Congressman Jason Altmire recently released a new attack ad against his Primary Election opponent, Congressman Mark Critz, in which he defends his vote for the Balanced Budget Amendment. Altmire also attacks Critz for voting against the measure, claiming that the amendment is “the only way to protect Medicare and Social Security.”
The text of the ad is below, and a link to the video is available here [Altmire BBA Response Ad]:
“It’s sad Mark Critz would try to scare people into thinking that I’d hurt seniors. I supported the Balanced Budget to stop the reckless spending that threatens the future of Social Security and Medicare.”
“Johnstown Congressman Mark Critz won’t make the tough choices like balancing the budget, which is the only way to protect Medicare and Social Security. Critz’s political games won’t help seniors, but Jason Altmire’s hard work will.”
“I’m Jason Altmire and I approved this message because I’ll always put Western Pennsylvania first.”
In November 2011, Altmire voted for the Republican-sponsored Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution whereas Critz voted against it. Now, the two campaigns are warring over which candidate made the vote to protect Medicare and Social Security.
The problem with the ad is that various groups and studies show that the Balanced Budget Amendment does not protect Medicare and Social Security as Altmire claims.
Let’s look at the history of the Balanced Budget Amendment.
The proposed constitutional amendment would have required that “total federal outlays in any given year not exceed the total amount of revenue taken in unless Congress votes with a three-fifths majority to allow it” and it would also “institute a three-fifths majority requirement for raising the debt limit.”
The motion, which required a two-thirds vote to pass, was rejected, 261-165.
According to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities,
Programs would need to be cut almost $4.3 trillion through 2021. Among the programs that would be cut under the plan include Social Security (which would be cut $184 billion in 2018 alone, and almost $1.2 trillion through 2021), Medicare (which would be cut $117 billion in 2018 and about $750 billion though 2021), Medicaid and CHIP (which would be cut $80 billion in 2018 and about $500 billion through 2021), and Veterans’ disability payments, compensation, and other entitlement benefits (which would be cut $13 billion in 2018 and $85 billion through 2021).
Furthermore, in a letter to Congress, the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare said that
“… this version of the balanced budget amendment would require draconian spending cuts of such a magnitude as to force policymakers to severely slash Medicare, Medicaid, and many other programs while opening the door to massive new tax cuts.
Furthermore, the amendments mandate would negatively impact Social Security by diminishing the safeguards of the trust fund surpluses and burdening future generations.”
In 1993, President Bill Clinton wrote a letter to Congress announcing his opposition to a proposed balanced budget amendment that was nearly identical to the 2011 version.
“Supporters of this amendment must be straight with the American people. Given the current outlook for the FY 1999 budget, the amendment would require some combination of the following: huge increases in taxes on working families; massive reductions in Social Security benefits for middle class Americans; and major cuts in Medicare and Medicaid that would make it impossible to pass meaningful health reform legislation.”
The Critz campaign also pointed out in an email that, besides President Clinton, “organizations such as AARP, the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, and the Alliance for Retired Americans have all condemned the Republican Balanced Budget Amendment because they agree that it would lead to massive cuts to Social Security and Medicare.”
Given this reality, the Altmire ad is not only asserting that Mark Critz is lying about the vote, but also asserting that President Clinton, the AARP, the ARA, and various others groups are also lying.
“We already knew that Jason Altmire put Medicare at risk by voting for the Republican Balanced Budget Amendment, but now he has the audacity to defend his indefensible vote by parroting Republican talking points,” Critz spokesman Mike Mikus said in reference to the new Altmire ad. “Jason Altmire is slipping in the polls because voters know that he endangered our economy, Social Security and Medicare when he voted for the Republican Balanced Budget Amendment.”
The two campaigns simply cannot have it both ways. Either the Balanced Budget Amendment was a vote for the interests of seniors, or it was not.
The evidence seems to be clear.