make it less expensive.

It is certainly possible that McCain will break his promise not to cut benefits, just as it is possible that Obama will break his promise to raise taxes only on families making over $250,000 a year. We have no crystal ball, and we don’t pretend we can predict the future. But for Obama or American Progress to state as a matter of fact that McCain will be forced to cut benefits, or that he is proposing any such thing, is simply a falsehood designed to frighten elderly voters.