Gorging on homemade curry, steak on skewers, bourbon and beer, I sat down to watch the first big debate. Being just twenty-four hours removed from watching chain-smoking Speaker of the House John Boehner cry his eyes out in my boss’ bar (a story for another day), I was ready for some political normalcy and less awkwardness from my elected officials. Well, no one cried at the debate but it was certainly awkward.
I don’t really know where to start with last night’s debate. It was pretty interesting but also pretty boring in my opinion. It was definitely lacking the fired up and overly charismatic Barack Obama I wanted to see and Mitt Romney wasn’t much better, even though all the polls, public and pundit feedback have pretty much declared the guy the winner. I would have to say that he did win but not convincingly and not because of his debate skills. The poorly performing Obama was a big help to Mitt Romney overall and I could almost see Mitt breathing a sigh of relief every time Obama looked poised to attack but failed to do so effectively, except for maybe once or twice – I’ll get into that towards the end.
Both men started out decent and it seemed as if the debate would go fairly well. Obama had the smirk and the poise and seemed ready to unleash the upgraded Barry v2.0 on Ol’ Mittens but that never happened. Romney had a serene look on his face and talked a bit calmer than normal. I think maybe he had a blunt or two of that old Colorado cocktail; that shit’s readily available in Denver, which is where these two dudes were duking it out. Regardless of Obama’s persona’s inability to upgrade its OS or Romney hitchhiking on the Pineapple Express, the debate was flat, uninspiring and a snooze fest full of rhetoric attacking rhetoric and nothing more than shoddy facts, misinformation, dishonesty, accusations, exaggerations and false claims that went well over the heads of most Americans watching. And yes, those Americans are the people that are eating up the rhetoric and proclaiming Romney as the solid winner of this monotonous affair. Why? Because they don’t look beyond the rhetoric and examine the real facts! But no need to worry America, that is what I am here for and why I write the shit I write.
Let’s go through some of this debate rhetoric and pull the truth out from all the bullshit. In doing this, I am getting my information from various fact checking resources and checking their facts against each other while looking at the numbers for myself. I’m using FactCheck.org’s report as somewhat of a template for my own and checking their facts and stats against PolitiFact, as well as both site’s sourced material and statistics. So let’s get into it.
To start, Barack Obama claimed that Mitt Romney’s economic plan calls for $5 trillion in tax cuts as well as an extension of the now infamous Bush era tax cuts. Romney denied this and looking at reality, he was right in doing so. Mittens has proposed cutting the income tax rate for individuals across the board by 20 percent while extending the Bush tax cuts. Additionally, he claims to want to permanently eliminate estate tax, repeal the Alternative Minimum Tax and eliminate taxation on interest, capital gains and dividends for Americans making less than $200,000. According to the Tax Policy Center, by themselves, Romney’s cuts would lower federal tax liability by roughly $480 billion in 2015 compared to Obama’s current tax policy, with Bush’s tax cuts still in effect. The Obama Administration, according to FactCheck.org, “has extrapolated that figure out over 10 years, coming up with a $5 trillion figure over a decade.” Romney has claimed that he has planned to offset these large cuts by having large reductions in tax preferences to broaden the tax base, which should not increase the deficit or create revenue loss.
But the plot thickens, as Romney could not properly explain how he planned to offset the big loss of revenue without the burden being shifted away from those in the upper-income tax bracket. You see, upper income earners would benefit from across the board tax cuts and the elimination of the estate tax, which only falls on estates exceeding $5.1 million in value, thus making such cuts disproportionate and favoring to the rich. According to FactCheck.org and the Tax Policy Center, it isn’t “mathematically possible for a plan such as Romney’s to cut rates as he promised without either favoring the wealthy or increasing the federal deficit.” Personally, I do not have a problem with a the wealthy benefitting, as long as it isn’t a knife between the ribs of everyone else at their expense. Mitt said, “My number one principal is, there will be no tax cut that adds to the deficit. … I will not reduce the taxes paid by high-income Americans. … I will lower taxes on middle-income families.” While that sounds great to most, he hasn’t proven that his method will work or that it isn’t just rhetoric.
Now one thing that I must point out, is that I’ve looked into this, after it was brought up to me by a friend, and Mitt Romney seemingly has a very skewed sense of reality as far as what number truly defines the middle class and upper-income earners. While those numbers are open for debate, as different people and different sources say different things, Mitt Romney’s sense of the middle class is borderline insane. Mitt Romney, when asked by George Stephanopoulos in an interview if $100,000 was what he considered “middle income”, Romney responded with, and I quote, “No, middle income is $200,000 to $250,000 and less”. His campaign later came out and said that Mitt was referring specifically to household income, not individual income. This is important however, as it shows Romney’s potentially warped sense of what the middle income earner makes when most average it out to be somewhere around $50,000 (and that might be slightly generous). So even if mom and dad made that salary, as a household, they’d still be well below Romney’s $200,000 to $250,000 range.
