For the next month, motorists on Interstate 86 in the northwestern tip of Pennsylvania will see a billboard with the statement: “Tax Cuts Threaten Social Security.”
Duquesne University law professor Bruce Ledewitz is behind the creation of the sign, located on the eastbound side of I-86 five miles from the Pennsylvania-New York state line in Erie County, Pa.
Ledewitz said he rented the billboard to promote truth and democracy at a time when, according to the professor, misinformation and flat-out lies dominate political discourse.
“The idea is if a politician tells a lie about an important public policy matter that makes it difficult for the people to decide what should be done, the people have to call that politician out,” Ledewitz said. “One way to do that is to put up a billboard.”
Ledewitz faults Republican lawmakers for passing a tax bill in December without admitting that it’s projected to significantly increase the national deficit. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated the legislation would raise the deficit by approximately $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years.
Budget experts predict such an increase could lead to cuts to Social Security and Medicare. Ledewitz acknowledged that the tax law’s supporters believe the legislation will boost tax revenues by spurring economic growth.
“That’s exactly the debate that we need to have,” the professor said. “Is it worth having tax cuts, which obviously, at least temporarily, stimulate the economy and create jobs, if they also create large deficits?”
Ledewitz said that Democratic lawmakers across the country made false claims when they passed the Affordable Care Act in 2010. At the time, they incorrectly promised that people wouldn’t have to change medical plans under the health care law.
But as the party in power today, Ledewitz said, the GOP deserves extra scrutiny.
Ledewitz hopes his billboard, which he said costs about $4,000 to rent for 28 days, will inspire other citizens to expose dishonest politicians in both parties, at all levels of government.
“Unless the people stand up and say, ‘No, we don’t want to be lied to. We want to have debates. We will have disagreements. But we don’t want to be lied to,’” Ledewitz said, “until the people insist on that, it will keep happening.”
Ledewitz chose to put the billboard in Erie County because residents there voted for President Donald Trump in 2016 after going for President Barack Obama twice. The county’s voters, Ledewitz said, demonstrated a lack of partisanship that indicates they’re open to different approaches to improve social and economic conditions.
Ledewitz noted that the decline of manufacturing and the opioid crisis have hit Erie County especially hard. Such challenges increase the demand for government services, the professor said.
“The people of Erie have a lot at stake in the tax cut debate, and they deserve the truth,” he said. “We all deserve the truth.”