The following Truth Test looks at a commercial being run by Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colorado) and it targets his opponent, Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck (R-Colorado). The minute-long ad is set to run 62 times on the networks of 9NEWS at a cost of $110,400.
QUOTE: I'll be a voice that represents the people on Main Street. Who is Ken Buck? And does he speak for Colorado? Buck wants to privatize Social Security.
TRUTH: This is true.
Buck prefers to call it personalization since the money belongs to the people paying into the system and not to the government.
Buck has said numerous times, including at the Constitutionalist Today forum in March, that the "the idea the federal government should be running health care or retirement or any of those programs is fundamentally against what I believe and that is that the private sector runs programs like that far better." (Source: Constitutionalist Today Forum, March 9)
He insisted at the forum that "once people pay into it, they have the expectation of getting a return and they're entitled to that." Further, he told 9NEWS during a debate with his Republican primary opponent Jane Norton, "We've got to peg Social Security to individuals so those individuals have the ability perhaps to invest in various funds that are approved by the government. But those individuals also own that fund." (Source: 9NEWS YOUR SHOW Debate, July 22: http://www.9news.com/yourshow/archive.aspx)
Further, the Wall Street Journal reported last month that "Mr. Buck said he would consider some privatization of Social Security but wanted to be sure needy seniors retain a safety net." (Source: Wall Street Journal, July 26: http://online.wsj.com/article/NA_WSJ_PUB:SB10001424052748704746804575367113727207090.html)
Here is the response from Buck Press Secretary Owen Loftus to this analysis: "Ken is not in favor of privatizing Social Security. Here is Ken's position - For current beneficiaries; the government has made a sacred promise. Current retirees have planned their lives based on these Social Security benefits. For older workers approaching retirement, they have already planned their retirement. We need to ensure that Social Security is solvent for these workers. All ideas should be on the table to ensure this. These can include some sort of means testing, or raising the retirement age to reflect the fact that people live longer than they used to. For younger workers and future generations, the issue isn't social security; it's savings. We must ensure that Social Security is there for younger workers when they retire, and that retains it's main function as a safety net for retirees. To do this, the government needs to craft policies to encourage younger workers to save more."
QUOTE: And he questioned whether Social Security should exist at all. Buck: I don't know whether it is constitutional or not. It is certainly a horrible policy.
TRUTH: It is true that Buck has questioned whether the federal government should be providing a retirement plan instead of the private sector, but it's false to say that he called it a "horrible policy."
The quote is taken dramatically out of context as to imply something that is not supported by the video in question nor by any other evidence. What he's calling a "horrible policy" is the transferring of money out of the Social Security Trust Fund and into the federal government's general fund to pay for other programs, not Social Security itself.
Buck was asked by a panelist at the Constitutionalist Today forum whether it is "Constitutional for the government to have a Social Security program where it directs the monies that we put into it?"
Here is Buck's complete answer: "I don't know whether it's constitutional or not. It is certainly a horrible policy in what happened in the LBJ Administration back in the 60s when they took the money out of the trust fund to fund general fund programs and what we ended up with was a system that will be bankrupt anywhere from 10 to 25 years from now. It is a bad policy. I don't know that the federal government should be involved in a retirement plan. It should be a plan that certainly once people pay into it, they have the expectation of getting a return and they're entitled to that, but the idea the federal government should be running health care or retirement or any of those programs is fundamentally against what I believe and that is that the private sector runs programs like that far better." (Source: Constitutionalist Today Forum, March 9)
Here is the response from Bennet Communications Director Trevor Kincaid to this analysis: "Context again is important here, and in the context of an entire answer in which he explicitly questions whether Social Security should exist at all, Buck's hostility towards the program (at least in its current form) is clear. And calling the program in its current form a horrible policy is calling the program as it exists a horrible policy."
QUOTE: On education? We don't need a Department of Education.
TRUTH: There have been media reports quoting Buck as saying he wants to do away with the Department of Education and others reporting his concern with the federal government being involved in education, what he considers a local issue. (Details posted below)
Regardless, the video shown in the commercial clearly takes him out of context on the issue. At the forum in question, Buck ticks off a number of programs he'd do away with that are unconstitutional (i.e. "the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Amtrak - we could keep going,") but then he segues to decry an education policy run from Washington and the Department of Education, but he does not advocate for doing away with the department.
