Nazri,strongly believe your brains are slowly decaying (provided if you still have any). Anyone in the world will know how the EC is controlled by moronic politicians like you. Do you really think we would believe you when you say the EC is independent? You are a comedian. Go get a life buddy. how does EC do a good job if it does not listen to criticism and views of others? Your answer reflects who you are – not capable of reasoned thinking and analysis of the concerns expressed by the people. Bersih is not opposition; Bersih is rakyat, in case you have got it all wrong. If EC was and is independent, how is it possible that the demarcation of constituencies has become what it is today? If EC is independent why is it that numerous allegations (whether true or false) have not been satisfactorily explained? The independence of EC is not just dependent on the EC members alone. The whole establishment of EC, from carry out voter registration, checking authenticity, collating and keeping records are all done by government staff whose independence is very much in doubt. Frankly EC members are a group of retirees who probably can’t stay awake continuously for two hours. Please check this out.
The Election Commission (EC) is an independent body that is appointed by, and answers to, the Agong, as provided by Article 114 of the federal constitution, the government has maintained.Nazri, if you are a dumb fool, don’t think the rakyat has your mentallity too. We know how you fellows manipulate law. Who are you to say “NO”. What independence? The EC is as “independent” as Ibrahim Ali of Perkasa who claims to be an independent MP. Minister Nazri, though it may seem that they are independent in accordance to what the Fed Const says but are they seen to be? Do they know what is the meaning of independence of their commission? The top officials openly show their leaning towards UMNO, a political party. The top officials are at the beck and call of UMNO. If they are independent, they will fiercely guard their reputation, here some much of dirt has been dug up on them and they are at a lost to rebut! So what does that tell you of their independence? If you don’t want to be answerable to the people, just say so. Stop taking us for a ride!
Nazri may send his gangsters (3 line) to come and beat the daylights out of you and then get the chinese gangsters to get PDRM to fabricate your accident OR worst still, use the EC to make you into a phantom vote from a deceased and then the OPPOSITION will not have enough voters!! Just treat him like PERKASA Ibrahim Ali or Utusan, safer this way. We just need to VOTE Them out and then all the gangster elements will be taken out of the PDRM and EC. Lastly, I hope the gangsters themselves will take them out because they are unable to fulfill ALL the promises they made to them. JUSTICE has it’s own way to prevail even in gangster mentality! First rule: Don’t tell people you are gangster even if you are!
When caught between a conflict, would you stay with the mind, or fly with the heart?
If you go through TV viewership figures in India last week, you may not be surprised to find a bump during the first US presidential debate live on TV.
Barack Obama looked tired and wooden, Mitt Romney sprightly and, almost presidential. Obama was defensive and Romney a surprisingly good debator. Nothwithstanding the fact that presidential debates don’t decide elections, the live jousting struck a chord in many Indians yearning for a better electoral experience. At least Obama got to tell Americans that Romney’s policy was “never mind”.
The Chinese too are going through their own leadership transition – although a new crop of leaders will decide the fate of the world’s second largest economy, nobody, not even the Chinese, will call it an election. The winnowing process for the leaders of the new politburo has been bruising this far – murder trials, anti-Japan protests and Ferrari deaths (with naked women) spicing up proceedings.
In South Korea, Ahn Cheol-Soo, a local Bill Gates, is shaking up established political parties, wanting to become the next president. His line? “Our lives can change only after our politics change,” Ahn says. He has won over many by diverting from established political tradition by talking about social and economic inequality. By December, Koreans too will get an opportunity to change the direction of their lives. For everybody who understands why Gangnam Style is such a runaway hit, you’ll know that Koreans – like Indians – want a life better than what they have right now.
Out here in the heat and dust of our own politics, we know we will go in for elections in 2014, maybe earlier, if we are lucky. What we will not be lucky about is the manner in which our elections are conducted. We have established to the world that we have a robust democracy, and certainly, our electoral institutions are worthy of emulation.
But they are also worthy of reform. And one of the first things we should overhaul is the way we fund our elections – a more opaque system there isn’t and probably the primary cause of much corruption in public life in India. I don’t really expect that to change any time soon.
What could make a huge difference is we could adapt the system of “primaries” and televised debates in Indian election process. The idea of candidates becoming worthy because they can win over most of their party is very tempting. I can see several pluses – first, the candidate becomes “known” to larger sections of people, primarily his own party. Second, he gets to put out his own vision (obviously circumscribed by the larger policies of the party he represents). Third, he makes a push to win over his own partymen.
Currently, the choice of leaders of most political parties in India is arbitrary. Its fashionable to rail at the Gandhis for their stranglehold over the Congress party, but look at any of the others: DMK, Samajwadi, NCP, what have you. You were not born in the first family, you can have a hellish climb to the glass ceiling. And then you stop.
But a system of primaries could ensure a semblance of inner-party democracy. Of course its not perfect. But lets not make perfect the enemy of good.
For prime ministerial candidate, the idea of primaries is even more important. The campaign, which, if you watch the US system is actually relentless, put out all intended policies and rival visions of the future of the country get an airing. Because they will be debated, they will be parsed by the media and the small group of fact-checking websites growing in our country.
The style of campaign speeches in India currently is a mixture of rant, outright criticism of opponents, blatant caste appeasement and a bunch of outrageous promises that nobody takes seriously.
India is growing as a world power, and our political utterances too should reflect this emerging reality. The world wants to know what our new leadership is actually thinking about. Global investment decisions are dependent on the economic policies of different parties. Its much more real hearing them defend their policies rather than handing out election manifestos. Heck, most Indians want to know about policies and less politics. Having candidates running the gauntlet of primaries and debating with each other on TV should be seen as an exercise in transparency. And that’s all for the good.
Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim ’s attempt to bring in the French lawyers to brief Parliament on the on-going court case in France could probably be rated as the single most intelligent maverick political strategy ever pulled so far.
Has sparked off a debate by saying something provocative.But the most important reason why debates are meaningless in our country is that our leaders simply don’t have even a basic appreciation of debate decorum. The decency to let someone complete his or her point. The ability to complete one’s point within the allotted time frame. The willingness to listen to the other person’s point and attack only when time is provided for it. And equally, the maturity not to turn the debate into a personal attack on each other.
That credit rating of a clever plan however cannot be ascribed to Pakatan Rakyat; it actually is all because of BN’s own doing. So BN better stop nailing DSAI.
By officially stating and obstructing the lawyers from being allowed to address Parliament, the BN has started the submerging of its own credibility to greater depths.
People are now going to keep saying all the more convinced that the perception that BN has much to hide vis-à-vis the submarine case and all the bloody history entwined with the submarines must be true.
Sinking their own ship
Already the whispers are getting louder at the local warongs: Kalau tidak salah kenapa nak takut-takut lah.
Now how on earth is a political coalition, the BN, ever going to fight this emerging perception?
Maybe the Home Minister may want to come up with another of his infamous edicts to nip the emerging perception that after all the Altantuya murder, the commissions siphoned, and the over-pricing of the battle machines all have an umbilical cord of deceit wrapped around the pockets and up to the necks of BN war lords. No?
It is a pity really that (of course, for those aligned with the PR side, it is heaven sent blessing), the BN people are sinking their own ships even further and at greater haste.
If only the ministers and their appointed spokespersons said, “come lah, come by all means and let us get to the truth at all costs, because we have the truth and have nothing to hide”, then PR would have been edged to the cliff for another crucial plunge.
So can we blame the rayat for increasing in numbers at each coming public assembly to register their thoughts, feelings and aspirations all in the name and for the love of this nation?
CRONYISM IN THE OIL AND GAS BUSINESS
Nazri, The ordinary people of Malaysia, even those who are not lawyers, not well versed with the laws, know that the EC is answerable to His Majesty as the members are appointed by him, has the powers to conduct all the function s related to elections. The proposal to make EC answerable directly to Parliament came about because the EC has not been functioning, seen functioning, independently as should at all times. Who are the politicians, which aprty tghey belong to, who forms the govt etc etc are no the business of the EC. I am sure you understand all that, Nazri, beding a lawer to boot. The EC has it’s own staff, budget etc., that being the case, why should it come to, depend, on the PM’s office for administrative work, directions? What do you say to that Nazri?Never bothered to what this KL Gangster said that the EC is Independent of the PM Dept when both the Chairman and his Deputy were ex-UMNO or still UMNOputras members…Pl.nominate Ms.Ambiga to be the Chairman and TI Chairman,Paul Low as Dep. Chairman then we can safely claimed that EC is Independent of PM Dept.
PKR secretary general Dato’ Saifuddin Nasution Ismail said oil producing states would be able to operate their respective oil operation through state government-linked companies should Pakatan Rakyat come to power.
Saifuddin said this was different than the current practice.“That is because the companies operating on oil fields are owned by UMNO leaders’ family. For example, two oil fields in Kelantan are owned by Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s children,” he said at a ceramah with PAS Deputy President Mohamad Sabu in Kota Bharu yesterday.
The new deal, according to Saifuddin, forms part of PR’s pledge if it wins the next general election.In Kelantan, the Machang member of parliament said there were 23 oil fields yet to be explored.
“Every oil field is estimated to be worth RM3 billion. So to avoid those oil fields being controlled by UMNO leaders’ family, the government in Putrajaya must be changed,” he added.
In its alternative budget, PR pledged to increase royalty payment to 20 per cent for petroleum-producing states, from the present five percent.
UMNO Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin had spoken out against the idea, saying it would affect the government’s tax revenue and profits for national oil company Petronas.
Earlier this week, the Kelantan state government, locked in a legal battle over unpaid oil royalties, was allowed by the Federal Court to pose questions of law surrounding its suit against Petronas.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Tan Sri Nor Mohamad Yakcop must come clean on the Bank Negara forex scandal and fully account for the losses of RM15.8 billion from 1992-3 but estimated to reach RM30 billion. According to the Bank Negara’S financial report, Bank Negara recorded losses of RM10.1 billion in 1992 and RM5.7 billion in 1993.
However when replying to my question in Parliament 2 weeks ago, Deputy Finance Minister Datuk Donald Lim only admitted to the RM 5.7 billion in losses in 1993. This gives rise to question about the RM10.1 billion losses in 1992 or even a total loss of up to RM30 billion as former Bank Negara senior officer Dr Rosli Yakcop who had worked under Tan Sri Nor had estimated.
Why go after Soros, it’s Nor who must come clean
At a time when the Malaysian government is condemning forex currency speculators like George Soros, why is the Malaysian government practicing double-standards by protecting Malaysian forex currency speculators like Tan Sri Nor Mohamad Yakcop.
Worse the Malaysian government is sending the wrong message by not only failing to punish those responsible for such huge losses or demanding full accountability but even promoting forex currency speculators like Tan Sri Nor to a full Cabinet Minister.
With the coming general elections, Tan Sri Nor has to fully explain this financial scandal as public interest demands that voters be fully informed what type of person or government that they are voting for when we suffered the largest financial losses in Malaysian history. Failing to do so would show that the BN government is only giving lip service to public accountability and transparency.
