President Barack Obama and former Governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney opened the presidential debate season last Wednesday at the University of Denver in Denver, Colorado in a matchup that saw neither side come out ahead. The consensus among students and social media is that Romney finished slightly ahead of Obama. He was more aggressive although neither candidate scored dramatic blows.
The debate covered domestic issues, with both candidates taking swings at each other.
Romney called out Obama for his first term as president, “You’ve been president four years. You said you’d cut the deficit in half. It’s now four years later. We still have trillion dollar deficits.”
He also made a point of $90 billion spent on programs and policies to develop alternative energy sources that could have been devoted to hiring teachers or other needs that would bring down unemployment. Romney said, “There’s no question in my mind if the president is re-elected, you’ll continue to see a middle-class squeeze.”
Obama, however, argued that his policies are working to bring America back from the economic crisis he inherited. He also highlighted the fact that Romney has yet to divulge specifics about his proposed tax plans and replacements for Obama’s healthcare plan and Wall Street reform act that the Republican has pledged to repeal. He said of his opponent’s plan, “At some point I think the American people have to ask themselves, is the reason that Governor Romney is keeping all these plans to replace secret because they’re too good?”
Regarding taxes, Obama said Romney’s plan of tax cuts for the rich has failed before and would fail again. Describing the Romney tax plan as a $5 trillion cut, Obama echoed a line from former President Bill Clinton, saying the math does not add up without increasing tax revenue.
Romney, however, said Obama is still pushing the same policies as when he took office four years ago, and those steps have failed to decrease high unemployment and energize the economy.
He said that his tax plan will not add to the deficit, and criticized the president’s call for the elimination of the Bush tax cuts for families with income over $250,000 and individuals with income over $200,000 individuals.
Romney attacked the president regarding putting America back to work. He said, “My priority is putting people back to work in America. They’re suffering in this country. And we talk about evidence. Look at the evidence of the last four years. It’s absolutely extraordinary. We’ve got 23 million people out of work or stopped looking for work in this country. It’s just — it’s — we’ve got — when the president took office, 32 million people on food stamps; 47 million on food stamps today; economic growth this year slower than last year, and last year slower than the year before.”
Obama said, “I think we’ve got to invest in education and training. I think it’s important for us to develop new sources of energy here in America, that we change our tax code to make sure that we’re helping small businesses and companies that are investing here in the United States, that we take some of the money that we’re saving as we wind down two wars to rebuild America and that we reduce our deficit in a balanced way that allows us to make these critical investments.”
Obama also said, “I’ve proposed a specific 4 trillion dollar deficit reduction plan. The way we do it is 2.50 dollars for every cut, we ask for one dollar in additional revenue.”
In promising four trillion, Obama is taking into account 800 billion of war savings that will occur naturally and two trillion from legislation enacted last year that cut agency budgets. Taking those cuts away and the 2.5/1 ratio changes much more to a tax hike. His proposed February budget would cut deficits by two trillion with tax increases accounting for 1.6 trillion.
Regarding Obama’s health care plan Romney said, “It puts in place an unelected board that’s going to tell people ultimately what kind of treatments they can have. I don’t like that idea.”
He was referring to the Independent Payment Advisory Board, a panel of experts that would be able to force Medicare cuts if costs rise beyond certain levels and Congress fails to act. But the law prohibits the board from controlling any treatment, restricting benefits, or doing anything that dictates what treatments doctors prescribe.
Romney also said, “What we’re seeing right now is, in my view, a – a trickle-down government approach, which has government thinking it can do a better job than free people pursuing their dreams. And it’s not working. And the proof of that is 23 million people out of work. The proof of that is 1 out of 6 people in poverty. The proof of that is we’ve gone from 32 million on food stamps to 47 million on food stamps. The proof of that is that 50 percent of college graduates this year can’t find work.”
The number of unemployed people is 12.5 million not the 23 million said by Romney. Furthermore, his claim that half of college graduates cannot find work is also incorrect; a recent study found that one-fourth of recent graduates were probably unemployed.
The debate went back and forth with both candidates developing their platforms and appealing to moderates. But, whereas Romney was aggressive and took charge, Obama seemed a bit thrown off by Romney’s confidence. Obama did attack Romney on his shift to the right during the primaries, “I’ve got to tell you, Governor Romney, when it comes to his own party during the course of this campaign, has not displayed that willingness to say no to some of the more extreme parts of his party,”
Yet, the polls reflect only a modest change. Romney has narrowed Obama’s lead with the Gallup poll indicating that Obama is leading 49-46.