Moving on, President Obama mentioned the Tax Policy Center’s criticisms of Romney’s plan and Ol’ Mittens was quick to point out that six other studies came out saying that the Tax Policy Center was “completely wrong”. Fair enough, but is Mitt’s claim accurate? Well, no. FactCheck.org found that at least half of those studies weren’t actual unbiased studies but were in fact done by people associated with Romney in some way. One study was a blog by Matt Jensen of the American Enterprise Institute that suggested how the Tax Policy Center could do a better study, as he was unsatisfied with their findings. Another study was just a campaign “white paper” co-authored by two dudes on Romney’s own economic policy team: R. Glenn Hubbard and N. Gregory Mankiw. The third study was nothing more than an opinion article written by Romney advisor Martin Feldstein. Feldstein’s article appeared in the Wall Street Journal and claimed that Romney’s plan was not impossible but that it would only work mathematically if there were “adjustments” made to the TPC’s “assumptions”. A second article was written by Feldstein, in defense of his first article, and this one is also counted by Romney as a “study” debunking the TPC’s study. There was an article written by someone not directly associated with Romney but was once George W. Bush’s chairman on his Council of Economic Advisors. Is the guy biased? Probably but regardless of that, none of these items cited by Romney are close to being credible enough or even unbiased enough to honestly debunk the TPC’s findings.
Now I can’t just keep picking on Romney here, I need to look at some of Obama’s claims too, so let me move on into the health care portion of the debate. One of Obama’s most notable statements from the evening was this:
And the fact of the matter is that, when ObamaCare is fully implemented, we’re going to be in a position to show that costs are going down. And over the last two years, health care premiums have gone up — it’s true — but they’ve gone up slower than any time in the last 50 years. So we’re already beginning to see progress.
Fair enough but the bit claiming that health care premiums have “gone up slower than any time in the last 50 years” is a half truth. The reality of the situation is that it is true about health care spending but it isn’t true about premiums. Essentially, Obama is making a claim that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act a.k.a. ObamaCare has been the cause of slower growth in health care spending. It hasn’t. Most experts have said that it is our sluggish economy that has been responsible for the sluggish spending. The Washington Post reported that experts at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have said that many people that have lost their jobs during these tough times have also lost their benefits – including employer-sponsored health insurance and therefore have had to “forgo health-care services they could not afford.” The New York Times claimed that the behavior of medical professionals and many consumers could be changing due to anticipation of ObamaCare taking effect but also ultimately gave our slow economy the credit for the slowdown in health care spending.
Sticking to ObamaCare for now, Romney – like many Republicans, claimed that there was going to be a government board that was going to decide which type of care and treatment they could receive based off of a cost benefit analysis, as they are assuming that “socialized medicine” will create an atmosphere where there isn’t adequate care to go around. While their assumptions about “socialized medicine” could very well end up being accurate, these claims and concerns have become a major part of the GOP’s rhetoric over the last two-to-three years. I’m sure everyone in America has heard the term “death panel” thrown around a lot. Well, according to FactCheck.org, Romney’s claims aren’t true. FactCheck.org states, “It (the board) could make some binding recommendations about such things as what drugs or medical devices would be paid for by Medicare, but it has no legal power to dictate treatment or ration care.” They also add that:
The board is a 15-member panel that’s tasked with finding ways to slow the growth of Medicare spending. So, its work concerns Medicare, not everyone seeking health care. And, according to the law, the board can’t touch treatments or otherwise “ration” care, or restrict benefits.
Also, pointed out by FactCheck.org and other experts, this board is officially called the Independent Payment Advisory Board or IPAB and it is made up of appointed health care experts that would work towards reducing health care spending. As a failsafe, Congress could override this board with a three-fifths majority in the House of Representatives and the Senate. In fact, the Kaiser Family Foundation has determined that the IPAB is limited to finding savings from, “Medicare Advantage, the Part D prescription drug program, skilled nursing facility, home health, dialysis, ambulance and ambulatory surgical center services, and durable medical equipment.” This doesn’t mean that to cut costs, some bureaucrat is going to pull the plug on Auntie Suzie. That’s not a part of the deal.
Now let’s get into the area of jobs, as Barack Obama talks a lot of shit about how he has managed the economy into better days since the dark times of 2008. He said that, “over the last 30 months, we’ve seen 5 million jobs in the private sector created.” Well, the current Bureau of Labor Statistics figures show that the number of private sector jobs grew by 4.63 million in that time. While this looks seemingly accurate, each year the BLS looks over companies’ tax records because this provides them with a more accurate representation of the total job creation numbers. The truth is, we won’t know for sure until February of 2013.
