Last night saw the first and fortunately last debate between Uncle Joe and America’s personal trainer Paul Ryan. One thing is for certain, the vice president and the young whippersnapper trying to take his job put on a much more entertaining show than Obama and Romney the previous week. I mean, it really isn’t hard to put on a show that is more entertaining than a staring contest between a breeze block and a potato. This was entertaining in a gruesome way however. It was like watching a car crash but a really slow car crash. In fact, it reminded me of that really long yet slow scene in the film ‘Inception’ where the van was going over the bridge. Except in this version, every time someone tried to calmly pull together a game plan for survival, he was interrupted by the hysterical nut fearful of his demise.
The nut of course is Joe Biden, America’s favorite ice cream-eating son of a gun and current vice president. Between the incessant interruptions, giggles and wicked smiles, Joe Biden came across as a pushy thin-skinned unlikable bully who had to keep a lid on the well-mannered nice guy who was trying to convince the country that the Obama brand Kool-Aid has gone bad. Not to say that Ryan isn’t serving up another flavor of Kool-Aid, the Republicans just like the Democrats are always quick to hand out party beverages. We all know how it goes though – when the party gets sick of drinking Berry Blue they move over to Cherry for a little while and vice versa. However, when the people get sick of Berry Blue and its salesman’s pitch is to act like an unruly jackass, that is probably just more reason for those that are tired of it to go get a glass of Cherry. Then again, those who only love Berry Blue and will continue to only love that flavor, will support their guy’s sales pitch regardless of how approachable and nice the other guy is coming across.
This debate, as all debates go, was full of mistruths and fake facts. In an effort to bring this all to light, I have once again turned to multiple fact checking sources (FactCheck.org, Politifact, etc.) and cross-referenced their findings and checked their sources in order to give my readers a concrete representation of both men’s claims. So let me stop with the Kool-Aid antics and let the facts speak for themselves.
Let’s start with the general economic issues, then get into medical economic issues and then finish up with foreign affairs.
Starting at the top, Paul Ryan mentioned that President Obama’s plan to raise tax rates on high-income earners would “tax about 53 percent of small business income.” Congressman Ryan’s statement here is wrong. What Ryan is doing is using bad math to make his argument. His faulty numbers are counting giant hedge funds as well as thousands of other multimillion-dollar enterprises as small businesses when in fact they aren’t. Ryan’s bad math also included the tidbit that raising these proposed tax rates would, in-effect, cost us 710,000 jobs. Biden called Ryan out on his bullshit when he said:
Let me tell you who some of those other small businesses are: hedge funds that make $600 million, $800 million a year. That’s — that’s what they count as small businesses, because they’re pass-through.
On this issue, FactCheck.org states:
Republicans have been using and distorting this figure for years. It goes back to a 2010 study by the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation, which examined the amount of business income — not necessarily “small” business income — that is taxed at individual rates through what are called “pass-through” entities, such as partnerships and “S” corporations. And the JCT was quite clear in warning that literally thousands of these businesses are in fact multimillion-dollar enterprises.
Furthermore, here is what the Joint Committee on Taxation said:
These figures for net positive business income do not imply that all of the income is from entities that might be considered “small.” For example, in 2005, 12,862 S corporations and 6,658 partnerships had receipts on more than $50 million.
So Ryan’s definition of “small business” is misleading and Joe Biden was right in calling him out on it. Looking at the 710,000 figure – at face value the claim looks to be legit. Paul Ryan is getting his numbers from a recent study put out by Ernst & Young, which Wikipedia describes as “..one of the largest professional service firms in the world and one of the “Big Four” accounting firms..”. Their economic forecasting model projected that the effects of letting federal income tax rates rise to pre-Bush era levels on top income earners would result in “a loss of 710,000 jobs” in the long-term. While this is speculation to a degree the fact of the matter is that Ernst & Young’s study was commissioned by the U.S. Chamber or Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Business – both of which have historically leaned towards the Republicans. Furthermore, this study also said that this job loss would result “when the revenue is used to finance higher government spending” but did not look at what would happen if the higher revenues were used to reduce future federal deficits. Mark Zandi, chief economist for Moody’s referred to this omission as “odd” and further stated that, “It seems to me that is the more relevant scenario. And my sense is that if they did, the results would be very different.”