This debate, and the next three– two presidential, one vice presidential– are sponsored by theCommission on Presidential Debates. Tonight’s 90 minutes will be about domestic issues, and willfollow a format designed by the Commission. There will be 6 roughly 15-minute segments with 2-minute answers for the first question, then open discussion for the remainder of each segment.
Thousands of people offered suggestions on segment subjects or questions via the internet andother means, but I made the final selections. And for the record, they were not submitted forapproval to the Commission or the candidates.
The segments, as I announced in advance, will be three on the economy and one each on healthcare, the role of government, and governing, with an emphasis throughout on differences, specifics,and choices. Both candidates will also have two-minute closing statements.
The audience here in the hall has promised to remain silent. No cheers, applause, boos, hisses,among other noisy, distracting things, so we may all concentrate on what the candidates have to say.There is a noise exception right now, though, as we welcome President Obama and GovernorRomney.
MITT ROMNEY: Jim.
JIM LEHRER: Gentlemen, welcome to you both. Let’s start. The economy, segment one, and let’sbegin with jobs. What are the major differences between the two of you about how you would goabout creating new jobs?
You have two minutes. Each of you have two minutes to start. A coin toss has determined, Mr.President, you go first.
BARACK OBAMA: Well, thank you very much, Jim, for this opportunity. I want to thank GovernorRomney and the University of Denver for your hospitality.
There are a lot of points I want to make tonight, but the most important one is that 20 years ago Ibecame the luckiest man on Earth, because Michelle Obama agreed to marry me. And so I just wantto wish, Sweetie, you a happy anniversary and let you know that a year from now, we will not becelebrating it in front of 40 million people.
BARACK OBAMA: Four years ago, we went through the worst financial crisis since the GreatDepression. Millions of jobs were lost. The auto industry was on the brink of collapse. The financialsystem had frozen up.
And because of the resilience and the determination of the American people, we’ve begun to fightour way back. Over the last 30 months, we’ve seen 5 million jobs in the private sector created. Theauto industry has come roaring back, and housing has begun to rise.
But we all know that we’ve still got a lot of work to do. And so the question here tonight is not wherewe’ve been, but where we’re going. Governor Romney has a perspective that says if we cut taxesskewed towards the wealthy and roll back regulations, that we’ll be better off.
I’ve got a different view. I think we’ve got to invest in education and training. I think it’s importantfor us to develop new sources of energy here in America. That we change our tax code to make surethat we’re helping small businesses and companies that are investing here in the United States.That we take some of the money that we’re saving as we wind down two wars to rebuild America.And that we reduce our deficit in a balanced way that allows us to make these critical investments.
Now, ultimately it’s going to be up to the voters, to you, which path we should take. Are we going todouble down on the top-down economic policies that helped to get us into this mess? Or do weembrace a new economic patriotism that says America does best when the middle class does best?And I’m looking forward to having that debate.
JIM LEHRER: Governor Romney, two minutes.
MITT ROMNEY: Thank you, Jim. It’s an honour to be here with you, and I appreciate the chanceto be with the president. I’m pleased to be at the University of Denver. I appreciate their welcome,and also the Presidential Commission on these debates.
And congratulations to you, Mr. President, on your anniversary. I’m sure this was the mostromantic place you could imagine, here with me. So I–
MITT ROMNEY: Congratulations. This is obviously a very tender topic. I’ve had the occasion overthe last couple of years of meeting people across the country. I was in Dayton, Ohio, and a womangrabbed my arm. And she said, I’ve been out of work since May. Can you help me?
Ann yesterday was at a rally in Denver, and a woman came up to her with a baby in her arms andsaid, Ann, my husband has had four jobs in three years, part-time jobs. He’s lost his most recent job,and we’ve now just lost our home. Can you help us?
And the answer is yes, we can help, but it’s going to take a different path. Not the one we’ve beenon. Not the one the president describes as a top-down, cut taxes for the rich. That’s not what I’mgoing to do.
My plan has five basic parts. One, get us energy independent, North American energy independent.That creates about 4 million jobs. Number two, open up more trade, particularly in Latin America.Crack down on China, if and when they cheat. Number three, make sure our people have the skillsthey need to succeed, and the best schools in the world. We are far away from that now. Numberfour, get us to a balanced budget.
Number five, champion small business. It’s small business that creates the jobs in America. Andover the last four years, small businesspeople have decided that America may not be the place toopen a new business, because new business startups are down to a 30-year low. I know what ittakes to get small business growing again, to hire people.
Now, I’m concerned that the path that we’re on has just been unsuccessful. The president has aview very similar to the view he had when he ran four years ago, that a bigger government,spending more, taxing more, regulating more– if you will, trickle-down government– would work.That’s not the right answer for America. I’ll restore the vitality that gets America working again.Thank you.
JIM LEHRER: Mr. President, please respond directly to what the governor just said about trickle-down, his trickle-down approach, as he said yours is.
BARACK OBAMA: Well, let me talk specifically about what I think we need to do. First, we’ve got toimprove our education system. And we’ve made enormous progress drawing on ideas both fromDemocrats and Republicans that are already starting to show gains in some of the toughest to dealwith schools. We’ve got a programme called Race to the Top that has prompted reforms in 46 statesaround the country, raising standards, improving how we train teachers.
So now I want to hire another 100,000 new math and science teachers, and create 2 million moreslots in our community colleges so that people can get trained for the jobs that are out there rightnow. And I want to make sure that we keep tuition low for our young people.
When it comes to our tax code, Governor Romney and I both agree that our corporate tax rate istoo high. So I want to lower it, particularly for manufacturing, taking it down to 25%. But I also wantto close those loopholes that are giving incentives for companies that are shipping jobs overseas. Iwant to provide tax breaks for companies that are investing here in the United States.
On energy, Governor Romney and I, we both agree that we’ve got to boost American energyproduction, and oil and natural gas production are higher than they’ve been in years. But I alsobelieve that we’ve got to look at the energy source of the future, like wind and solar and biofuels,and make those investments.
So all of this is possible. Now, in order for us to do it, we do have to close our deficit. And one of thethings I’m sure we’ll be discussing tonight is, how do we deal with our tax code? And how do wemake sure that we are reducing spending in a responsible way, but also how do we have enoughrevenue to make those investments?
And this is where there’s a difference, because Governor Romney’s central economic plan calls for a$5 trillion tax cut on top of the extension of the Bush tax cut, so that’s another $1 trillion, and $2 trillion in additional military spending that the military hasn’t asked for. That’s $8 trillion. How wepay for that, reduce the deficit and make the investments that we need to make, without dumpingthose costs on to middle class Americans I think is one of the central questions of this campaign.
JIM LEHRER: Both of you have spoken about a lot of different things, and we’re going to try to getthrough them in as specific a way as we possibly can. But first, Governor Romney, do you have aquestion that you’d like to ask the president directly about something he just said?
MITT ROMNEY: Well, sure. I’d like to clear up the record and go through it piece by piece. First ofall, I don’t have a $5 trillion tax cut. I don’t have a tax cut of the scale that you’re talking about.
My view is that we ought to provide tax relief to people in the middle class. But I’m not going toreduce the share of taxes paid by high-income people. High-income people are doing just fine in thiseconomy. They’ll do fine whether you’re president or I am.
The people who are having the hard time right now are middle-income Americans. Under thepresident’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 tax in and ofitself. I’ll call it the economy tax. It’s been crushing.
The same time, gasoline prices have doubled under the president. Electric rates are up. Food pricesare up. Health care costs have gone up by $2,500 a family. Middle-income families are beingcrushed. And so the question is how to get them going again, and I’ve described it. It’s energy andtrade, the right kind of training programmes, balancing our budget, and helping small business.Those are the cornerstones of my plan.
But the president mentioned a couple of other ideas I’ll just note. First, education. I agree educationis key, particularly the future of our economy. But our training programmes right now, we’ve got 47of them housed in the federal government, reporting to 8 different agencies. Overhead isoverwhelming. We’ve got to get those dollars back to the states and go to the workers so they cancreate their own pathways to getting the training they need for jobs that will really help them.
The second area, taxation. We agree we’ve got to bring the tax rates down, and I do, both forcorporations and for individuals. But in order for us not to lose revenue and have the governmentrun out of money, I also lower deductions and credits and exemptions so that we keep taking in thesame money when you also account for growth.
The third area, energy. Energy is critical, and the president pointed out correctly that production ofoil and gas in the US is up. But not due to his policies, in spite of his policies. Mr. President, all of theincrease in natural gas and oil has happened on private land, not on government land. Ongovernment land, your administration has cut the number of permits and licences in half.
If I’m president, I’ll double them, and also get the oil from offshore and Alaska. And I’ll bring thatpipeline in from Canada. And by the way, I like coal. I’m going to make sure we can continue to burnclean coal. People in the coal industry feel like it’s getting crushed by your policies. I want to getAmerica and North America energy independent so we can create those jobs.
And finally with regards to that tax cut, look, I’m not looking to cut massive taxes and to reduce therevenues going to the government. My number one principle is, there will be no tax cut that adds tothe deficit. Want to underline that. No tax cut that adds to the deficit. But I do want to reduce theburden being paid by middle-income Americans. And to do that, that also means I cannot reducethe burden paid by high-income Americans. So any language to the contrary is simply not accurate.
JIM LEHRER: Mr. President?
BARACK OBAMA: Well, I think– let’s talk about taxes, because I think it’s instructive. Now, fouryears ago when I stood on this stage, I said that I would cut taxes for middle class families. Andthat’s exactly what I did. We cut taxes for middle class families by about $3,600.
And the reason is because I believe that we do best when the middle class is doing well. And bygiving them those tax cuts, they had a little more money in their pocket. And so maybe they canbuy a new car. They are certainly in a better position to weather the extraordinary recession that we went through.
They can buy a computer for their kid who is going off to college. Which means they’re spendingmore money. Businesses have more customers. Businesses make more profits, and then hire moreworkers.
Now, Governor Romney’s proposal that he has been promoting for 18 months calls for a $5 trilliontax cut on top of $2 trillion of additional spending for our military. And he is saying that he is goingto pay for it by closing loopholes and deductions.
The problem is that he’s been asked over 100 times how you would close those deductions andloopholes. And he hasn’t been able to identify them. But I’m going to make an important point here,Jim.
JIM LEHRER: All right.
BARACK OBAMA: When you add up all the loopholes and deductions that upper-income individualsare currently taking advantage of, you take those all away, you don’t come close to paying for $5 trillion in tax cuts and $2 trillion in additional military spending.
And that’s why independent studies looking at this said the only way to meet Governor Romney’spledge of not reducing the deficit, or not adding to the deficit, is by burdening middle class families.The average middle class family with children would pay about $2,000 more. Now, that’s not myanalysis. That’s the analysis of economists who have looked at this.