As far as the deficit goes, Mitt Romney said, “The president said he’d cut the deficit in half. Unfortunately, he doubled it. Trillion-dollar deficits for the last four years.” Well, “doubled” is a huge exaggeration! The President inherited a $1.2 trillion deficit from George W. Bush in 2009 and since then, deficits have not dropped below that but have stayed at that level or just a bit higher. The Congressional Budget Office or CBO had already estimated that the deficit in 2009 would be at $1.2 trillion before Obama even took office. It is worth noting that the CBO’s fiscal years start on October 1st and end on September 30th, therefore, Bush had a major hand in the events that shaped the 2009 budget. So when Obama talks about inheriting a mess, he isn’t lying. Granted, blaming Bush for everything four years later is a bit ridiculous. But anyway, following 2009, the deficit each year was around $1.3 trillion with this past year being back down to $1.2 trillion. So Obama didn’t double the deficit but he also didn’t live up to his promise to cut the deficit in half by the end of his first term. The CBO has analyzed the president’s budget and doesn’t show the deficit actually being cut in half until 2014 – that’s 6 years into Obama’s presidency, assuming he beats Romney next month.
Let’s look at this claim by Obama:
But I have said that for incomes over $250,000 a year, that we should go back to the rates that we had when Bill Clinton was president, when we created 23 million new jobs, went from deficit to surplus, and created a whole lot of millionaires to boot.
Now achieving this isn’t as easy as just making things like they were when Clinton was running the show from 1993-2001. Obama is ignoring the fact that there are a lot of new taxes since the Clinton era and also, the wealthy are paying more in addition to new taxes due to the financial burden of Obama’s health care law. Essentially, Obama wants to eliminate the Bush era tax cuts which would bring the top income earners from a tax rate of 35 percent back up to the Clinton era 39.6 percent. It would also take the next class of earners, those making over $250,000 per year and increase their tax rate from 33 percent to 36 percent. Unfortunately, as Obama conveniently left out of this point, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will add a 3.8 percent tax on “unearned” net investment income. FactCheck.org points out that this includes, “capital gains from the sale of stocks or real estate, dividends, interest income, annuities, rents and royalties.” There is also going to be a 0.9 percent Medicare surcharge on top of what people currently pay for Medicare in their payroll. The Joint Committee on Taxation reports that these two taxes combined will roughly generate $210 billion over the next seven years.
On income loss, Mitt Romney felt the need to exaggerate and throw out a false claim when he stated that:
Middle-income Americans have seen their income come down by $4,300. This is a — this is a tax in and of itself. I’ll call it the economy tax. It’s been crushing.
Of course Ol’ Mittens has to inflate the number because he’s got to make Obama look worse than he is. The truth is that the latest figures from the Census Bureau show that real household income, adjusted for inflation, fell by $2,492 under Obama. Real family income fell by $3,290. Both figures are pretty far off from the number Romney threw around. Romney also points out that the price of gas has doubled under Obama, which actually is accurate, but the truth is that gas prices were at an unusual low price at the time that Obama took office.
Barack Obama went on to tout his $4 trillion reduction plan. He said it was on a website and that Americans could go there and look at the numbers for themselves and see what cuts the Obama Administration is going to make as well as it giving transparency to the revenue they raise. The President’s Plan for Economic Growth and Deficit Reduction has come under criticism from nonpartisan and partisan budget analysts. Maya MacGuineas of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget referred to the plan as a gimmick, specifically the portion that stated, “more than $1 trillion in savings over the next 10 years from our drawdowns in Afghanistan and Iraq.”
Drawing down spending on wars that were already set to wind down and that were deficit financed in the first place should not be considered savings. When you finish college, you don’t suddenly have thousands of dollars a year to spend elsewhere – in fact, you have to find a way to pay back your loans.
And as we have noted, even if you accept Obama’s $4 trillion claim, the president’s own Office of Management and Budget projected annual federal deficits would never be lower than $476 billion. That’s higher than any year of the Bush administration except for the $1.4 trillion shortfall for fiscal 2009, for which Obama himself bears some responsibility. And under Obama’s plan, deficits would again rise during the last three years of the 10-year period, reaching $565 billion in 2021.
Romney went on to claim that “the CBO says up to 20 million people will lose their insurance as ObamaCare goes into effect next year.” Yes this was stated by the Congressional Budget Office however they said that it could happen only under very pessimistic circumstances. They stated that it’s more likely that 3 to 5 million people wouldn’t be able to obtain health insurance from their employer. Under optimistic circumstances, the CBO said that more people could potentially obtain health insurance from their employers. That’s all fine and dandy but the optimistic versus pessimistic scenarios are so far apart that there isn’t really any accurate way at determining whether Romney’s claims are legit and on that same token, there is no way for Romney to come to that conclusion other than pulling a number out of a hat.