Then there was the whole “Scranton unemployment” exchange. Paul Ryan, in an attempt to point out the economic failure of the Obama Administration, cited Scranton, PA – Joe Biden’s hometown. Ryan said that the VP’s hometown was at 8.5 percent unemployment when Obama took office and today, three and a half years later, they are at 10 percent unemployment. While these statistics are correct, Paul Ryan stated that this is “how it’s going all around America.” That statement is false, which caused Uncle Joe to immediately respond to Ryan with, “You don’t read the statistics. That’s not how it’s going. It’s going down.” Biden’s half right, as the numbers are the same as the were when Obama took office. Where he’s half right is in the fact that the numbers went up but have since come back down. According to the Current Population Survey by the Bureau of Labor Statistics we are at 7.8 percent – where back in October of 2009, during Obama’s first year, we hit 10 percent.
Let’s look at this statement by Joe Biden:
They’re holding hostage the middle class tax cut to the super wealthy. And on top of that, they’ve got another tax cut coming that’s $5 trillion that all of the studies point out will in fact give another $250 million — yeah, $250,000 a year to those 120,000 families and raise taxes for people who are middle income with a child by $2,000 a year.
Biden’s claim here is false. In fact, he is citing a study by a nonpartisan group that came out and said that the Obama Campaign has been misinterpreting this study. In fact, we at The Swash published an article about this just a few days ago (it can be found here). The study was done by Prof. Harvey Rosen of Princeton University and in response to the Obama Campaign sending out misleading emails last week, he told the Weekly Standard:
I can’t tell exactly how the Obama campaign reached that characterization of my work. It might be that they assume that Governor Romney wants to keep the taxes from the Affordable Care Act in place, despite the fact that the Governor has called for its complete repeal. The main conclusion of my study is that under plausible assumptions, a proposal along the lines suggested by Governor Romney can both be revenue neutral and keep the net tax burden on taxpayers with incomes above $200,000 about the same. That is, an increase in the tax burden on lower and middle income individuals is not required in order to make the overall plan revenue neutral.
In defense of Biden’s claims, Rep. Ryan touted that “six studies have verified” that the Romney tax plan is mathematically possible. This is getting into the same argument that Mitt Romney and Barack Obama had the previous week at their debate regarding the Romney tax plan. The studies Ryan is citing can be perceived as biased towards Romney, as I discussed in an article I wrote about last week’s debate titled “The Battle of Boring: The First Presidential Debate of 2012“.
Getting back to the Obama Campaign’s misinterpretation of the study, Donald Marron the Director of the Tax Policy Center said:
I don’t interpret this as evidence that Governor Romney wants to increase taxes on the middle class in order to cut taxes for the rich, as an Obama campaign ad claimed. Instead, I view it as showing that his plan can’t accomplish all his stated objectives. One can charitably view his plan as a combination of political signaling and the opening offer in what would, if he gets elected, become a negotiation.
Now let’s get into the issue of economics in health care.
Paul Ryan said that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services “came to Congress and said one out of six hospitals and nursing homes are going to go out of business” due to ObamaCare. This claim isn’t accurate and here’s why. Richard Foster, the chief actuary for Medicare has cited his office’s own economic simulations which he said, “suggest that roughly 15 percent of Part A providers (which include hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, hospices and home health care providers) would become unprofitable within the 10-year projection period as a result of the productivity adjustments” in Medicare payment rates. He added that this could cause some providers to “end their participation in the program”.
But becoming “unprofitable” isn’t the same thing as “going to go out of business.” And Foster added that “this policy could be monitored over time to avoid such an outcome.”
Also worth noting is that the budget Ryan proposed, and House Republicans adopted, contains the same reductions in the future growth of Medicare Part A spending as the Affordable Care Act. The only difference is that the savings would be applied differently. So a hospital that would “go out of business” because of the ACA would be just as likely to close its doors under Ryan’s budget. Mitt Romney has rejected those Medicare reductions, but Ryan is being inconsistent, to say the least, when he criticizes the administration on that point.
While further criticizing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act a.k.a. ObamaCare, Rep. Ryan said that there was taxpayer-funding of abortion within the law. The reality of the situation is that ObamaCare does not provide direct funding towards abortion. Now the argument can be made that federal dollars could be indirectly supporting abortion and that’s understandable but there is nothing in the law that implicitly allows this to happen directly. The only areas in which ObamaCare does provide direct funding of abortion is in the cases of rape, incest or to save the life of a mother. These rules mirror the rules of Medicaid, which is also paid for by tax dollars. Additionally, the law states that low-income earners who buy their own private insurance with the aid of subsidies, must cough up their own money to pay for abortion.
