WASHINGTON (AP) - Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama
was less than upfront in his half-hour commercial Wednesday night
about the costs of his programs and the crushing budget pressures
he would face in office.
Obama's assertion that "I've offered spending cuts above and
beyond" the expense of his promises is accepted only by his
partisans. His vow to save money by "eliminating programs that
don't work" masks his failure throughout the campaign to specify
what those programs are - beyond the withdrawal of troops from
A sampling of what voters heard in the ad, and what he didn't
THE SPIN: "That's why my health care plan includes improving
information technology, requires coverage for preventive care and
pre-existing conditions and lowers health care costs for the
typical family by $2,500 a year."
THE FACTS: His plan does not lower premiums by $2,500, or any
set amount. Obama hopes that by spending $50 billion over five
years on electronic medical records and by improving access to
proven disease management programs, among other steps, consumers
will end up saving money. He uses an optimistic analysis to suggest
cost reductions in national health care spending could amount to
the equivalent of $2,500 for a family of four. Many economists are
skeptical those savings can be achieved, but even if they are, it's
not a certainty that every dollar would be passed on to consumers
in the form of lower premiums.
THE SPIN: "I also believe every American has a right to
affordable health care."
THE FACTS: That belief should not be confused with a guarantee
of health coverage for all. He makes no such promise. Obama hinted
as much in the ad when he said about the problem of the uninsured:
"I want to start doing something about it." He would mandate
coverage for children but not adults. His program is aimed at
making insurance more affordable by offering the choice of
government-subsidized coverage similar to that in a plan for
federal employees and other steps, including requiring larger
employers to share costs of insuring workers.
THE SPIN: "I've offered spending cuts above and beyond their
THE FACTS: Independent analysts say both Obama and Republican
John McCain would deepen the deficit. The nonpartisan Committee for
a Responsible Federal Budget estimates Obama's policy proposals
would add a net $428 billion to the deficit over four years - and
that analysis accepts the savings he claims from spending cuts. The
nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, whose other findings have been
quoted approvingly by the Obama campaign, says: "Both John McCain
and Barack Obama have proposed tax plans that would substantially
increase the national debt over the next 10 years." The analysis
goes on to say: "Neither candidate's plan would significantly
increase economic growth unless offset by spending cuts or tax
increases that the campaigns have not specified."
THE SPIN: "Here's what I'll do. Cut taxes for every working
family making less than $200,000 a year. Give businesses a tax
credit for every new employee that they hire right here in the U.S.
over the next two years and eliminate tax breaks for companies that
ship jobs overseas. Help homeowners who are making a good faith
effort to pay their mortgages, by freezing foreclosures for 90
days. And just like after 9-11, we'll provide low-cost loans to
help small businesses pay their workers and keep their doors open.
THE FACTS: His proposals - the tax cuts, the low-cost loans, the
$15 billion a year he promises for alternative energy, and more -
cost money, and the country could be facing a record $1 trillion
deficit next year. Indeed, Obama recently acknowledged - although
not in his commercial - that: "The next president will have to
scale back his agenda and some of his proposals."
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)