Smucker-King Debate

Is the unemployment rate really the lowest ever?

Does a candidate support abolishing a federal immigration agency?

How much would it cost to overhaul the national health care system to minimize or even eliminate the role of private insurers?

Some questions are easier to answer than others.

To correct the record, or at least make some pieces a little more clear, LNP fact-checked a few of the claims made by both candidates in Monday’s debate between Republican U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker and Democratic challenger Jess King.

Medicare and Social Security

Claim: King said Smucker has “voted for a budget to cut a half-a-trillion dollars from Medicare. This is what’s going to follow on with this kind of tax policy. You cut revenue and then you cut spending to match it. ‘Oh, how are we going to pay for that? We’re going to cut Medicare and Social Security.’ They’re already voting to do that.”

Smucker said it was “patently false” that Congress is cutting the programs for seniors. But in a budget that Smucker supported last year, Republicans did call for $537 billion less in spending on Medicare over a decade. The budget called for remaking Medicare by “giving seniors the option of enrolling in private plans that compete with traditional Medicare, a system of competition designed to keep costs down but dismissed by critics as an effort to privatize the program,” the Washington Post reported.

Smucker said ensuring the programs are funded is a “top priority” and that without a growing economy there won’t be money available to pay into those systems anyway.

He also said he’s voted to ensure that any Social Security money would be prohibited from being spent elsewhere and that he sponsored a bill to eliminate the penalty for seniors who delay getting their health insurance through Medicare — both of which are true.

The cost of Medicare-for-all

Claim: King said implementing Medicare-for-all would cost $32 trillion and actually save $2 trillion for consumers paying into their plans now.

Claim: Smucker said that would be “$32 trillion additional dollars” and would mean “doubling your taxes.”

Both King and Smucker appear to have had pieces of truth in their answers. King was referring to a study this year from Mercatus Center at George Mason University in Virginia that looked at U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ health care plan.

According to Sanders’ estimates of cuts to health care providers, the study found Medicare-for-all saves $2 trillion in theory. But according to a Washington Post fact-check that was based on input from the study’s author and which Smucker cited on stage, the plan makes several assumptions and the cost of health care will likely exceed what Sanders intended.

King’s campaign points to other analysts, such as Dean Baker from the Center for Economic and Policy Research who was also mentioned in the Post's fact-check and says costs could be lower if political pressure leads to providers getting significantly less in payments.

To pay for it, King correctly referred to what Sanders has said about new taxes on employers. As for the amount of those new taxes, the study’s author said his figures show that doubling all federal income taxes wouldn’t even be enough to cover the added costs.

The claim of $2 trillion in savings wasn’t deemed, as Smucker said, an “outright lie” in the Post’s fact-check, but it was considered “mostly false.”

Support for Medicare-for-all

Claim: King said 70 percent of all Americans and a majority of Republicans now support Medicare-for-all.

King was correctly referring to a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll that showed 85 percent of Democrats and 52 percent of Republicans — and, yes, 70 percent overall — support the national health care proposal.

Smucker’s economic facts

Claim: Smucker, while touting the tax cuts passed last year, said unemployment is at its lowest rate in 50 years, and the unemployment rates for African Americans, Latinos and women are at all-time lows.

A new jobs report this week showed the unemployment rate dropped from 3.9 percent to 3.7 percent, which is, in fact, the lowest in a half-century. African American unemployment was down to 6 percent, the lowest on record other than the 5.9 percent rate in May. The rate for Hispanics was 4.5 percent and 3.3 percent for women, also records.

Many analysts have noted this trend started in the post-recession Obama era.

Abolishing ICE

Claim: Smucker said King supports “abolishing ICE,” a position that has gained some momentum among Democrats who are frustrated with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

King said she has never called for abolishing the agency, has not supported that stance, and there is no indication that she has taken that position.

“Troublemakers Cafe”

Claim: Smucker said the progressive grassroots group Lancaster Stands Up has been “intent on disrupting every single public meeting” he’s held. He said they call themselves “radicals” and “meet every week in something called ‘Troublemakers Cafe.’”

Lancaster Stands Up has consistently criticized Smucker for his policy stances and advocated for him to hold an in-person town hall. The group even has a bright red van that displays how many days Smucker has been in office without holding a town hall, and its members have disrupted some of his meetings with constituent groups and held sit-ins at his office.

But the “Troublemakers Cafe” was made to seem more sinister than it is, said Jonathan Smucker, a leader of LSU and second-cousin of the congressman. He said the name represented a weekly meeting held at the LSU office to “talk about the news and eat cookies.” They haven’t actually held the meeting in months, he said, and the name was to add a kind of “underdog flavor … which makes sense because we’re the underdogs.”

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