The subject of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s 15 member Independent Payment Advisory Board or IPAB came up. Paul Ryan lightly tapped into the now infamous “death panel” argument and claimed that the board would decide when, where and what kind, if any, treatment senior citizens on Medicare would get. He said that such a board making these decisions would lead to seniors being denied health care. While Team Romney keeps blasting Team Obama over this issue throughout the presidential race, the law itself forbids the rationing and restriction of health care benefits. In fact, the IPAB is very limited in the methods that they can use in an effort to cut costs. This of course really opens a different can of worms in the fact that the panel’s limitation in cost-cutting measures could create a monstrous health care spending bubble that could burst horrifically and that is the real issue that needs to be examined but both sides seem to be ignoring it. While grandma and grandpa can’t be put to sleep the economic ramifications of the IPAB’s potential inability to balance their budget could cost us all greatly and then what happens to the health care system being held up by the weakening hands of big government?
On ObamaCare, Paul Ryan continued his assault when he said:
Look at all the string of broken promises. If you like your health care plan, you can keep it. Try telling that to the 20 million people who are projected to lose their health insurance if ObamaCare goes through or the … 7.4 million seniors who are going to lose it. … Or remember when he said health insurance premiums will go down $2,500 per family, per year? They’ve gone up $3,000, and they’re expected to go up another $2,400.
There seems to be a high level of fear-mongering here as Ryan’s words are full of misleading and false accusations. The bit about premiums going up $3,000 per family because of ObamaCare is untrue. Yes it has gone up but once again Team Romney is inflating and exaggerating numbers. Between 2010 and 2012, the premium for a family with a work-based policy has gone up an average of $1,975. The average single policy, in that time, has increased by an average of $566 according to an annual survey of employer plans by the Kaiser Family Foundation and Health Research & Educational Trust. Mitt Romney has been exaggerating this point as well on the campaign trail. He usually keeps his number at $2,500, which is closer to the real number but still inflated by over 25%.
Before moving on the next issue, it is worth pointing out that the increases mentioned above include the total amount shared by employees and employer. Also, according to the Kaiser Family findings, the amount of money and the percentage that is paid for by employees hasn’t changed all that much, if at all. When FactCheck.org looked into the issue previously, they were told that ObamaCare was responsible for a 1-to-3 percent increase due to more generous coverage requirements. FactCheck said:
The total increase from 2010 to 2011 was 9 percent, most of which was due to rising medical costs. In the past year, however, the average family premium went up just 4 percent. In a press release on the premium survey, the president of Health Research & Educational Trust said that “[p]remium growth is at historic lows, which greatly benefits workers.”
Going back to Ryan’s long anti-ObamaCare quote a few paragraphs back, he also had another exaggeration worth pointing out. His claim that “20 million people … are projected to lose their health insurance if ObamaCare goes through” is also untrue and another recycled point from his boss Mitt Romney. In fact, the reality behind this misrepresented number was discussed in my article about the first presidential debate. Ryan, like Romney, is taking this figure from the Congressional Budget Office, which used this figure as a loose example of the most pessimistic scenario. What the CBO’s analysis actually stated pretty clearly, is that it was likely that 3-to-5 million people would no longer receive insurance via their employers. Many of those people not being covered by their employers are expected to drop their insurance voluntarily in order to obtain coverage from another source. Again, repeating the findings in my last post-debate fact checking article, the CBO also stated the most optimistic scenario and it said that work-based coverage could increase (not decrease) by 3 million. As I said last time that this was mentioned, the projections of the CBO are so broad that what will really happen is anyone’s guess. However, just citing the absolute worst-case scenario as the figure is careless fear-mongering.
Ryan was also wrong about his statement that 7.4 million seniors would lose their coverage. This claim, as FactCheck explains it:
..refers to an estimate of the number that would normally be expected to take a Medicare Advantage plan but would instead chose traditional Medicare in 2017. Medicare Advantage plans, offered by private insurers, have been paid more on average than traditional fee-for-service Medicare, 9 percent more in 2010.
