Here Are Some Highlights of the Debate:
OBAMA: On energy, Governor Romney and I, we both agree that we’ve got to boost American energy production, and oil and natural gas production are higher than they’ve been in years. But I also believe that we’ve got to look at the energy sources of the future, like wind and solar and biofuels, and make those investments.
ROMNEY: [T]he president pointed out correctly that production of oil and gas in the U.S. is up. But not due to his policies. In spite of his policies. … [A]ll of the increase in natural gas and oil has happened on private land, not on government land. On government land, your administration has cut the number of permits and licenses in half. If I’m president, I’ll double them, and also get the oil from offshore and Alaska. And I’ll bring that pipeline in from Canada.
OBAMA: Governor Romney’s central economic plan calls for a $5 trillion tax cut – on top of the extension of the Bush tax cuts – that’s another trillion dollars – and $2 trillion in additional military spending that the military hasn’t asked for. That’s $8 trillion.
ROMNEY: I don’t have a $5 trillion tax cut. I don’t have a tax cut of a scale that you’re talking about. … Under the president’s policies, middle-income Americans have been buried. They’re just being crushed. 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. … My number-one principal is, there will be no tax cut that adds to the deficit. I want to underline that: no tax cut that adds to the deficit.
OBAMA: [U]nder my plan, 97 percent of small businesses would not see their income taxes go up. … [U]nder Governor Romney’s definition, there are a whole bunch of millionaires and billionaires who are small businesses. Donald Trump is a small business.
ROMNEY: [T]he last 3 percent of businesses happen to employ half of all the people who work in small business. Those are the businesses that employ one-quarter of all the workers in America. And your plan is to take their tax rate from 35 percent to 40 percent. … The National Federation of Independent Businesses has said that will cost 700,000 jobs. … My priority is … 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.
Romney countered each of Obama’s four references to the fictitious “$5 trillion tax cut” and finally chided him, saying: “[Y]ou may keep referring to it as a $5 trillion tax cut, but that’s not my plan.”
Not having his own record of economic success to run on, Obama twice looked back to the 1990s, while Romney also looked back – over the past four years – and talked about his ideas for the future:
OBAMA: [F]or incomes over $250,000 a year … 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. … Bill Clinton tried the approach that I’m talking about. We created 23 million new jobs. We went from deficit to surplus. And businesses did very well.
ROMNEY: My plan is not like anything that’s been tried before. My plan is to bring down rates, but also bring down deductions and exemptions and credits at the same time so the revenue stays in, but that we bring down rates to get more people working. … We’ve got 23 million people out of work or stopped looking for work in this country. … [W]hen 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. Going forward with the status quo is not going to cut it for the American people who are struggling today.
Lehrer asked how each candidate would tackle the federal deficit, and Romney knocked it out of the park, while Obama first blamed Bush (“When I walked into the Oval Office, I had more than a trillion-dollar deficit greeting me”) then threw around some crazy numbers, which Romney rebutted:
ROMNEY: What things would I cut from spending? Well, first of all, I will eliminate all programs by this test, if they don’t pass it: Is the program so critical it’s worth borrowing money from China to pay for it? And if not, I’ll get rid of it. Obamacare’s on my list. … I’m sorry, Jim, I’m going to stop the subsidy to PBS. ... I like PBS, I love Big Bird. Actually like you, too. But I’m not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for.
OBAMA: [W]e went after medical fraud in Medicare and Medicaid very aggressively, more aggressively than ever before, and have saved tens of billions of dollars, $50 billion of waste taken out of the system. And I worked with Democrats and Republicans to cut a trillion dollars out of our discretionary domestic budget. … I’ve put forward a specific $4 trillion deficit reduction plan. It’s on a website. You can look at all the numbers, what cuts we make and what revenue we raise.
ROMNEY: 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. The CBO says we’ll have a trillion-dollar deficit each of the next four years. … I love this idea of $4 trillion in cuts. You found $4 trillion of ways to reduce or to get closer to a balanced budget, except we still show trillion-dollar deficits every year.
When Obama tried to sell “a balanced, responsible approach” to cutting corporate taxes and accused Romney of wanting to repeal the Dodd-Frank banking regulations, the Republican gave him a quick economics lesson:
OBAMA: The oil industry gets $4 billion a year in corporate welfare. Basically, they get deductions that those small businesses that Governor Romney refers to, they don’t get. Now, does anybody think that ExxonMobil needs some extra money, when they’re making money every time you go to the pump? Why wouldn’t we want to eliminate that?
ROMNEY: [T]he Department of Energy has said the tax break for oil companies is $2.8 billion a year. And it’s actually an accounting treatment, as you know, that’s been in place for a hundred years. … And in one year, you provided $90 billion in breaks to the green energy world … like 50 years’ worth of breaks [for oil and gas companies], into solar and wind, to Solyndra and Fisker and Tester and Ener1. I mean, I had a friend who said you don’t just pick the winners and losers, you pick the losers, all right? So this is not the kind of policy you want to have if you want to get America energy secure.
OBAMA: Governor Romney has said he wants to repeal Dodd-Frank. … 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 Governor Romney is your candidate. But that’s not what I believe.
ROMNEY: [W]e have to have regulation on Wall Street. … But I wouldn’t designate five banks as too big to fail and give them a blank check. … We need to get rid of that provision because it’s killing regional and small banks. … Dodd-Frank correctly says we need to have qualified mortgages, and if you give a mortgage that’s not qualified, there are big penalties, except they didn’t ever go on and define what a qualified mortgage was. It’s been two years. … [B]anks are reluctant to make loans, mortgages. Try and get a mortgage these days. It’s hurt the housing market because Dodd-Frank didn’t anticipate putting in place the kinds of regulations you have to have.
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