2012 debates begin with domestic policy faceoff

The first of three presidential debates took place Wednesday Oct. 3 at the University of Denver, Colo., where President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney debated for the first time.

The debate focused on domestic policy including the economy, health care, regulation and education.

The first segment narrowed in on job growth and the substantial federal deficit.

President Obama advocated for investing in education and training, developing new sources of energy and changing the tax code to foster business growth and thus job growth.

“It will be up to the American voters to decide what path we take,” Obama said. “Double down on ‘top down,’ or embrace a new economic patriotism which says America does best when the middle class does best.”

Romney responded saying that America needs a different path, which does not include top-down tax cuts for the rich, but rather five basic parts: energy independence; more trade, specifically with Latin America; crackdown on China; skilled workers and the “best schools in the world”; and support for small business.

Obama followed by advocating for closing loopholes for companies shipping jobs overseas, boosting American energy production of oil and natural gas and looking to future sources of energy such as wind, solar and biofuel power.

Both candidates focused on the middle class. Romney criticized Obama for “crushing” them with taxes despite Obama’s claims that he has cut taxes on average by $3,600 per family. Conversely, Obama criticized Romney’s plan for a $5 trillion tax cut as well as an increase of $2 trillion for military spending, claiming it cannot possibly cover the costs of closing deductions and loopholes.

In addition to the middle class, both candidates focused on small businesses; however, the candidates had disparate definitions of the term.

“Under my plan, 97 percent of small businesses would not see their income taxes go up,” Obama said. “Gov. Romney says those top 3 percent are the job creators, and they’ll be burdened. Under Gov. Romney’s definition … a bunch of millionaires and billionaires are small businesses.”

Romney rebutted, saying, “Those businesses in the last 3 percent employ half of all the people that work in small bushiness … which employ one quarter of all the workers in America, and your plan is to take their tax rate from 35 percent to 40 percent.”

Romney argued that The National Federation of Independent Business says that Obama’s plan will cost 700,000 jobs, whereas Romney’s plan will bring down the tax rates and lower exemptions and deductions to create more jobs.

“Math, common sense and our history show that is not the recipe for job growth,” Obama rebutted.

Discussion regarding health care focused specifically on Medicare and Social Security. Both candidates agreed that longevity is the focus but disagreed on the means.

“We have to bring down the cost to bring down long-term deficit,” Obama said.

Obama’s health care system has made $716 billion in cuts to Medicare, which he claims lowers prescription costs for seniors by $600, on average. Additionally, Obama said preventative care will save the system money.

Romney, however, claims that by making these cuts to Medicare, 15 percent of hospitals and nursing homes as well as 50 percent of doctors will no longer take Medicare patients. He advocates that the private sector is better equipped to minimize costs.

“These are enterprises competing with each other,” Romney said. “The private market and individual responsibility always work best.”

The candidates agreed that financial regulations should be put in place to prevent Wall Street from producing future economic turmoil.

The final debate topic was education, for which both candidates affirmed their fierce commitment to reform.

Obama noted the Race to the Top program, which allocated funding for states that made educational reforms, resulting in 46 states “who have made a real difference.”

He also advocated hiring 100,000 new math and science teachers to “maintain our technological lead.”

Romney denied Obama’s claims that he would cut education funding, criticizing Obama’s $90 billion dollars for green jobs, which he claims would have hired two million teachers.

“I propose we grade our schools … so parents know which schools are succeeding and failing,” Romney said. “Massachusetts’ schools are ranked number one in the nation. It’s because I care about education for all of our kids.”

“My faith and confidence in the American future is undiminished,” Obama said in his closing statements. “The question now is how to build on our strengths.”

“I’m concerned with the direction of America over the past four years,” Romney closed with. “I will keep America strong and get America’s middle class working again.”