Inflation seems to be Romney’s thing, as he also inflated the number of Americans that are out of work. Romney claimed that the number was 23 million. Well, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics there were 12.5 million unemployed Americans based off of their most recent figures, which are only about a month old. FactCheck.org pointed out that:
Romney meant to refer to the unemployed, plus those working part-time who want full-time work (8 million) and those who are considered “marginally attached” to the labor force because they have not looked for work in the past four weeks (2.6 million). All of that adds up to 23.1 million. Romney got his talking point closer to the truth when he said, “We’ve got 23 million people out of work or stopped looking for work in this country.” But he still left out the 8 million who are working part-time for economic reasons.
Romney’s shaky claims don’t end there however. He also said that “50 percent of college graduates this year can’t find work.” This is another inflated fabrication. On this FactCheck.org stated:
Romney is likely referring to an analysis of government data conducted for the Associated Press that found that — in 2011 — 53.6 percent of bachelor’s degree-holders under the age of 25 were unemployed or underemployed that year. But it’s not correct to say that a person who is underemployed — meaning that they have a part-time job, or a job for which they were overqualified — can’t find work. It’s also a figure that applies to last year, not “this year” as Romney said.
There are some other mistruths that were spoken during the debate but this article is already swollen with information and I need to continue on to the next part: the public consensus of the debate itself.
Now what happened after the smoke cleared? Well, I was a bit taken aback by the reception that Mitt Romney was receiving from the public and the media. My god, MSNBC and CNN were both going apeshit over Obama’s inability to take it to Romney. In a shocking turn of events, MSNBC and CNN reluctantly gave the debate to Romney. Now while they didn’t boldly state that Ol’ Mittens was the winner, they did criticize Obama heavily and couldn’t stop themselves from having to give props to Mitt Romney. Hell, Van Jones, Obama’s former best bud and Special Advisor for Green Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation at the White House Council on Environmental Quality before leaving the Obama Administration said that “Romney was able to ‘out-Obama’ Obama.” Man, if that’s not a kick to the nuts for the president, I don’t know what is.
Other liberals were going crazy as well. Chris Matthews angrily asked, “What was he doing?!” in reference to his weak performance. The New York Times referred to him as “President Xanax”. The liberal haven San Francisco gave the debate to Romney in their local media’s polls. James Carville said that “Romney came with a chainsaw.” The Daily Beast’s Andrew Sullivan called the debate “a disaster”. Bill Maher said that Obama needed his teleprompter. Anti-human greenie idiot Al Gore blamed the altitude. Anti-capitalist scumbag Michael Moore tweeted, “This is what happens when you pick John Kerry as your debate coach.” The Obama Camp’s response pretty much just stated “We’ll be tougher next time.” Three strikes and your out bro and right now, Obama has one strike and no balls.
CNN posted a poll and it’s results were astonishing. Those who watched the debate voted Romney the winner against Obama with 67 percent against 25 percent! Other polls throughout the media circus were also coming back with very similar results. Love it or hate it, this debate has shifted things in Romney’s favor. Obama certainly has time to bring the pain much harder but public perception is everything and right now, the sitting president is looking weak.
Personally, I don’t agree with the popular opinion on this. Obama wasn’t at his best last night but he wasn’t as awful as people were making him out to be. I think the problem is that we have heard this guy speak so many times and what was once exciting and charismatic about the guy, is now just standard fair. People expect to feel like they did when they first heard him speak in 2007 and 2008. Well, a lot of time has passed and those feelings have dwindled in most Americans and considering that we see the man on our television sets every night makes this once exciting fella nothing more than a generic talking head that we all try to drown out while eating dinner. People’s expectations with everything are just too damn high and it’s Obama’s failure to meet those impossible expectations that saw his loyal peeps turn on him after the debate.
One moment in the debate that people seemed to have missed, which was one of my favorite bits, was when Obama bluntly called out Romney on his bullshit. He brought up all the things Romney wants to “Repeal & Replace” as well as his tax and economic plans and said that he talks a big game but hasn’t explained his plans and how they work. Obama stated that if they were so fantastic, why is he keeping them so secret. What Barack Obama did there was ask the question that I have been thinking for months. It’s a question that Romney supporters aren’t even concerned with because their focus is on “Anybody but Obama!” Obama hit that out of the park but no one cared, not even the liberals who were pontificating over the debate afterwards.
In the end, I guess it doesn’t matter because we’re living in a bullshit world with two bullshit guys competing for a bullshit crown while arguing over bullshit by using bullshit. If you don’t think we’re close to completely fucked, you’ve been burying your head in the damn sand.