ObamaCare actually reduces the extra payments over a period of time, which actually brings payments on the Medicare Advantage plan in-line with traditional Medicare. In a nutshell, these plans are expected to attract fewer senior citizens, as this results in a scenario where these plans could shed extra benefits. In fact, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services estimated a lower enrollment of roughly 50 percent – from 14.8 million to 7.4 million by 2017. This figure is compared to what would have happened without the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
Enough with the health care malarky, it’s time to look at foreign affairs.
The first foreign policy issue is actually another economic issue. Paul Ryan blasted Biden with the question “Was it a good idea to spend taxpayer dollars on electric cars in Finland, or on windmills in China?” What Rep. Ryan is referring to is the money that the Obama Administration gave to automaker Fisker Automotive – who are working on plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. Now this Finnish automaker is actually based out of Anaheim, California. Their cars are built in Finland – however, the money that was provided to them by the government was spent specifically on support services in the United States. According to Fisker, this stimulus went towards design, engineering, sales and marketing all of which was done on U.S. soil. In fact, Fisker Automotive spokesman Roger Ormisher said, “All of the DOE loan money that we got for the Karma project [the first line of cars] had to be spent in America.”
Finally moving past our multiple economic woes, let’s talk about Biden’s comments regarding Mitt Romney and what he supposedly said regarding the capture of Osama bin Laden. Here’s Biden’s statement about Romney:
He said, “I wouldn’t move heaven and earth to get bin Laden.” He didn’t understand it was more than about taking a murderer off the battlefield. It was about restoring America’s heart and letting terrorists around the world know, if you do harm to America, we will track you to the gates of hell if need be.
Biden said something similar at the Democratic National Convention. What he is referring to is an interview that Romney did with the Associated Press way back in 2007. When looking at Romney’s statement in full context, you can see that Joe Biden is misrepresenting the meaning of the words spoken by the GOP presidential nominee. In fact, Romney’s words can speak for themselves, here is AP reporter Liz Sidoti’s question and Romney’s response:
Liz Sidoti: Why haven’t we caught Bin Laden in your opinion?
Romney: I think, I wouldn’t want to over-concentrate on Bin Laden. He’s one of many, many people who are involved in this global Jihadist effort. He’s by no means the only leader. It’s a very diverse group – Hamas, Hezbollah, al-Qaeda, Muslim Brotherhood and of course different names throughout the world. It’s not worth moving heaven and earth and spending billions of dollars just trying to catch one person. It is worth fashioning and executing an effective strategy to defeat global, violent Jihad and I have a plan for doing that.
The next foreign affairs issue revolves around Paul Ryan repeatedly criticizing the Obama Administration over comments that were made about Syria’s Bashar al Assad. According to Ryan, Team Obama called Assad a “reformer” while he’s actively killing his own civilians. This of course caused Biden to interrupt Ryan, as that was his modus operandi all night. Biden wanted to know who said it. Well, it was said. In fact, it was said by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during an interview on ‘Face the Nation’ in March of 2011. Here’s her statement:
There is a different leader in Syria now. Many of the members of Congress of both parties who have gone to Syria in recent months have said they believe he’s a reformer. What’s been happening there the last few weeks is– is deeply concerning. But there’s a difference between calling out aircraft and indiscriminately strafing and bombing your own cities, than police actions, which frankly have exceeded the use of force that any of us would want to see.
Just 48 hours later, Clinton tried to play her comments down when confronted about it during a press conference in London. When asked if the Obama Administration really viewed Assad as a “reformer”, Clinton said, “I referenced opinions of others. That was not speaking either for myself or for the administration.” She added that the Obama Administration would be “watching and waiting” to see if Assad would change.
The last issue I want to address was the first major issue to come up at the debate. It involves the Benghazi terrorist attack just one month ago, on the 11th anniversary of 9/11, that took the life of U.S. Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens and three others. Now earlier in the day, Stephanie Cutter, who is running the Obama Campaign, made an asinine statement when she said that the Benghazi terror attack is only an issue because Team Romney is making it an issue. Going further back, the Obama Administration has refused to call this act of terrorism what it is: terrorism. They’ve downplayed the issue, mostly because one would assume that they don’t want the black mark of a terrorist attack happening under their watch, especially so close to Election Day.
Feeling the pressure, Biden snapped at Ryan claiming that he “cut embassy security in his budget $300 million below what we asked for.” The truth is that Biden’s statement is an exaggeration. Fiscal year 2012 saw the funding at $264 million less than the Obama Administration had requested and it doesn’t just cover security, it also covers construction and maintenance. The Obama Administration requested $1.8 billion for the fiscal year that ended on September 30th. House Republicans responded with a proposal of $1.425 billion, in an effort to cut down on spending. Both parties settled on $1.537 billion after the GOP-controlled House of Representatives negotiated with the Democrat-controlled Senate.