And that kind of top-down economics where folks at the top are doing well– so the average personmaking $3 million is getting a $250,000 tax break while middle class families are burdened further,that’s not what I believe is a recipe for economic growth.
JIM LEHRER: All right. What is the difference? Let’s just stay on taxes for–
MITT ROMNEY: But I got– right, right.
JIM LEHRER: Yeah, let’s just stay on taxes for a moment here.
MITT ROMNEY: Well, but virtually–
JIM LEHRER: What is the difference?
MITT ROMNEY: Virtually everything he just said about my tax plan is inaccurate.
JIM LEHRER: All right, go–
MITT ROMNEY: So if the tax plan he described were a tax plan I was asked to support, I’d sayabsolutely not. I’m not looking for a $5 trillion tax cut. What I’ve said is, I won’t put in place a taxcut that adds to the deficit. That’s part one. So there’s no economist can say Mitt Romney’s tax planadds $5 trillion if I say I will not add to the deficit with my tax plan.
Number two, I will not reduce the share paid by high-income individuals. I know that you and yourrunning mate keep saying that, and I know it’s a popular thing to say with a lot of people. But it’sjust not the case.
Look, I’ve got five boys. I’m used to people saying something that’s not always true, but just keep onrepeating it and ultimately hoping I’ll believe it. But that is not the case, all right? I will not reducethe taxes paid by high-income Americans.
And number three, I will not under any circumstances raise taxes on middle-income families. I willlower taxes on middle-income families. Now, you cite a study. There’s six other studies that lookedat the study you described, and say it’s completely wrong.
I saw a study that came out today that said you’re going to raise taxes by $3,000 to $4,000 onmiddle-income families. There are all these studies out there. But let’s get to the bottom line. Thatis, I want to bring down rates. I want to bring the rates down, at the same time lower deductionsand exemptions and credits and so forth so we keep getting the revenue we need.
And you think, well then why lower the rates? And the reason is because small business pays thatindividual rate. 54% of America’s workers work in businesses that are taxed not at the corporatetax rate but at the individual tax rate. And if we lower that rate, they will be able to hire morepeople.
For me this is about jobs.
JIM LEHRER: All right. That’s where we started.
MITT ROMNEY: This is about getting jobs for the American people.
JIM LEHRER: Yeah. Do you challenge what the governor just said about his own plan?
BARACK OBAMA: Well, for 18 months he’s been running on this tax plan. And now, five weeksbefore the election, he’s saying that his big, bold idea is, never mind. And the fact is that if you arelowering the rates the way you described, governor, then it is not possible to come up with enoughdeductions and loopholes that only affect high-income individuals to avoid either raising the deficitor burdening the middle class. It’s math. It’s arithmetic.
Now, Governor Romney and I do share a deep interest in encouraging small business growth. So atthe same time that my tax plan has already lowered taxes for 98% of families, I also lowered taxesfor small businesses 18 times. And what I want to do is continue the tax rates– the tax cuts that weput into place for small businesses and families.
But I have said that for incomes over $250,000 a year, that we should go back to the rates that wehad when Bill Clinton was president, when we created 23 million new jobs, went from deficit tosurplus, and created a whole lot of millionaires to boot.
And the reason this is important is because by doing that, we can not only reduce the deficit, we cannot only encourage job growth through small businesses, but we’re also able to make theinvestments that are necessary in education or in energy.
And we do have a difference, though, when it comes to definitions of small business. Under my plan,97% of small businesses would not see their income taxes go up. Governor Romney says, well, thosetop 3%, they’re the job creators. They’d be burdened.
But under Governor Romney’s definition, there are a whole bunch of millionaires and billionaireswho are small businesses. Donald Trump is a small business. And I know Donald Trump doesn’t liketo think of himself as small anything, but that’s how you define small businesses if you’re gettingbusiness income.
And that kind of approach I believe will not grow our economy, because the only way to pay for itwithout either burdening the middle class or blowing up our deficit is to make drastic cuts in thingslike education, making sure that we are continuing to invest in basic science and research, all thethings that are helping America grow. And I think that would be a mistake.
JIM LEHRER: All right.
MITT ROMNEY: Jim, let me just come back on that point. Which is–
JIM LEHRER: Just for the record–
MITT ROMNEY: These small businesses we’re talking about–
JIM LEHRER: Excuse me. Just so everybody understands, we’re way over our first 15 minutes.
MITT ROMNEY: It’s fun, isn’t it?
JIM LEHRER: It’s OK. It’s great.
BARACK OBAMA: That’s OK.
JIM LEHRER: No problem. As long as you all don’t have–
MITT ROMNEY: That’s good.
JIM LEHRER: –you don’t have a problem, I don’t have a problem, because we’re still on theeconomy. We’re going to come back to taxes. I want to move on to the deficit and just a lot of otherthings too, OK? But go ahead, sir.
MITT ROMNEY: You bet. Mr. President, you’re absolutely right. Which is that with regards to 97%of the businesses are not taxed at the 35% tax rate, they’re taxed at a lower rate. But thosebusinesses that are in the last 3% of businesses happen to employ half of all the people who work insmall 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% to 40%.
Now, I talked to a guy who has a very small business. He’s in the electronics business in St. Louis.He has four employees. He said he and his son calculated how much they pay in taxes. Federalincome tax, federal payroll tax, state income tax, state sales tax, state property tax, gasoline tax. It added up to well over 50% of what they earned.
And your plan is to take the tax rate on successful small businesses from 35% to 40%. The NationalFederation of Independent Businesses has said that will cost 700,000 jobs. I don’t want to cost jobs.My priority is jobs.
And so what I do is I bring down the tax rates, lower deductions and exemptions. The same ideabehind Bowles-Simpson, by the way. Get the rates down, lower deductions and exemptions tocreate more jobs, because there’s nothing better for getting us to a balanced budget than havingmore people working, earning more money, paying more taxes. That’s by far the most effective andefficient way to get this budget balanced.
BARACK OBAMA: Jim, you may want to move on to another topic. But I would just say this to theAmerican people. If you believe that we can cut taxes by $5 trillion and add $2 trillion in additionalspending that the military is not asking for– $7 trillion. Just to give you a sense, over 10 yearsthat’s more than our entire defence budget.
And you think that by closing loopholes and deductions for the well-to-do, somehow you will not endup picking up the tab, then Governor Romney’s plan may work for you. But I think math, commonsense, and our history shows us that’s not a recipe for job growth.
Look, we’ve tried this. We’ve tried both approaches. The approach that Governor Romney is talkingabout is the same sales pitch that was made in 2001 and 2003. And we ended up with the slowestjob growth in 50 years. We ended up moving from surplus to deficits. And it all culminated in theworst financial crisis since the Great Depression.
Bill Clinton tried the approach that I’m talking about. We created 23 million new jobs. We went fromdeficit to surplus. And businesses did very well. So in some ways we’ve got some data on whichapproach is more likely to create jobs and opportunity for Americans. And I believe that theeconomy works best when middle class families are getting tax breaks so that they’ve got somemoney in their pockets. And those of us who have done extraordinarily well because of thismagnificent country that we live in, that we can afford to do a little bit more to make sure we’re notblowing up the deficit.
JIM LEHRER: OK, new segment.
MITT ROMNEY: Jim, the president began this segment, so I think I get the last word. So I’m going to take–
JIM LEHRER: Well, you’re going to get the first word in the next segment.
MITT ROMNEY: Well, but he gets the first word of that segment, I get the last word of thatsegment. I hope– let me just make this comment.
BARACK OBAMA: He can– you can have it.
JIM LEHRER: That’s not how it works.
MITT ROMNEY: Let me repeat what I said. I’m not in favour of a $5 trillion tax cut. That’s not myplan. My plan is not to put in place any tax cut that will add to the deficit. That’s point one. So youmay keep referring to it as a $5 trillion tax cut, but that’s not my plan.
BARACK OBAMA: OK.
MITT ROMNEY: Number two, let’s look at history. My plan is not like anything that’s been triedbefore. My plan is to bring down rates, but also bring down deductions and exemptions and creditsat the same time so the revenue stays in, but that we bring down rates to get more people working.
My priority is putting people back to work in America. They’re suffering in this country. And wetalk about evidence. Look at the evidence of the last four years. It’s absolutely extraordinary. We’vegot 23 million people out of work, or stopped looking for work in this country.
JIM LEHRER: All right.
MITT ROMNEY: It’s just– it’s we’ve got– when the president took office, 32 million people on foodstamps. 47 million on food stamps today. Economic growth this year slower than last year, and lastyear slower than the year before. Going forward with the status quo is not going to cut it for theAmerican people who are struggling today.
JIM LEHRER: All right, let’s talk– we’re still on the economy. This is theoretically now a secondsegment still on the economy, and specifically on what to do about the federal deficit, the federaldebt. And the question– you each have two minutes on this. And Governor Romney, you go firstbecause the president went first on segment one.
MITT ROMNEY: You bet.
JIM LEHRER: And the question is this. What are the differences between the two of you as to howyou would go about tackling the deficit problem in this country?
MITT ROMNEY: Well, good. I’m glad you raised that. And it’s a critical issue. I think it’s not just aneconomic issue, I think it’s a moral issue. I think it’s frankly not moral for my generation to keepspending massively more than we take in, knowing those burdens are going to be passed on to thenext generation, and they’re going to be paying the interest and the principal all their lives. And theamount of debt we’re adding at $1 trillion a year is simply not moral.
So how do we deal with it? Well, mathematically there are three ways that you can cut a deficit.One, of course, is to raise taxes. The number two is to cut spending. And number three is to growthe economy, because if more people work in a growing economy, they’re paying taxes, and you canget the job done that way.
The president would prefer raising taxes. I understand. The problem with raising taxes is that itslows down the rate of growth, and you can never quite get the job done. I want to lower spendingand encourage economic growth at the same time.
What things would I cut from spending? Well, first of all I will eliminate all programmes by this testif they don’t pass it. Is the programme so critical it’s worth borrowing money from China to pay forit? And if not, I’ll get rid of it. Obamacare is on my list. I apologise, Mr. President. I use that termwith all respect, by the way.
BARACK OBAMA: I like it.
MITT ROMNEY: OK, good. So I’ll get rid of that. I’m sorry, Jim. I’m going to stop the subsidy toPBS. I’m going to stop other things. I like PBS. I love Big Bird. I actually like you too. But I’m notgoing to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for it. That’snumber one.
Number two, I’ll take programmes that are currently good programmes, but I think could be runmore efficiently at the state level, and send them to the state.
Number three, I’ll make government more efficient. Going to cut back the number of employees,combine some agencies and departments. My cutbacks will be done through attrition, by the way.This is the approach we have to take to get America to a balanced budget.
The president said he’d cut the deficit in half. Unfortunately, he doubled it. Trillion dollar deficits forthe last four years. The president’s put in place as much public debt– almost as much debt held bythe public as all prior presidents combined.
JIM LEHRER: Mr. President, two minutes.