Here is Buck's complete statement on the issue from the forum in question: "You know the federal government is trying to solve every problem. The reality is the power lies with you and me and our local communities. We don't need a Department of Education in Washington, D.C. telling us in our local communities. Education decisions are best left to a parent and child, a school board to decide curriculum. A one size fits all system coming out of Washington is a disaster and has been a disaster for years." (Source: Constitutionalist Today Forum, March 9)
On the overall issue, The Colorado Statesman reported in February that Buck said the Department of Education could be scratched. "We can immediately flip the switch and end [it]." (Source: Colorado Statesman: http://www.coloradostatesman.com/content/991606-teller-tea-partys-kick-butt-senate-forum)
In January, that paper reported Buck saying, "We need to get the federal government out of education." (Source: Colorado Statesman: http://www.coloradostatesman.com/content/991553-gop-senate-candidates-debate-springs)
However, he told the Durango Herald in July, "I'm not willing to turn the lights off [on the Department of Education] on day one. We got into this mess over 60 years, and we're not going to get out of this mess in the first 10 days of the next Congress. I think it is important to evaluate in a responsible way how we return more educational control to local governments. At some point, if we don't need to spend federal money on education, that would be great, but we've got to transition in a responsible way." (Source: Durango Herald, July 7: http://www.durangoherald.com/sections/News/2010/07/17/QA_with_Ken_Buck_Republican_candidate_for_US_Senate/)
QUOTE: And Ken Buck wants to end student loans for middle class kids. Buck: I don't think our Founding Fathers ever intended the federal government have student loans.
TRUTH: The narrator's assertion that he wants to end student loans for middle class kids is false.
What Buck has said on multiple occasions is that he believes the private sector would do a better job providing student loans than the federal government which has grown to a level he does not believe the Founding Fathers intended. As he told The Wall Street Journal last month, "I've never heard one person say 'Take my kid's student loans away,' " he said, referring to his stance that the government should get out of the college-loan business. But it's the reality." (Source: Wall Street Journal, July 26: http://online.wsj.com/article/NA_WSJ_PUB:SB10001424052748704746804575367113727207090.html)
But advocating for the federal government to get out of the business of distributing student loans is not equivalent to ending the practice of giving student loans to any kid.
Further, Buck does see a role for the federal government in the process as a loan guarantor to a privately-issued loan and as an entity to help provide access to higher education for lower-income students, but is not in favor of a "government takeover of the student loan market." (Source: Denver Daily News, Aug. 31: http://www.thedenverdailynews.com/article.php?aID=9787)
Bennet's campaign asserts that shifting federal student loans over to the private sector would double interest rates and prevent access for many students to college. "Doing away with federal loans as Ken Buck has proposed would make financing college vastly more expensive, significantly more onerous, and measurably less accessible... Ken Buck's proposal to end federal student loans would pull the financial rug out from millions of American families already struggling to afford the costs of college," reads a news release sent out by his campaign. (Source: Bennet Press Release, Aug. 30)
Here is the e-mailed response of Bennet Communications Director Trevor Kincaid to this analysis: "This ultimately comes down to a question of what student loans are. First, the federal government being involved in loans is really the only thing that distinguishes them from normal forms of unsecured credit. Without that federal involvement, student loans as they are conceived would not exist, since they are defined by statute - statute that wouldn't exist without federal involvement. So barring federal involvement, there really would be no such thing as student loans. The protections on lending terms and availability would not exist, and the loans would be significantly more expensive (on par with credit card debt, for instance)."
QUOTE: Ken Buck even wants to ban common forms of birth control.
TRUTH: This likely depends on what you consider common forms of birth control.
Buck believes life "begins at conception," so birth control methods that don't impact that (i.e. condoms, some forms of the pill) are fine with him. Others that would keep a fertilized egg from implanting like hormone-based birth control methods, some other forms of the pill, IUDs, RU-486 and what's known as the morning-after pill, are not supported by him. (Source: E-mail from Buck spokesman Owen Loftus to 9NEWS, Aug. 26)
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the latter category included at least 5.2 million women in America between 2006-2008. (Source: CDC website: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nsfg/abc_list_e.htm#emergency)
QUOTE: And Buck's view on abortion? Buck: I am pro-life and I'll answer the next question. I don't believe in the exceptions of rape or incest.
TRUTH: This is true.
Buck went on to say in the video he would only support abortion if it were to save "the life of the mother." (Source: YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bh0iWCqAkps)
QUOTE: Maybe Ken Buck asked the right question. Buck: I'm an extremist? I'm an extremist?
TRUTH: Buck says what he said immediately after that rhetorical question was something like, "It's the folks in Washington who have created a $13 trillion debt, they're the extremists." (Source: Ken Buck phone conversation with 9NEWS, Aug. 30).
The Bennet campaign did not provide access to this video clip to verify or refute what Buck says.
QUOTE: Ken Buck. He shouldn't be speaking for Colorado.
TRUTH: This is an opinion.
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