Biden, defending his administration’s stance, also claimed that they weren’t aware of security concerns in Libya before the Benghazi attack. The VP said, “[W]e weren’t told they wanted more security there. We did not know they wanted more security again.” In reference to this, FactCheck stated:
We can’t say whether requests for more security — which were denied — reached the top. But American officials who worked in Libya over the summer placed the blame on a deputy assistant secretary of state — not top administration officials — when testifying before Congress this week.
So while it seems like Ryan had more factual faux pas, just as Romney had over Obama in the first debate, it doesn’t mean that he lost this thing. Frankly, the American people take things at face value and go with their gut instinct and emotion. So where does that leave us with this debate? Well, I certainly feel, as many people who I have talked to since last night, that Joe Biden came off like a prick. This was certainly to be expected to some degree as Uncle Joe can’t help himself from being the class clown and the center of attention but his overplayed aggression, which was just an attempt to compensate for Obama’s zombie-like state the previous week, didn’t play out well on television. In fact, the show seemed like less of a presidential-level debate and more like an episode of ESPN’s ‘Pardon the Interruption’. Joe came off like a laughing, smirking douche and that’s just the way it is. I can see how this appeals to those on the left that wanted the heat turned up after Obama’s weak performance, and while the heat most certainly did need to be turned up, Biden just threw his biscuits in the oven with it set to broil. I understand the hand that had to be played but it was played poorly – and that’s on Biden and Biden alone.
Now I am not saying Ryan, as a performer, pulled off anything spectacular. He was boring for the most part but his calmness and ease were a stark contrast to Uncle Joe’s antics and it made him the more likable of the two. The polls have reflected this, as most of everything that I have looked at has projected Paul Ryan as the winner of the debate. Now his win wasn’t as decisive as Romney’s over Obama last week but it still keeps the edge that Team Romney has gained. In fact, after this debate, the number of states that were locked down for Obama has fallen to around nine. The number was much higher two weeks ago, as early voting showed Obama in a significant lead over Romney but now the gap is closing. Obama is still leading in the Electoral College based off of early voting and projections based off of that data but what was a lead of 237-to-191 has now shifted to 201-to-181. An almost 50 point lead has been reduced to 10 points in under two weeks. Keep in mind that 270 is needed to win the presidency.
While I don’t think that the VP debate is going to effect much in terms of the election, it has helped to bring Paul Ryan to the mainstream, as he had the chance to talk to the majority of the American people, which is an opportunity he hasn’t had yet. It got him out there, he is now seen favorably by many and that will only help Romney and keep the campaign’s gained momentum going strong. Did Biden hurt Obama? No, not at all. Even though he came out like Ivan Drago trying to kill Apollo Creed and it was generally frowned upon, Joe is just Joe and will continue to maintain his Uncle Joe persona without any real negative or positive effects in the long-term.
While I enjoyed this debate more than the first Obama-Romney showdown, it did become almost unwatchable at parts due to Biden’s behavior but ultimately it was a decent show and a good change of pace from Obama and Romney talking smack about each other daily on the campaign trail. What would’ve made it better though, is if these two actually talked about some of the more pressing issues that continually seem to be ignored by both camps. What I’m specifically talking about is NDAA and indefinite detention, SOPA, PIPA, CISPA, all types of Internet control and censorship really, as well as the tyranny of the TSA and Homeland Security, the use of drones on U.S. soil, real talk about the wars including the War on Drugs, auditing the Federal Reserve, auditing the Pentagon, a return to a gold standard. Hell, there is so much that isn’t discussed and frankly, I’m personally tired of having so much time devoted to ObamaCare.
It’s the real shit that gets brushed under the rug however, as both sides are just as guilty of the same tyranny – that which slowly takes away our constitutional rights in favor of big government. Republicans speak out for limited government but their track record states the opposite – blatantly. What we have to all realize, is that no matter who wins this thing next month, we’re fucked either way. Nothing will change, the debt will swell, we will be locked in perpetual war and our civil rights, individual rights and property rights will continue to be taken away one-by-one and so slowly that we might not realize it until it’s too late. I mean honestly, it’s too late now.