BARACK OBAMA: When I walked into the Oval Office, I had more than a $1 trillion deficit greetingme. And we know where it came from. Two wars that were paid for on a credit card. Two tax cutsthat were not paid for. And a whole bunch of programmes that were not paid for. And then amassive economic crisis.
And despite that, what we’ve said is, yes, we had to take some initial emergency measures to makesure we didn’t slip into a Great Depression. But what we’ve also said is, let’s make sure that we arecutting out those things that are not helping us grow.
So 77 government programmes, everything from aircrafts that the Air Force had ordered, butweren’t working very well. 18 government programmes for education that were well-intentioned,but weren’t helping kids learn.
We went after medical fraud in Medicare and Medicaid very aggressively, more aggressively thanever 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 $1 trillion out of our discretionary domesticbudget. That’s the largest cut in the discretionary domestic budget since Dwight Eisenhower.
Now, we all know that we’ve got to do more. And so I’ve put forward a specific $4 trillion deficitreduction plan. It’s on a website. You can look at all the numbers, what cuts we make and whatrevenue we raise.
And the way we do it is $2.50 for every cut, we ask for $1 of additional revenue. Paid for, as Iindicated earlier, by asking those of us who have done very well in this country to contribute a littlebit more to reduce the deficit.
Governor Romney earlier mentioned the Bowles-Simpson Commission. Well, that’s how thebipartisan commission that talked about how we should move forward suggested we have to do it, ina balanced way with some revenue and some spending cuts.
And this is a major difference that Governor Romney and I have. Let me just finish this point,because you’re looking for contrast. You know, when Governor Romney stood on a stage with otherRepublican candidates for the nomination, and he was asked, would you take $10 of spending cutsfor just $1 of revenue? And he said no.
Now, if you take such an unbalanced approach, then that means you are going to be gutting ourinvestments in schools and education. It means that Governor Romney–
JIM LEHRER: Two minutes is over.
BARACK OBAMA: –talked about Medicaid and how we could send it back to the states. Buteffectively this means a 30% cut in the primary programme we help for seniors who are in nursinghomes, for kids who are with disabilities.
JIM LEHRER: Mr. President, I’m sorry.
BARACK OBAMA: And that is not a right strategy for us to move forward.
JIM LEHRER: Way over the two minutes.
BARACK OBAMA: Sorry.
JIM LEHRER: Governor, what about Simpson-Bowles? Will you support Simpson-Bowles?
MITT ROMNEY: Simpson-Bowles? The president should have grabbed that.
JIM LEHRER: No, I mean do you support Simpson-Bowles?
MITT ROMNEY: I have my own plan. It’s not the same as Simpson-Bowles. But in my view, thepresident should have grabbed it. If he wanted to make some adjustments to it, take it, go toCongress, fight for it.
BARACK OBAMA: That’s what we’ve done, made some adjustments to it. And we’re putting itforward before Congress right now, a $4 trillion plan–
MITT ROMNEY: But you’ve been president four years.
BARACK OBAMA: –of balance.
MITT ROMNEY: You’ve been president four years.
BARACK OBAMA: Right.
MITT ROMNEY: You said you’d cut the deficit in half. It’s now four years later. We still have trilliondollar deficits. The CBO says we’ll have a trillion deficit each of the next four years. If you’rereelected, we’ll get to a trillion dollar debt. You have said before you’d cut the deficit in half.
And this four– I love this idea of $4 trillion in cuts. You’ve found $4 trillion of ways to reduce or toget closer to a balanced budget. Except we still show trillion dollar deficits every year. That doesn’tget the job done.
Let me come back and say, why is it that I don’t want to raise taxes? Why do I not want to raisetaxes on people? And actually you said it. Back in 2010, you said, look, I’m going to extend the taxpolicies that we have. Now I’m not going to raise taxes on anyone, because when the economy’sgrowing slow like this, when we’re in recession, you shouldn’t raise taxes on anyone.
Well, the economy is still growing slow. As a matter of fact, it’s growing much more slowly now thanwhen you made that statement. And so if you believe the same thing, you just don’t want to raisetaxes on people.
And the reality is, it’s not just wealthy people. You mentioned Donald Trump. It’s not just DonaldTrump you’re taxing. It’s all those businesses that employ one quarter of the workers in America,these small businesses that are taxed as individuals.
You raise taxes, and you kill jobs. That’s why the National Federation of Independent Businessessaid your plan will kill 700,000 jobs. I don’t want to kill jobs in this environment.
I’ll make one more point. And that–
JIM LEHRER: Let’s let him answer the taxes thing for a moment.
MITT ROMNEY: OK.
JIM LEHRER: Mr. President.
BARACK OBAMA: Well, we’ve had this discussion before. The fact that–
JIM LEHRER: About the idea that in order to reduce the deficit, there has to be revenue in additionto cuts.
BARACK OBAMA: There has to be revenue in addition to cuts. Now, Governor Romney has ruledout revenue. He’s ruled out revenue.
JIM LEHRER: That’s true, right?
MITT ROMNEY: Absolutely.
JIM LEHRER: Completely. All right.
MITT ROMNEY: Look, the revenue I get is by more people working, getting higher pay, payingmore taxes. That’s how we get growth, and how we balance the budget. But the idea of taxingpeople more, putting more people out of work, you’ll never get there. You never balance the budgetby raising taxes.
Spain spends 42% of their total economy on government. We are now spending 42% of our economyon government. I don’t want to go down the path to Spain. I want to go down the path of growth,that puts Americans to work with more money coming in because they’re working.
JIM LEHRER: But Mr. President, you’re saying in order to get the job done, it’s got to be balanced.It’s got to have–
BARACK OBAMA: If we’re serious, we’ve got to take a balanced, responsible approach. And by theway, this is not just when it comes to individual taxes. Let’s talk about corporate taxes.
Now, I’ve identified areas where we can right away make a change that I believe would actually helpthe economy. The oil industry gets $4 billion a year in corporate welfare. Basically, they getdeductions that those small businesses that Governor Romney refers to, they don’t get.
Now, does anybody think that Exxon Mobil needs some extra money when they’re making moneyevery time you go to the pump? Why wouldn’t we want to eliminate that? Why wouldn’t weeliminate tax breaks for corporate jets? My attitude is, if you’ve got a corporate jet you canprobably afford to pay full freight, not get a special break for it.
When it comes to corporate taxes, Governor Romney has said he wants to, in a revenue neutralway, close loopholes, deductions. He hasn’t identified which ones they are, but thereby bring downthe corporate rate.
Well, I want to do the same thing, but I’ve actually identified how we can do that. And part of theway to do it is to not give tax breaks to companies that are shipping jobs overseas. Right now youcan actually take a deduction for moving a plant overseas. I think most Americans would say thatdoesn’t make sense. And all that raises revenue.
And so if we take a balanced approach, what that then allows us to do is also to help young people–the way we already have during my administration– make sure that they can afford to go tocollege.
It means that the teacher that I met in Las Vegas, wonderful young lady, who describes to me–she’s got 42 kids in her class. The first two weeks, she’s got some of them sitting on the floor untilfinally they get reassigned. They’re using textbooks that are 10 years old.
That is not a recipe for growth. That’s not how America was built. And so budgets reflect choices.Ultimately we’re going to have to make some decisions. And if we’re asking for no revenue, thenthat means that we’ve got to get rid of a whole bunch of stuff. And the magnitude of the tax cutsthat you’re talking about, governor, would end up resulting in severe hardship for people, but moreimportantly, would not help us grow.
As I indicated before, when you talk about shifting Medicaid to states, we’re talking aboutpotentially a 30% cut in Medicaid over time. Now, that may not seem like a big deal when it just isnumbers on a sheet of paper. But if we’re talking about a family who’s got an autistic kid and isdepending on that Medicaid, that’s a big problem.
And governors are creative. There’s no doubt about it. But they’re not creative enough to make upfor 30% of revenue on something like Medicaid. What ends up happening is some people end up notgetting help.
MITT ROMNEY: Jim, let’s– we’ve gone on a lot of topics there. And so I’m going to– it’s going totake a minute to go from Medicaid to–
BARACK OBAMA: Go ahead.
MITT ROMNEY: –schools to–
JIM LEHRER: Come back to Medicaid.
MITT ROMNEY: –oil to tax breaks and companies going overseas. So let’s go through them one byone. First of all, the Department of Energy has said the tax break for oil companies is $2.8 billion ayear. And it’s actually an accounting treatment, as you know, that’s been in place for 100 years.Now–
BARACK OBAMA: It’s time to end it.
MITT ROMNEY: And in one year, you provided $90 billion in breaks to the green energy world.Now, I like green energy as well, but that’s about 50 years’ worth of what oil and gas receives. Andyou say Exxon and Mobil. Actually this $2.8 billion goes largely to small companies, to drillingoperators and so forth.
But you know, if we get that tax rate from 35% down to 25%, why, that $2.8 billion is on the table.Of course it’s on the table. That’s probably not going to survive if you get that rate down to 25%.
But don’t forget, you put $90 billion, like 50 years’ worth of breaks, into solar and wind. To Solyndraand Fisker and Tesla and Ener1. I mean, I had a friend who said you don’t just pick the winners andlosers, you pick the losers. All right? So this is not the kind of policy you want to have if you want toget America energy-secure.
The second topic, which is you said you get a deduction for taking a plant overseas. Look, I’ve beenin business for 25 years. I have no idea what you’re talking about. I maybe need to get a newaccountant.
JIM LEHRER: Let’s–
MITT ROMNEY: But the idea that you get a break for shipping jobs overseas is simply not the case.What we do have right now is a setting where I’d like to bring money from overseas back to thiscountry.
And finally, Medicaid to states. I’m not quite sure where that came in except this. Which is, I wouldlike to take the Medicaid dollars that go to states and say to a state, you’re going to get what you gotlast year, plus inflation, plus 1%, and then you’re going to manage your care for your poor in the wayyou think best.
And I remember as a governor when this idea was floated by Tommy Thompson, the governors,Republican and Democrats, said, please let us do that. We can care for our own poor in so muchbetter and more effective a way than having the federal government tell us how to care for ourpoor.
So let’s state– one of the magnificent things about this country is the whole idea that states are thelaboratories of democracy. Don’t have the federal government tell everybody what kind of trainingprogrammes they have to have, and what kind of Medicaid they have to have. Let states do this.
And by the way, if a state gets in trouble, well we could step in and see if we could find a way to helpthem. But–
JIM LEHRER: Let’s go.
MITT ROMNEY: But the right approach is one which relies on the brilliance of our people andstates, not the federal government.
JIM LEHRER: Two seconds. And we’re going on still on the economy, but another part of it.
BARACK OBAMA: OK.
JIM LEHRER: All right? All right, this is segment three, the economy. Entitlements. First answergoes to you. Two minutes. Mr. President, do you see a major difference between the two of you onSocial Security?
