In another sign of a competitive race in Iowa's second Congressional district, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has spent $90,000 to run a television commercial against Mariannette Miller-Meeks.
The ad targets Miller-Meeks' support for a national sales tax, but does so in a misleading way. Video, script and a few comments are after the jump.
The DCCC's spot is called "Iowa Can't Afford Mariannette Miller-Meeks."
Male voice-over: Iowa families are struggling. [photo of Iowa family standing in farm field]
But Mariannette Miller-Meeks wants to add a whole new 23 percent national sales tax to nearly everything you buy. [Image of barn with Miller-Meeks photo and words "Mariannette Miller-Meeks 23% NATIONAL SALES TAX Cedar Rapids Gazette, 4/08/08]
A bag of groceries: 8 dollars more. [bag of groceries in foreground, silo with words "BAG OF GROCERIES $8 MORE" in background]
A tank of gas: 12 dollars more. [red truck in foreground, red barn with words "TANK OF GAS $12 MORE" in background]
Medicine for your family: 147 dollars more. [prescription drugs in foreground, farm building with words "MEDICINE $147 MORE" in background]
We can't afford to pay 23 percent more. [shot of main street scene, words "We can't afford to pay 23% MORE"]
We can't afford Mariannette Miller-Meeks. [Image of billboard with Miller-Meeks photo and words "Mariannette Miller-Meeks 23% NATIONAL SALES TAX We just can't afford."]
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is responsible for the content of this advertising.
The DCCC gets quite a bit wrong in this ad. The "fair tax" proposal is actually more like a 30 percent value-added tax than a 23 percent sales tax. As I discussed here, it would make the federal tax code regressive. That is, federal tax obligations would increase for most Americans, especially those who have to spend almost all their income on goods and services. The highest earners would get a big tax cut under this plan, because they are able save a lot of their income (and money saved would no longer be taxed). Miller-Meeks confirmed last week that she supports this tax reform while denying it would raise anyone's taxes.
The average Iowa family would be worse off under the Miller-Meeks proposal, but the DCCC shouldn't make it sound like Miller-Meeks simply wants to introduce a big sales tax. That's part of a broader tax reform plan.
I don't know whether this commercial is running district-wide; I will update the post if I hear back from the DCCC. The imagery is tailored to a rural audience. In 2008 Miller-Meeks carried the smaller counties in IA-02, but a big margin for Representative Dave Loebsack in Linn and Johnson Counties secured his re-election.
The DCCC wouldn't be spending money in this district without some concern that Miller-Meeks is in striking distance. Then again, the ad buy isn't as large as what the committee is spending in most other districts where it's involved (including Iowa's third). In the past week the DCCC has bought advertising in several other Democratic-leaning districts where the National Republican Congressional Committee hasn't reserved air time. With more cash on hand than the NRCC going into the final weeks of the campaign, the DCCC seems to be shoring up a "firewall" by defending potentially vulnerable districts that lie outside the GOP's top targets. Most campaign handicappers put IA-02 in the "lean Democratic" column.
Any relevant thoughts are welcome in this thread.
UPDATE: Miller-Meeks objects that she would "never" raise taxes. She also says low-income taxpayers would be exempted from her tax reform plan. How would that work--every time someone goes to the store they produce income statements to get an exemption from the sales tax on what they are buying? Any tax structure based on consumption taxes rather than a progressive income tax is going to shift the burden from higher-income people to people who spend almost everything they earn. That is inevitable.
SECOND UPDATE: Stuart Rothenberg sees IA-02 among "5 Surprises the Wave May Wash Out in November".