Conventional Democratic and Republican ideology was voiced through party leaders President Obama and Governor Romney during the first of three presidential debates last Wednesday.
Slightly trailing in public opinion polls prior to the debate, Governor Romney presented himself to Americans in an aggressive manner, utilizing the forum to challenge President Obama on his four years in office. “You said you would cut the deficit in half and you haven’t done it,” Romney said, “We still show trillion dollar deficits every year.”
A noticeably subdued President Obama maintained his composure throughout, attributing the difficulty of tackling the deficit to the inherited encumbrance of President George W. Bush’s military intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the externally imposed financial crisis of 2008.
Since this first of three debates was solely concerned with domestic policy, disagreements on tax rates and healthcare surfaced as keynote issues around which moderator Jim Lehrer divided the two candidates. To the former, Governor Romney accused President Obama of running a “trickle-down government” approach with unsustainably increasing tax rates which will squeeze out the middle-class and stifle small businesses. In response, President Obama countered by continually noting that Governor Romney’s plan to implement “5-trillion dollars in tax cuts”, alongside an additional 2-trillion in military spending, would inevitably require placing the burden of balancing the budget on the middle-class itself.
On healthcare, Romney pressed Obama on his 2010 reforms – that of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – stating that the President’s attempt to curb increasing healthcare costs has empirically failed. Standing by what has been coined ‘Obamacare’, the President responded, “Over the last two years, healthcare premiums have gone up, it’s true, but they’ve gone up slower than anytime in the last 50 years.”
While much has indeed been debated over the merits of Obamacare since the President’s reform laws were past two years ago, little detail has been delineated of an alternative healthcare agenda that Governor Romney would pursue, besides that of directly appealing Obamacare, “What I’d do to make sure that we can keep Medicare in place for [young people] is to allow them either to choose the current Medicare program or a private plan – their choice”, said Romney. When pressed by moderator Jim Lehrer whether such a healthcare agenda would entail an adoption of a voucher system, Romney answered, “What I support is no change for the current retirees and near retirees in Medicare, and the president supports taking $716 billion out of that program.”
To the question of how it is that they would stimulate the economy by creating new and sustainable jobs, President Obama answered that his approach would be to keep tuition costs low in order to educate Americans so that they can qualify for jobs that are available now, while Governor Romney stated that he will focus on strengthening small businesses in the country by lowering taxes for owners who could in turn use the saved capital to hire additional employees. Further on the topic of jobs, Romney criticized Obama’s $90billion investment into ‘green jobs’ which, he notes, could have instead translated into the hiring of two million new teachers across the country.
The debate on American domestic policy centered primarily on disagreement concerning tax rates, the federal deficit, healthcare and stimulating jobs to develop the economy. Disagreement between the candidates on such topics reflected the traditional left/right disparity in defining what the role and size of the federal government ought to be.
Their closing remarks began with Obama’s humble statement that he is not a perfect man and thus could not be a perfect president, while Romney ended the night by ominously stating that he is concerned with America’s declining position in the world, and how this trend will continue if Obama is granted an additional four years in office.
The next debate for the 2012 Presidential election is scheduled for October 11th, in which Vice President Joe Biden will speak against Congressman Paul Ryan on foreign and domestic policy issues. President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney will both return in the second of three debates against each other on October 16th in a town meeting format, during which American citizens will have the opportunity to directly ask the candidates questions concerning their domestic and foreign policies.