BARACK OBAMA: You know, I suspect that on Social Security we’ve got a somewhat similarposition. Social Security is structurally sound. It’s going to have to be tweaked the way it was byRonald Reagan and Democratic Speaker Tip O’Neill. But it is– the basic structure is sound. But Iwant to talk about the values behind Social Security and Medicare, and then talk about Medicare,because that’s the big driver of our deficits right now.
My grandmother, some of you know, helped to raise me. My grandparents did. My grandfather dieda while back. My grandmother died three days before I was elected president.
And she was fiercely independent. She worked her way up. Only had a high school education.Started as a secretary. Ended up being the vice president of a local bank. And she ended up livingalone by choice.
And the reason she could be independent was because of Social Security and Medicare. She hadworked all her life, put in this money, and understood that there was a basic guarantee, a floorunder which she could not go.
And that’s the perspective I bring when I think about what’s called entitlements. The name itselfimplies some sense of dependency on the part of these folks. These are folks who have worked hard,like my grandmother. And there are millions of people out there who are counting on this.
So my approach is to say, how do we strengthen the system over the long term? And in Medicare,what we did was we said, we are going to have to bring down the costs if we’re going to deal with ourlong-term deficits.
But to do that, let’s look where some of the money’s going. $716 billion we were able to save fromthe Medicare programme by no longer overpaying insurance companies by making sure that weweren’t overpaying providers.
And using that money, we were actually able to lower prescription drug costs for seniors by an average of $600. And we were also able to make a significant dent in providing them the kind ofpreventive care that will ultimately save money throughout the system.
So the way for us to deal with Medicare in particular is to lower health care costs. When it comes toSocial Security, as I said, you don’t need a major structural change in order to make sure that SocialSecurity is there for the future.
JIM LEHRER: We’ll follow up on this. First, Governor Romney, you have two minutes on SocialSecurity and entitlements.
MITT ROMNEY: Well, Jim, our seniors depend on these programmes. And I know any time we talkabout entitlements, people become concerned that something’s going to happen that’s going tochange their life for the worst.
And the answer is, neither the president nor I are proposing any changes for any current retirees,or near retirees, either to Social Security or Medicare. So if you’re 60 or around 60 or older, youdon’t need to listen any further. But for younger people, we need to talk about what changes aregoing to be occurring.
Oh, I just thought about one. And that is, in fact I was wrong when I said the president isn’tproposing any changes for current retirees. In fact, he is on Medicare. On Social Security he’s not.
But on Medicare, for current retirees he’s cutting $716 billion from the programme. Now, he says bynot overpaying hospitals and providers. Actually just going to them and saying we’re going to reducethe rates you get paid across the board– everybody’s going to get a lower rate– that’s not justgoing after places where there’s abuse. That’s saying we’re cutting the rates.
Some 15% of hospitals and nursing homes say they won’t take any more Medicare patients underthat scenario. We also have 50% of doctors who say they won’t take more Medicare patients. This–we have 4 million people on Medicare Advantage that will lose Medicare Advantage because ofthose $716 billion in cuts. I can’t understand how you can cut Medicare $716 billion for currentrecipients of Medicare.
Now, you point out, well, we’re putting some back. We’re going to give them a better prescriptionprogramme. That’s $1 for every $15 you’ve cut. They’re smart enough to know that’s not a goodtrade.
I want to take that $716 billion you’ve cut and put it back into Medicare. By the way, we can includea prescription programme if we need to improve it. But the idea of cutting $716 billion fromMedicare to be able to balance the additional cost of Obamacare is, in my opinion, a mistake.
With regards to young people coming along, I’ve got proposals to make sure Medicare and SocialSecurity are there for them without any question.
JIM LEHRER: Mr. President.
BARACK OBAMA: First of all, I think it’s important for Governor Romney to present this plan thathe says will only affect folks in the future. And the essence of the plan is that he would turnMedicare into a voucher programme. It’s called premium support, but it’s understood to be avoucher programme. His running mate–
JIM LEHRER: And you don’t support that.
BARACK OBAMA: I don’t, and let me explain why.
MITT ROMNEY: Again, that’s for future–
BARACK OBAMA: I understand.
MITT ROMNEY: –people, right? Not for current retirees.
BARACK OBAMA: For– so if you’re 54 or 55, you might want to listen, because this will affect you.The idea, which was originally presented by Congressman Ryan, your running mate, is that wewould give a voucher to seniors, and they could go out in the private marketplace and buy their ownhealth insurance.
The problem is that because the voucher wouldn’t necessarily keep up with health care inflation, itwas estimated that this would cost the average senior about $6,000 a year. Now, in fairness, whatGovernor Romney has now said is he’ll maintain traditional Medicare alongside it.
But there’s still a problem. Because what happens is, those insurance companies are pretty clever atfiguring out who are the younger and healthier seniors. They recruit them, leaving the older, sickerseniors in Medicare.
And every health care economist who looks at it says over time what will happen is the traditionalMedicare system will collapse. And then what you’ve got is folks like my grandmother at the mercyof the private insurance system precisely at the time when they are most in need of decent healthcare.
So I don’t think vouchers are the right way to go. And this is not only my opinion. AARP thinks thatthe savings that we obtained from Medicare bolster the system, lengthen the Medicare trust fundby eight years. Benefits were not affected at all.
And ironically, if you repeal Obamacare– and I have become fond of this term, Obamacare. If yourepeal it, what happens is, those seniors right away are going to be paying $600 more inprescription care. They’re now going to have to be paying co-pays for basic checkups that can keepthem healthier. And the primary beneficiary of that repeal are insurance companies that areestimated to gain billions of dollars back when they aren’t making seniors any healthier. And I don’tthink that’s the right approach when it comes to making sure that Medicare is stronger over thelong term.
JIM LEHRER: We’ll talk specifically about health care in a moment. But what– do you support thevoucher system, governor?
MITT ROMNEY: What I support is no change for current retirees and near retirees to Medicare,and the president supports taking $716 billion out of that programme.
JIM LEHRER: But what about the vouchers?
MITT ROMNEY: So that’s number one.
JIM LEHRER: All right.
MITT ROMNEY: Number two is for people coming along that are young. What I do to make surethat we can keep Medicare in place for them is to allow them either to choose the current Medicareprogramme or a private plan. Their choice. They get to choose– and they’ll have at least two plansthat will be entirely at no cost to them. So they don’t have to pay additional money. No additional$6,000. That’s not going to happen. They’ll have at least two plans.
And by the way, if the government can be as efficient as the private sector and offer premiums that are as low as the private sector, people will be happy to get traditional Medicare, or they’ll be able toget a private plan.
I know my own view is I’d rather have a private plan. I’d just as soon not have the governmenttelling me what kind of health care I get. I’d rather be able to have an insurance company. If I don’tlike them, I can get rid of them and find a different insurance company. But people will make theirown choice.
The other thing we have to do to save Medicare, we have to have the benefits high for those thatare low income. But for higher income people, we’re going to have to lower some of the benefits. Wehave to make sure this programme is there for the long term. That’s the plan that I put forward.
And by the way, the idea came not even from Paul Ryan or Senator Wyden, who’s the co-author ofthe bill with Paul Ryan in the Senate. But also it came from Bill Clinton’s chief of staff.
This is an idea that’s been around a long time. Which is saying, hey, let’s see if we can’t getcompetition into the Medicare world so that people can get the choice of different plans at lowercost, better quality. I believe in competition.
BARACK OBAMA: Jim, if I can just respond very quickly. First of all, every study has shown thatMedicare has lower administrative costs than private insurance does. Which is why seniors aregenerally pretty happy with it. And private insurers have to make a profit. Nothing wrong with that,that’s what they do.
And so you’ve got higher administrative costs plus profit on top of that. And if you are going to saveany money through what Governor Romney is proposing, what has to happen is that the money has to come from somewhere.
And when you move to a voucher system, you are putting seniors at the mercy of those insurancecompanies. And over time, if traditional Medicare has decayed or fallen apart, then they’re stuck.And this is the reason why AARP has said that your plan would weaken Medicare substantially. Andthat’s why they were supportive of the approach that we took.
One last point I want to make. We do have to lower the cost of health care, not just in Medicare–
JIM LEHRER: Talk about that in a minute.
BARACK OBAMA: –but overall.
JIM LEHRER: So– OK.
BARACK OBAMA: So–
MITT ROMNEY: That’s a big topic. Can we stay on Medicare? Can we finish?
BARACK OBAMA: Is that a separate topic?
JIM LEHRER: Yeah.
BARACK OBAMA: I’m sorry.
JIM LEHRER: I want to get to it. But all I want to do is very quickly, before we leave the economy–
MITT ROMNEY: Let’s get back to Medicare.
JIM LEHRER: No, no, no, no. But–
MITT ROMNEY: The president said the government can provide the service at lower cost andwithout a profit.
JIM LEHRER: All right.
MITT ROMNEY: If that’s the case, then it will always be the best product that people can purchase.But my experience–
JIM LEHRER: Wait a minute, governor.
MITT ROMNEY: My experience is the private sector typically is able to provide a better product ata local cost.
JIM LEHRER: Can we– can the two of you agree that the voters have a choice, a clear choicebetween–
MITT ROMNEY: Absolutely.
BARACK OBAMA: Yes.
JIM LEHRER: –the two of you on Medicare?
MITT ROMNEY: Absolutely.
JIM LEHRER: All right. So to finish quickly, briefly on the economy. What is your view about thelevel of federal regulation of the economy right now? Is there too much? And in your case, Mr.President, should there be more? Beginning with you. This is not a new two-minute segment. Juststart, and we’ll go for a few minutes, and then we’re going to go to health care. OK?
MITT ROMNEY: Regulation is essential. You can’t have a free market work if you don’t haveregulation. As a businessperson, I had to have– I needed to know the regulations. I needed themthere. You couldn’t have people opening up banks in their garage and making loans.
I mean, you have to have regulations so that you can have an economy work. Every free economyhas good regulation. At the same time, regulation can become excessive.
JIM LEHRER: Is it excessive now, do you think?
MITT ROMNEY: In some places, yes.
JIM LEHRER: Like where? Let me know.
MITT ROMNEY: Other places, no. It can become out of date. And what’s happened with some ofthe legislation that’s been passed during the president’s term, you’ve seen regulation becomeexcessive, and its hurt the economy.
Let me give you an example. Dodd-Frank was passed, and it includes within it a number ofprovisions that I think has some unintended consequences that are harmful to the economy.
One is it designates a number of banks as too big to fail, and they’re effectively guaranteed by thefederal government. This is the biggest kiss that’s been given to New York banks I’ve ever seen.This is an enormous boon for them. There have been 122 community and small banks have closedsince Dodd-Frank. So there’s one example.
Here’s another. In Dodd-Frank, it’s says that–
JIM LEHRER: Do you want to repeal Dodd-Frank?
MITT ROMNEY: Well, I would repeal that and replace it. We’re not going to get rid of all regulation.You have to have regulation. And there’s some parts of Dodd-Frank that make all the sense in theworld. You need transparency. You need to have leverage limits for institutions.
