Elections | Nation

A Closer Look: Beyond The Buzzwords

NPR | Oct. 11, 2012 6:19 p.m.

Contributed By:

Padmananda Rama

In the first presidential debate between President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney, a few terms and figures became flash points for later discussion. From Simpson-Bowles (which was mentioned at least eight times) to the much-discussed $716 billion cut in Medicare, the presidential debate and the wider campaign has featured a growing list of devilish details that could use a good footnote. Here’s a closer look at a few of these disputed terms that are likely to come up in Thursday’s vice-presidential debate.

TAX CUTS

“Gov. Romney’s proposal that he’s been promoting for 18 months calls for a $5 trillion tax cut on top of $2 trillion of additional spending for our military.” President Obama

Obama’s Take:

“The fact is that if you are lowering the rates the way you describe, Governor, then it is not possible to come up with enough deductions and loopholes that only affect high-income individuals to avoid either raising the deficit or burdening the middle class. It’s – it’s math. It’s arithmetic.

Romney’s Take:

“I will not under any any circumstances, raise taxes on middle-income families. I will lower taxes on middle income families. … Let’s get to the bottom line. That is, I want to bring down the rates down, at the same time lower deductions and exemptions and credits… so we keep getting the revenue we need.”

A Closer Look:

$5 trillion: the amount President Obama says Romney’s tax plan proposes to cut in government spending. That figure comes from an analysis by The Tax Policy Center. Romney’s tax plan includes cutting marginal tax rates by 20 percent. The Tax Policy Center estimates the cost to the budget would be $5 trillion over ten years. As NPR’s John Ydstie explains, Romney “hasn’t said which loopholes and deductions would go away” in order to offset that cost.

Politi-fact calls Obama’s assertion half-true, in that Obama “made a misleading statement about an incomplete plan.” Yet Romney has offered few details on how he would achieve an across the board tax cut. Recently, he mentioned capping tax deductions at $17,000, making “deductions” a buzzword to watch for in Thursday’s debate.

BALANCED BUDGET

Simpson Bowles, the president should have grabbed that.” Mitt Romney

Obama’s Take:

“That’s how the… bipartisan commission that talked about how we should move forward suggested that we have to do it – in a balanced way with some revenue and some spending cuts. And this is a major difference that Gov. Romney and I have. …If you take such an unbalanced approach, then that means you are going to be gutting our investments in schools and education.”

Romney’s Take:

“What I do is I bring down the tax rates, lower deductions and exemptions – the same idea behind Bowles-Simpson, by the way. Get the rates down, lower deductions and exemptions to create more jobs, because there’s nothing better for getting us to a balanced budget than having more people working, earning more money, paying – more taxes. That’s by far the most effective and efficient way to get this budget balanced.” Mitt Romney

A Closer Look:

Bowles-Simpson Commission: The authors of the commission spoke with NPR following the first debate with Democrat Erskine Bowles saying, “I think it’s fair to say that neither plan, you know, embraces the total of what we have recommended.” Former GOP Sen. Alan Simpson described Congress’ inability to agree on a way to balance the budget, including approving their plan as “beautiful gridlock.” Rep. Paul Ryan was on the commission, which attempted to come up with a bipartisan plan for reducing the deficit, and resisted moving the plan forward for a legislative vote.

MEDICARE

“The idea, which was originally presented by Congressman Ryan, your running mate, is that we would give a voucher to seniors, and they could go out in the private marketplace and buy their own health insurance.” President Obama

Obama’s Take:

“The problem is that because the voucher wouldn’t necessarily keep up with health care inflation, it was estimated that this would cost the average senior about $6,000 a year.”

Romney’s Take:

“This is an idea that’s been around a long time, which is saying, ‘hey, let’s see if we can’t get competition into the Medicare world so that people can get the choice of different plans at lower cost, better quality. I believe in competition.”

A Closer Look:

An essential part of Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget plan is to change the Medicare system so that future retirees would chose from the current Medicare system or a private health care provider. As NPR’s Scott Horsley explains, the $6,000 cited by Obama comes from a CBO estimate if health care costs rise faster than their government vouchers. Yet, Republicans say competition would keep that price in check. Factcheck.org says the cost to seniors applies to an outdated Ryan budget plan.

Wall Street Regulation

“I wouldn’t designate five banks as too big to fail and give them a blank check. That’s one of the unintended consequences of Dodd- Frank.” Mitt Romney

Obama’s Take:

“Gov. Romney has said he just wants to repeal Dodd-Frank, roll it back. And so the question is does anybody out there think that the big problem we had is that there was too much oversight and regulation of Wall Street? Because if you do, then Gov. Romney is your candidate. But that’s not what I believe.”

Romney’s Take:

“[Dodd-Frank] designates a number of banks as too big to fail, and they’re effectively guaranteed by the federal government. This is the biggest kiss that’s been given to — to New York banks I’ve ever seen.”

A Closer Look:

During Wednesday’s debate Romney claimed that several small community banks have failed while a stipulation under the Dodd –Frank bill simultaneously protects banks too big to fail or “systematically significant.” Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass. dismissed that claim, saying those banks are monitored by the government and face increased regulation.

Medicare

“On Medicare, for current retirees he’s cutting $716 billion from the program.” - Mitt Romney

Obama’s Take:

“$716 billion dollars we were able to save from the Medicare program by no longer overpaying insurance companies, by making sure that we weren’t overpaying providers. And using that money, we were actually able to lower prescription drug costs for seniors by an average of $600.”

Romney’s Take:

“I want to take that $716 billion you’ve cut and put it back into Medicare. By the way, we can include a prescription program if we need to improve it, but the idea of cutting $716 billion from Medicare to be able to balance the additional cost of ‘Obamacare’ is, in my opinion, a mistake.”

A Closer Look:

$716 billion is a term that’s debated on both sides. NPR’s Liz Halloran takes a closer look at the figure, which is how much Obama’s Affordable Care Act or Obamacare cuts in health care costs. Politifact calls Romney’s claim half-true since the cuts would come over ten years and are aimed at reducing costs with insurers. Ryan’s budget plan also proposes on cutting an equivalent amount from Medicare.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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