Candidates debate economy, Medicare

Pat McAteer | October 4, 2012    

President Barack Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney traded rhetorical jabs…President Barack Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney traded rhetorical jabs over domestic policy Wednesday evening during their first debate of the 2012 presidential race.

During the 90-minute debate hosted by CNN at the University of Denver, Romney and Obama espoused their plans on issues ranging from debt reduction to education. This was the first debate to take place between the candidates before the Nov. 6 election.

On the issue of their respective budget plans, Obama frequently attacked Romney for a lack of specificity regarding how he’d enact a budget to reduce the federal debt while also reducing tax rates across the board.

“And the fact is that if you are lowering the rates the way you described, Governor, then it is not possible to come up with enough deductions and loopholes that only affect high-income individuals,” Obama said.

But Romney countered, saying that Obama’s plan would cripple small businesses by increasing their tax burdens to the point at which 50 percent of their income would be paid in taxes. He also said that his plan “is not like anything that has been tried before,” because it reduces the debt while increasing jobs.

Romney also blasted Obama for providing $90 billion in tax breaks toward green energy companies after the President pointed out the $2.8 billion in subsidies toward oil companies. He added that, for the most part, these companies haven’t been successful.

“I had a friend who said you don’t just pick the winners and losers. You pick the losers, all right,” Romney said.

And in what has become one of the campaign’s core arguments, Romney and Obama traded blows over the issue of whose plan preserves Medicare in its current format. Obama said under Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan’s budget plan, Medicare would transform into a voucher system.

And although Romney claimed he’d maintain Medicare for those who need it, Obama said Romney’s plan could leave senior citizens vulnerable.

“Those insurance companies are pretty clever at figuring out who are the younger and healthier seniors,” Obama said. “They recruit them, leaving the older, sicker seniors in Medicare.”

Romney argued that Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act removes $716 billion from Medicare to fund programs within the plan.

Obama also attacked Romney on his view of the role of the federal government in public education, saying the former Massachusetts governor “doesn’t think we need more teachers.”

But unlike the President, Romney said, he stands in favor of a system in which public education is supported at the state and local levels.

“I reject the idea that I don’t believe in great teachers or more teachers,” Romney said. “Every school district, every state should make that decision on their own.”

Before closing the debate, Obama and Romney touched on their view of the role in government in society. While Obama said the government could “open the ladders of opportunity” for Americans everywhere, Romney said the role of the government was a simple one.

“The role of the government: look behind us. The Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. The role of government is to promote the principles of those documents,” Romney said.

The two candidates will face off in a second debate on Oct. 16 at Hofstra University in New York.

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