JIM LEHRER: Well, here’s a specific– let’s get some–
JIM LEHRER: Excuse me.
MITT ROMNEY: Let me mention the other one. Let’s talk about the big one, the big one.
JIM LEHRER: No, no, let’s not. Let’s let him respond. Let’s let him respond to this specific on Dodd-Frank and what the governor just said.
BARACK OBAMA: Well, I think this is a great example. The reason we have been in such aenormous economic crisis was prompted by reckless behaviour across the board.
Now, it wasn’t just on Wall Street. You had loan officers that were giving loans and mortgages thatreally shouldn’t have been given, because the folks didn’t qualify. You had people who wereborrowing money to buy a house that they couldn’t afford. You had credit agencies that werestamping these as A1 great investments when they weren’t.
But you also had banks making money hand over fist, churning out products that the bankersthemselves didn’t even understand in order to make big profits, but knowing that it made the entiresystem vulnerable.
So what did we do? We stepped in and had the toughest reforms on Wall Street since the 1930s. Wesaid, banks, you’ve got to raise your capital requirements. You can’t engage in some of this riskybehaviour that’s putting Main Street at risk. We’re going to make sure that you’ve got to have aliving will so we can know how you’re going to wind things down if you make a bad bet so we don’thave other taxpayer bailouts.
In the meantime, by the way, we also made sure that all the help that we provided those banks waspaid back, every single dime, with interest.
Now, Governor Romney has said he wants to repeal Dodd-Frank. And I appreciate– and it appearswe’ve got some agreement that a marketplace to work has to have some regulation. But in the pastGovernor 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 wastoo much oversight and regulation of Wall Street? Because if you do, then Governor Romney is yourcandidate. But that’s not what I believe.
MITT ROMNEY: Sorry Jim, that’s just not the facts. Look, we have to have regulation on WallStreet. That’s why I’d have regulation. But I wouldn’t designate five banks as too big to fail and givethem a blank check. That’s one of the unintended consequences of Dodd-Frank. It wasn’t thoughtthrough properly.
We need to get rid of that provision because it’s killing regional and small banks. They’re gettinghurt.
Let me mention another regulation in Dodd-Frank. You say we were giving mortgages to peoplewho weren’t qualified. That’s exactly right. It’s one of the reasons for the great financial calamity wehad.
And so Dodd-Frank correctly says we need to have qualified mortgages. And if you give a mortgagethat’s not qualified, there are big penalties. Except they didn’t ever go on and just define what aqualified mortgage was.
JIM LEHRER: All right.
MITT ROMNEY: It’s been two years. We don’t know what a qualified mortgage is yet. So banks arereluctant to make loans, mortgages. Try and get a mortgage these days. It’s hurt the housingmarket because Dodd-Frank didn’t anticipate putting in place the kinds of regulations you have tohave.
It’s not that Dodd-Frank always was wrong with too much regulation. Sometimes they didn’t comeout with the clear regulation. I will make sure we don’t hurt the functioning of our marketplace andour businesses. Because I want to bring back housing and get good jobs.
JIM LEHRER: All right, I think we have another clear difference between the two of you. Now let’smove to health care, where I know there is a clear difference. And that has to do with the AffordableCare Act, Obamacare. And it’s a two-minute new segment.
And so that means two minutes each. And you go first, Governor Romney. You want it repealed.You want the Affordable Care Act repealed. Why?
MITT ROMNEY: I sure do. Well, in part it comes, again, from my experience. I was in NewHampshire. A woman came to me, and she said, look, I can’t afford insurance for myself or my son. Imet a couple in Appleton, Wisconsin. And they said, we’re thinking of dropping our insurance. Wecan’t afford it. And the number of small businesses I’ve gone to that are saying they’re droppinginsurance because they can’t afford it.
The cost of health care is just prohibitive. And we’ve got to deal with cost.
And unfortunately, when you look at Obamacare, the Congressional Budget Office has said it willcost $2,500 a year more than traditional insurance. So it’s adding to cost.
And as a matter of fact, when the president ran for office, he said that by this year, he would havebrought down the cost of insurance for each family by $2,500 a family. Instead, it’s gone up by thatamount. So it’s expensive. Expensive things hurt families. So that’s one reason I don’t want it.
Second reason, it cuts $716 billion from Medicare to pay for it. I want to put that money back inMedicare for our seniors.
Number three, it puts in place an unelected board that’s going to tell people ultimately what kind oftreatments they can have. I don’t like that idea.
Fourth, there was a survey done of small businesses across the country. It said, what’s been theeffect of Obamacare on your hiring plans? And 3/4 of them said, it makes us less likely to hirepeople.
I just don’t know how the president could have come into office facing 23 million people out of work,rising unemployment, an economic crisis at the kitchen table, and spend his energy and passion fortwo years fighting for Obamacare instead of fighting for jobs for the American people. It has killedjobs.
And the best course for health care is to do what we did in my state, craft a plan at the state levelthat fits the needs of the state. And then let’s focus on getting the cost down for people rather thanraising it with the $2,500 additional premium.
JIM LEHRER: Mr. President, the argument against repeal.
BARACK OBAMA: Well, four years ago when I was running for office, I was travelling around andhaving those same conversations that Governor Romney talks about.
And it wasn’t just that small businesses were seeing costs skyrocket, and they couldn’t getaffordable coverage even if they wanted to provide it to their employees. It wasn’t just that this wasthe biggest driver of our federal deficit, our overall health care costs.
But it was families who were worried about going bankrupt if they got sick. Millions of families allacross the country, if they had a preexisting condition, they might not be able to get coverage at all.If they did have coverage, insurance companies might impose an arbitrary limit.
And so as a consequence, they’re paying their premiums. Somebody gets really sick. Lo and behold,they don’t have enough money to pay the bills because the insurance companies say that they’ve hitthe limit. So we did work on this alongside working on jobs because this is part of making sure thatmiddle class families are secure in this country.
And let me tell you exactly what Obamacare did. Number one, if you’ve got health insurance, itdoesn’t mean a government takeover. You keep your own insurance. You keep your own doctor.But it does say insurance companies can’t jerk you around. They can’t impose arbitrary lifetimelimits. They have to let you keep your kid on your insurance plan until you’re 26 years old.
And it also says that you’re going to have–
Number two, if you don’t have health insurance, we’re essentially setting up a group plan that allowsyou to benefit from group rates that are typically 18% lower than if you’re out there trying to getinsurance on the individual market.
Now, the last point I’d make before–
JIM LEHRER: Two minutes. Two minutes is up, sir.
BARACK OBAMA: No, I think I’ve– I had five seconds before you interrupted me, was–
BARACK OBAMA: The irony is that we’ve seen this model work really well in Massachusettsbecause Governor Romney did a good thing working with Democrats in the state to set up what isessentially the identical model. And as a consequence, people are covered there. It hasn’t destroyedjobs. And as a consequence, we now have a system in which we have the opportunity to startbringing down costs as opposed to just leaving millions of people out in the cold.
JIM LEHRER: Your five seconds went away a long time ago.
BARACK OBAMA: That I–
JIM LEHRER: All right, governor. Governor, tell the president directly why you think what he justsaid is wrong about Obamacare.
MITT ROMNEY: Well, I did with my first statement.
BARACK OBAMA: You did.
MITT ROMNEY: But I’ll go on.
BARACK OBAMA: Please elaborate.
MITT ROMNEY: I’ll elaborate, exactly right. First of all, I like the way we did it in Massachusetts. Ilike the fact that in my state we had Republicans and Democrats come together and work together.What you did instead was to push through a plan without a single Republican vote.
As a matter of fact, when Massachusetts did something quite extraordinary, elected a Republicansenator to stop Obamacare, you pushed it through anyway. So entirely on a partisan basis instead ofbringing America together and having a discussion about this important topic, you pushed throughsomething that you and Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid thought was the best answer, and drove itthrough.
What we did in a legislature 87% Democrat, we worked together. 200 legislators in my legislature,only two voted against the plan by the time we were finished.
What were some differences? We didn’t raise taxes. You’ve raised them by $1 trillion underObamacare. We didn’t cut Medicare. Of course, we don’t have Medicare, but we didn’t cut Medicareby $716 billion. We didn’t put in place a board that can tell people ultimately what treatmentsthey’re going to receive.
We didn’t also do something that I think a number of people across this country recognise, which isput people in a position where they’re going to lose the insurance they had and they wanted. Rightnow the CBO says up to 20 million people will lose their insurance as Obamacare goes into effectnext year. And likewise, a study by McKinsey and Company of American businesses said 30% ofthem are anticipating dropping people from coverage.
So for those reasons, for the tax, for Medicare, for this board, and for people losing their insurance,this is why the American people don’t want Medicare– don’t want Obamacare. It’s why Republicanssaid, do not do this.
And the Republicans had the plan. They put a plan out. They put in a plan, a bipartisan plan. It wasswept aside. I think something this big, this important, has to be done on a bipartisan basis. And wehave to have a president who can reach across the aisle and fashion important legislation with theinput from both parties.
BARACK OBAMA: Governor Romney said this has to be done on a bipartisan basis. This was abipartisan idea. In fact, it was a Republican idea. And Governor Romney at the beginning of thisdebate broke and said what we did in Massachusetts could be a model for the nation. And I agreethat the Democratic legislators in Massachusetts might have given some advice to Republicans inCongress about how to cooperate.
But the fact of the matter is, we use the same advisers, and they say it’s the same plan. It– whenGovernor Romney talks about this board, for example, unelected board that we’ve created, whatthis is is a group of health care experts, doctors, et cetera, to figure out how can we reduce the costof care in the system overall.
Because there are two ways of dealing with our health care crisis. One is to simply leave a wholebunch of people uninsured and let them fend for themselves, to let businesses figure out how longthey can continue to pay premiums until finally they just give up, and their workers are no longergetting insured. And that’s been the trend line.
Or alternatively, we can figure out how do we make the cost of care more effective? And there areways of doing it. So at Cleveland Clinic, one of the best health care systems in the world, theyactually provide great care cheaper than average.
And the reason they do is because they do some smart things. They say if a patient’s coming in, let’sget all of the doctors together at once, do one test instead of having the patient run around with 10tests. Let’s make sure that we’re providing preventive care so we’re catching the onset of somethinglike diabetes. Let’s pay providers on the basis of performance as opposed to on the basis of howmany procedures they’ve engaged in.
Now, so what this board does is basically identifies best practises and says, let’s use the purchasingpower of Medicare and Medicaid to help to institutionalise all these good things that we do. And thefact of the matter is that when Obamacare is fully implemented, we’re going to be in a position toshow that costs are going down.
And over the last two years, health care premiums have gone up, it’s true, but they’ve gone upslower than any time in the last 50 years. So we’re already beginning to see progress. In themeantime, folks out there with insurance, you’re already getting a rebate.
Let me make one last point. Governor Romney says we should replace it. I’m just going to repeal it,but we can replace it with something. But the problem is, he hasn’t described what exactly we’dreplace it with other than saying we’re going to leave it to the states.
