This year has been one for the record books with the debates, misrepresentations and falsehoods by both sides. Last week's debate between President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney was no exception. Let's start with spending and the deficit.
President Obama said he has a $4 trillion deficit reduction plan that will ask for $1 in additional revenue for every $2.50 he cuts. He didn't tell us that he is already getting $2 trillion from legislation enacted last year that cut agency operating budgets and capped them for 10 years. Further, he is claiming over $800 billion in war savings that would occur anyway. And he hasn't mentioned what he is doing with the Medicare reimbursements to doctors. Take those "cuts" away and Obama's $2.50-to-$1 ratio of spending cuts to tax increases shifts significantly in the direction of tax increases.
According to a report provided by the CBO, "Obama's February budget offered proposals that would cut deficits over the coming decade by $2 trillion instead of $4 trillion. Of that deficit reduction, tax increases accounted for $1.6 trillion."
Now after he fires Big Bird, Romney has some plans of his own regarding the deficit problem. He says if he is elected president, he will balance the budget in eight to ten years, but he hasn't offered a plan. Instead, he's asking the American people to trust him and his promises, such as increasing Pentagon spending and restoring more than $700 billion in cuts that Democrats made in Medicare. He has promised not to even consider tax increases.
Romney has made some fairly encouraging promises, but shrinking the size of government, cutting tax rates by 20 percent and paying for them by eliminating tax breaks for the wealthiest and through economic growth, all by the end of his first term brings just the slightest hint of doubt to my mind. If he were to fulfill this promise, it would take a monumental effort on his part and a near miracle to get it past Congress.
What about the now infamous "Simpson-Bowles" recommendations? Anyone who has paid attention to the Washington gridlock over these last four years should know that any bi-partisan plan was not going to fly. Romney says President Obama should have grabbed the Simpson-Bowles plan and pushed it through. The president says that is exactly what his administration has done. However, the fact checkers tell it differently. They say the president initially ignored the Simpson-Bowles recommendations only later to accept some of the less controversial ones. Those that were "politically troublesome" were not endorsed.
The president defended his policies with a sense of pride. When it comes to health care, he declared, "Over the last two years, health care premiums have gone up - it's true - but they've gone up slower than any time in the last 50 years. So we're already beginning to see progress. In the meantime, folks out there with insurance, you're already getting a rebate."
Not quite, Mr. President. According to the fact checkers, you are mixing overall health care spending, which has been growing at historically low levels, and health insurance premiums, which have continued to rise faster than wages and overall economic growth. Premiums for job-based family coverage have risen by nearly $2,400 since 2009, according to the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation. In 2011, premiums jumped by 9 percent. This year's 4 percent increase was more manageable, but the price tag for family coverage stands at $15,745, with employees paying more than $4,300 of that.
Everyone talks about the kitchen table conversations such as the price of gasoline, electricity, food, milk, bacon, and taxes; we continue to see increases in all of these. In all fairness, however, we have seen the unemployment rate go down 0.3 percent from 8.1 percent to 7.8 percent - this is good news, but it ain't no barn burner.
President Obama wants to keep the tax rates for those making less than $200,000 a year and raise the taxes on those making more. He says Romney's plan calls for a $5 trillion tax cut-on top of the extension of the Bush tax cuts, that's another trillion dollars-and $2 trillion in additional military spending that the military hasn't asked for. The fact checkers have jumped all over this one claiming it to be "pants on fire".
According to the Tax Policy Center, Romney proposes to reduce income tax rates by 20 percent and eliminate the estate tax and the alternative minimum tax. That would reduce federal tax revenues by $465 billion in 2015, which would add up to about $5 trillion over 10 years. The various fact checkers, the CBO and several independent studies have said this is not only what Romney has said, but it is indeed feasible.
It is more and more evident to me that we need change in Washington - bipartisanship in solving our nation's problems would be a good place to start, and it wouldn't hurt to have a little truth.
Have a great day! And don't forget to vote Nov. 6.
Vicki Westling is a Dunkirk resident. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.