But the fact the matter is that some of the prescriptions that he’s offered, like letting you buyinsurance across state lines, there’s no indication that that somehow is going to help somebody who’sgot a preexisting condition be able to finally buy insurance. In fact, it’s estimated that by repealingObamacare, you’re looking at 50 million people losing health insurance at a time when it’s vitallyimportant.
JIM LEHRER: Let’s let the governor explain what you would do if Obamacare is repealed. Howwould you replace it? What do you really want?
MITT ROMNEY: Actually, it’s a lengthy description. But number one, preexisting conditions arecovered under my plan. Number two, young people are able to stay on their family plan. That’salready offered in the private marketplace. You don’t have to have the government mandate thatfor that to occur.
But let’s come back to something the president and I agree on. Which is the key task we have inhealth care is to get the cost down so it’s more affordable for families. And then he has as a model fordoing that a board of people at the government– an unelected board, appointed board– who are going to decide what kind of treatments you ought to have.
BARACK OBAMA: No, that’s–
MITT ROMNEY: In my opinion, the government is not effective in bringing down the cost of almostanything. As a matter of fact, free people and free enterprises trying to find ways to do things betterare able to be more effective in bringing down the cost than the government will ever be.
Your example of the Cleveland Clinic is my case in point, along with several others I could describe.This is the private market. These are small. These are enterprises competing with each other,learning how to do better and better jobs.
I used to consult to businesses– excuse me, to hospitals and to health care providers. I wasastonished at the creativity and innovation that exists in the American people.
In order to bring the cost of health care down, we don’t need to have a board of 15 people telling uswhat kinds of treatments we should have. We instead need to put insurance plans, providers,hospitals, doctors on target such that they have an incentive– as you say, performance pay– fordoing an excellent job, for keeping costs down.
And that’s happening. Intermountain Healthcare does it superbly well. Mayo Clinic is doing itsuperbly well. Cleveland Clinic, others. But the right answer is not to have the federal governmenttake over health care and start mandating to the providers across America, telling a patient and adoctor what kind of treatment they can have.
That’s the wrong way to go. The private market and individual responsibility always work best.
BARACK OBAMA: Let me just point out first of all, this board that we’re talking about can’t makedecisions about what treatments are given. That’s explicitly prohibited in the law.
But let’s go back to what Governor Romney indicated, that under his plan he would be able to coverpeople with preexisting conditions. Well actually, governor, that isn’t what your plan does. Whatyour plan does is to duplicate what’s already the law.
Which says if you are out of health insurance for three months, then you can end up gettingcontinuous coverage. And an insurance company can’t deny you if it’s been under 90 days.
But that’s already the law, and that doesn’t help the millions of people out there with preexistingconditions. There’s a reason why Governor Romney set up the plan that he did in Massachusetts. Itwasn’t a government takeover of health care. It was the largest expansion of private insurance.
But what it does say is that insurers, you’ve got to take everybody. Now, that also means thatyou’ve got more customers. But when Governor Romney says that he’ll replace it with something,but can’t detail how it will be in fact replaced– and the reason he set up the system he did inMassachusetts was because there isn’t a better way of dealing with the preexisting conditionsproblem.
It just reminds me of he says that he’s going to close deductions and loopholes for his tax plan.That’s how it’s going to be paid for. But we don’t know the details. He says that he’s going to replaceDodd-Frank Wall Street reform. But we don’t know exactly which ones. He won’t tell us. He nowsays he’s going to replace Obamacare, and is sure that all the good things that are in it are going tobe in there, and you don’t have to worry.
And at some point I think the American people have to ask themselves, is the reason that GovernorRomney is keeping all these plans to replace secret because they’re too good? Is it because thatsomehow middle class families are going to benefit too much from them?
No, the reason is is because when we reform Wall Street, when we tackle the problem of preexistingconditions, then these are tough problems, and we’ve got to make choices. And the choices we’vemade have been ones that ultimately are benefiting middle class families all across the country.
JIM LEHRER: We’re going to move to a–
MITT ROMNEY: No, I have to respond to that.
JIM LEHRER: Well, but–
MITT ROMNEY: Which is my experience as a governor is if I come in and lay down a piece oflegislation and say it’s my way or the highway, I don’t get a lot done. What I do is the same way thatTip O’Neill and Ronald Reagan worked together some years ago.
When Ronald Reagan ran for office, he laid out the principles that he was going to foster. He said hewas going to lower tax rates. He said he was going to broaden the base. You’ve said the same thing.You’re going to simplify the tax code, broaden the base.
Those are my principles. I want to bring down the tax burden on middle-income families. And I’mgoing to work together with Congress to say, OK, what are the various ways we could bring downdeductions, for instance?
One way, for instance would be to have a single number. Make up a number, $25,000, $50,000.Anybody could have deductions up to that amount. And then that number disappears for high-income people. That’s one way one could do it.
One could follow Bowles-Simpson as a model and take deduction by deduction, and makedifferences that way. There are alternatives to accomplish the objective I have, which is to bringdown rates, broaden the base, simplify the code, and create incentives for growth.
And with regards to health care, you had remarkable details with regards to my preexistingcondition plan. You obviously have studied up on my plan. In fact, I do have a plan that deals withpeople with preexisting conditions. That’s part of my health care plan.
And what we did in Massachusetts is a model for the nation, state by state. And I said that at thattime. The federal government taking over health care for the entire nation and whisking aside the10th Amendment, which gives states the rights for these kinds of things, is not the course forAmerica to have a stronger, more vibrant economy.
JIM LEHRER: That is a terrific segue to our next segment. And it’s the role of government. Andlet’s see, role of government. And it is– you are first on this, Mr. President.
And the question is this. Do you believe– both of you, but you have the first two minutes on this,Mr. President. Do you believe there’s a fundamental difference between the two of you as to howyou view the mission of the federal government?
BARACK OBAMA: Well, I definitely think there are differences.
JIM LEHRER: And you– yeah.
BARACK OBAMA: The first role of the federal government is to keep the American people safe.That’s its most basic function. And as commander in chief, that is something that I have worked onand thought about every single day that I’ve been in the Oval Office.
But I also believe that government has the capacity– the federal government has the capacity tohelp open up opportunity and create ladders of opportunity, and to create frameworks where theAmerican people can succeed.
Look, the genius of America is the free enterprise system and freedom, and the fact that people cango out there and start a business, work on an idea, make their own decisions. But as AbrahamLincoln understood, there are also some things we do better together.
So in the middle of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln said, let’s help to finance the TranscontinentalRailroad. Let’s start the National Academy of Sciences. Let’s start land grant colleges, because wewant to give these gateways of opportunity for all Americans, because if all Americans are gettingopportunity, we’re all going to be better off.
That doesn’t restrict people’s freedom. That enhances it.
And so what I’ve tried to do as president is to apply those same principles. And when it comes toeducation, what I’ve said is we’ve got to reform schools that are not working. We used somethingcalled Race to the Top. It wasn’t a top-down approach, Governor. What we’ve said is to states, we’llgive you more money if you initiate reforms. And as a consequence, you had 46 states around thecountry who have made a real difference.
But what I’ve also said is, let’s hire another 100,000 math and science teachers to make sure wemaintain our technological lead, and our people are skilled and able to succeed. And hard-pressedstates right now can’t all do that. In fact, we’ve seen layoffs of hundreds of thousands of teachersover the last several years.
And Governor Romney doesn’t think we need more teachers. I do, because I think that that is thekind of investment where the federal government can help. It can’t do it all, but it can make adifference. And as a consequence, we’ll have a better-trained workforce. And that will create jobs,because companies want to locate in places where we’ve got a skilled workforce.
JIM LEHRER: Two minutes, Governor, on the role of government. Your view.
MITT ROMNEY: Well, first, I love great schools. Massachusetts, our schools are ranked numberone of all 50 states. And the key to great schools, great teachers. So I reject the idea that I don’tbelieve in great teachers or more teachers. Every school district, every state should make thatdecision on their own.
The role of government. Look behind us. The Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.The role of government is to promote and protect the principles of those documents.
First, life and liberty. We have a responsibility to protect the lives and liberties of our people, andthat means a military second to none. I do not believe in cutting our military. I believe inmaintaining the strength of America’s military.
Second, in that line that says we are endowed by our Creator with our rights, I believe we mustmaintain our commitment to religious tolerance and freedom in this country.
That statement also says that we are endowed by our Creator with the right to pursue happiness aswe choose. I interpret that as, one, making sure that those people who are less fortunate and can’tcare for themselves are cared by one another.
We’re a nation that believes that we’re all children of the same God, and we care for those that havedifficulties. Those that are elderly and have problems and challenges, those that are disabled, wecare for them. And we look for discovery and innovation, all these things desired out of theAmerican heart to provide the pursuit of happiness for our citizens.
But we also believe in maintaining for individuals the right to pursue their dreams, and not to havethe government substitute itself for the rights of free individuals. And what we’re seeing right nowis, in my view, a trickle-down government approach which has government thinking it can do abetter job than free people pursuing their dreams.
And it’s not working. And the proof of that is 23 million people out of work. The proof of that is oneout of six people in poverty. The proof of that is we’ve gone from 32 million on food stamps to 47 million on food stamps. The proof of that is that 50% of college graduates this year can’t find work.
We know that the path we’re taking is not working. It’s time for a new path.
JIM LEHRER: All right, let’s go through some specifics in terms of how each of you views the role ofgovernment. How do– education. Does the federal government have a responsibility to improve thequality of public education in America?
MITT ROMNEY: Well, the primary responsibility for education is, of course, at the state and locallevel. But the federal government also can play a very important role. And I agree with SecretaryArne Duncan. He’s had some ideas he’s put forward on Race to the Top. Not all of them, but some ofthem I agree with, and congratulate him for pursuing that. The federal government can get localand state schools to do a better job.
My own view, by the way, is I’ve added to that. I happen to believe– I want the kids that aregetting federal dollars from IDEA or Title I– these are disabled kids or poor kids, or lower-incomekids, rather. I want them to be able to go to the school of their choice. So all federal funds, instead ofgoing to the state or to the school district, I’d have go, if you will, follow the child and let the parentand the child decide where to send their student.
JIM LEHRER: How do you see the federal government’s responsibility to, as I said, to improve thequality of public education in this country?
BARACK OBAMA: Well, as I’ve indicated, I think that it has a significant role to play. Through ourRace to the Top programme, we’ve worked with Republican and Democratic governors to initiatemajor reforms, and they’re having an impact right now.
JIM LEHRER: Do you think you have a difference with your views and those of Governor Romneyabout education and the federal government?
BARACK OBAMA: This is where budgets matter, because budgets reflect choices. So whenGovernor Romney indicates that he wants to cut taxes and potentially benefit folks like me and him,and to pay for it we’re having to initiate significant cuts in federal support for education, that makesa difference.
His running mate, Congressman Ryan, put forward a budget that reflects many of the principlesthat Governor Romney’s talked about. And it wasn’t very detailed. This seems to be a trend. Butwhat it did do is to– if you extrapolated how much money we’re talking about, you’d look at cuttingthe education budget by up to 20%.
When it comes to community colleges, we are seeing great work done out there all over the country,because we have the opportunity to train people for jobs that exist right now. And one of the thingsI suspect Governor Romney and I probably agree on is getting businesses to work with communitycolleges so that they’re setting up their training programmes–
JIM LEHRER: Do you agree, Governor?
BARACK OBAMA: Let me just finish the point.
JIM LEHRER: Yeah.
MITT ROMNEY: By the way–
BARACK OBAMA: I suspect it’ll be a small agreement.
MITT ROMNEY: It’s going very well in my state, by the way, yeah.
BARACK OBAMA: They– where they’re partnering so that they’re designing training programmes,and people who are going through them know that there’s a job waiting for them if they complete it.
JIM LEHRER: OK.
BARACK OBAMA: That makes a big difference. But that requires some federal support.
Let me just say one final example. When it comes to making college affordable, whether it’s two-year or four-year, one of the things that I did as president was, we were sending $60 billion tobanks and lenders as middlemen for the student loan programme, even though the loans wereguaranteed so there was no risk for the banks or the lenders. But they were taking billions out of thesystem.
And we said, why not cut out the middleman? And as a consequence, what we’ve been able to do isto provide millions more students assistance, lower or keep low interest rates on student loans.
And this is an example of where our priorities make a difference. Governor Romney I genuinelybelieve cares about education. But when he tells a student that you should borrow money from yourparents to go to college, that indicates the degree to which there may not be as much of a focus onthe fact that folks like myself, folks like Michelle, kids probably who attend University of Denverjust don’t have that option.
And for us to be able to make sure that they’ve got that opportunity and they can walk through thatdoor, that is vitally important not just to those kids. It’s how we’re going to grow this economy overthe long term.
JIM LEHRER: We’re running out of time.
MITT ROMNEY: Jim. Jim.
JIM LEHRER: Certainly you have a chance to respond to that. Yes sir, Governor.
MITT ROMNEY: Mr. President, you’re entitled as the president to your own airplane and to yourown house, but not to your own facts. All right? I’m not going to cut education funding. I don’t haveany plan to cut education funding. And grants that go to people going to college, I’m planning oncontinuing to grow, so I’m not planning on making changes there.
But you make a very good point, which is that the place you put your money just makes a prettyclear indication of where your heart is. You put $90 billion into green jobs. And look, I’m all in favor of green energy. $90 billion? That would have hired 2 million teachers. $90 billion.
And these businesses, many of them have gone out of business. I think about half of them– of theones that have been invested in have gone out of business. A number of them happen to be ownedby people who are contributors to your campaigns.
Look, the right course for America’s government– we were talking about the role of government–is not to become the economic player picking winners and losers, telling people what kind of healthtreatment they can receive, taking over the health care system that has existed in this country for along, long time and has produced the best health records in the world.
The right answer for government is to say, how do we make the private sector become moreefficient and more effective? How do we get schools to be more competitive? Let’s grade them. Ipropose we grade our schools so parents know which schools are succeeding and failing so they cantake their child to a school that’s being more successful.
I don’t want to cut our commitment to education. I wanted to make it more effective and efficient.
And by the way, I’ve had that experience. I don’t just talk about it. I’ve been there. Massachusettsschools are ranked number one in the nation. This is not because I didn’t have commitment toeducation. It’s because I care about education for all of our kids.
JIM LEHRER: All right, gentlemen, look.
BARACK OBAMA: Jim, Jim. I–
JIM LEHRER: Excuse me one second. Excuse me, sir. We’ve got– barely have three minutes left.I’m not going to grade the two of you and say your answers have been too long, or I’ve done a poorjob.
BARACK OBAMA: You’ve done a great job, Jim.
JIM LEHRER: Oh well, no. But the fact is, government– the role of government and governing,we’ve lost a pod, in other words. So we only have three minutes left in the debate before we go toyour closing statements. And so I want to ask finally here– and remember, we’ve got three minutestotal time here.
And the question is this. Many of the legislative functions of the federal government right now are ina state of paralysis as a result of partisan gridlock. If elected in your case, if reelected in your case,what would you do about that? Governor?
MITT ROMNEY: Jim, I had the great experience– it didn’t seem like it at the time– of beingelected in a state where my legislature was 87% Democrat. And that meant I figured out from dayone I had to get along, and I had to work across the aisle to get anything done.
We drove our schools to be number one in the nation. We cut taxes 19 times.
JIM LEHRER: What would you do as president?
MITT ROMNEY: As president, I will sit down on day one– actually, the day after I get elected I’llsit down with leaders, the Democratic leaders as well as Republican leaders, and continue– as wedid in my state. We met every Monday for a couple hours, talked about the issues and thechallenges in our state, in that case.
We have to work on a collaborative basis. Not because we’re going to compromise our principle, butbecause there’s common ground, and the challenges America faces right now.
Look, the reason I’m in this race is there are people that are really hurting today in this country.And we face– this deficit could crush the future generations. What’s happening in the Middle East?There are developments around the world that are of real concern.
And Republicans and Democrats both love America, but we need to have leadership, leadership inWashington that will actually bring people together and get the job done. And could not care less ifit’s a Republican or a Democrat. I’ve done it before. I’ll do it again.
JIM LEHRER: Mr. President.
BARACK OBAMA: First of all, I think Governor Romney’s going to have a busy first day, becausehe’s also going to repeal Obamacare, which will not be very popular among Democrats as you’resitting down with them.
But look, my philosophy has been I will take ideas from anybody, Democrat or Republican, as longas they’re advancing the cause of making middle class families stronger and giving ladders ofopportunity to the middle class.
That’s how we cut taxes for middle class families and small businesses. That’s how we cut $1 trillionof spending that wasn’t advancing that cause. That’s how we signed three trade bills into law that are helping us to double our exports and sell more American products around the world. That’s howwe repealed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
That’s how we ended the war in Iraq as I promised, and that’s how we’re going to wind down thewar in Afghanistan. That’s how we went after al-Qaeda and bin Laden. So we’ve seen progress evenunder Republican control of the House of Representatives.
But ultimately part of being principled, part of being a leader is, A, being able to describe exactlywhat it is that you intend to do. Not just saying, I’ll sit down, but you have to have a plan.
Number two, what’s important is occasionally you’ve got to say no to folks both in your own partyand in the other party. And yes, have we had some fights between me and the Republicans whenthey fought back against us reining in the excesses of Wall Street? Absolutely, because that was afight that needed to be had. When we were fighting about whether or not we were going to makesure that Americans had more security with their health insurance, and they said no, yes, that was afight that we needed to have.
JIM LEHRER: All right.
BARACK OBAMA: And so part of leadership and governing is both saying what it is that you are for,but also being willing to say no to some things. And I’ve got to tell you, Governor Romney, when itcomes to his own party during the course of this campaign, has not displayed that willingness to sayno to some of the more extreme parts of his party.
JIM LEHRER: That brings us to closing statements. There was a coin toss. Governor Romney, you won the toss, and you elected to go last. So you have a closing two minutes, Mr. President.
BARACK OBAMA: Well Jim, I want to thank you, and I want to thank Governor Romney, because Ithink this was a terrific debate, and I very much appreciate it. And I want to thank the Universityof Denver.
You know, four years ago we were going through a major crisis. And yet, my faith and confidence inthe American future is undiminished. And the reason is because of its people.
Because of the woman I met in North Carolina who decided at 55 to go back to school because shewanted to inspire her daughter, and now has a job from that new training that she’s gotten. Becausea company in Minnesota who was willing to give up salaries and perks for their executives to makesure that they didn’t lay off workers during a recession.
The auto workers that you meet in Toledo or Detroit take such pride in building the best cars in theworld not just because of a paycheck, but because it gives them that sense of pride that they’rehelping to build America.
And so the question now is, how do we build on those strengths? And everything that I’ve tried todo, and everything that I’m now proposing for the next four years in terms of improving oureducation system or developing American energy, or making sure that we’re closing loopholes forcompanies that are shipping jobs overseas and focusing on small businesses and companies that arecreating jobs here in the United States, or closing our deficit in a responsible, balanced way thatallows us to invest in our future.
All those things are designed to make sure that the American people, their genius, their grit, theirdetermination, is channelled, and they have an opportunity to succeed. And everybody’s getting afair shot, and everybody’s getting a fair share. Everybody’s doing their fair share, and everybody’splaying by the same rules.
You know, four years ago I said that I’m not a perfect man, and I wouldn’t be a perfect president,and that’s probably a promise that Governor Romney thinks I’ve kept. But I also promised that I’dfight every single day on behalf of the American people and the middle class and all those who arestriving to get in the middle class.
I’ve kept that promise. And if you’ll vote for me, then I promise I’ll fight just as hard in a secondterm.
JIM LEHRER: Governor Romney, your two-minute closing.
MITT ROMNEY: Thank you, Jim, and Mr. President. And thank you for tuning in this evening.This is an important election, and I’m concerned about America. I’m concerned about the directionAmerica has been taking over the last four years.
I know this is bigger than election about the two of us as individuals. It’s bigger than our respectiveparties. It’s an election about the course of America. What kind of America do you want to have foryourself and for your children?
And there really are two very different paths that we began speaking about this evening. And overthe course of this month, we’re going to have two more presidential debates and a vice presidentialdebate. We’ll talk about those two paths. But they lead in very different directions.
And it’s not just looking to our words that you have to take in evidence of where they go. You canlook at the record. There’s no question in my mind that if the president were to be reelected, you’llcontinue to see a middle class squeeze, with incomes going down and prices going up. I’ll get incomesup again.
You’ll see chronic unemployment. We’ve had 43 straight months with unemployment above 8%. IfI’m president, I will help create 12 million new jobs in this country, with rising incomes.
If the president’s reelected, Obamacare will be fully installed. In my view, that’s going to mean awhole different way of life for people who counted on the insurance plan they had in the past. Manywill lose it. You’re going to see health premiums go up by some $2,500 per family.
If I’m elected, we won’t have Obamacare. We’ll put in place the kind of principles that I put in placein my own state, and allow each state to craft their own programmes to get people insured. Andwe’ll focus on getting the cost of health care down.
If the president were to be reelected, you’re going to see a $716 billion cut to Medicare. You’ll have 4 million people who will lose Medicare Advantage. You’ll have hospitals and providers that will nolonger accept Medicare patients. I’ll restore that $716 billion to Medicare.
And finally, military. If the president’s reelected, you’ll see dramatic cuts to our military. TheSecretary of Defence has said these would be even devastating. I will not cut our commitment to ourmilitary. I will keep America strong, and get America’s middle class working again. Thank you, Jim.
JIM LEHRER: Thank you, Governor. Thank you, Mr. President. The next debate will be the vicepresidential event on Thursday