Thursday, October 4, 2012

Part Five - The Denver Debate

[Mike Luckovich, Atlanta Journal Constitution, 10-3-2012]

Part Five of "Why I Plan to Vote Democratic"

This is the fifth in a series of blogs on my intent to vote not only for President Obama, but a straight Democratic ticket at the national, state, and local levels. I plan to look at issues that are important to me and I believe important to the American people.

I welcome your responses, whether you are a Democrat, Republican, or something else. I will publish whatever comments you have unless they are mean-spirited or do not speak directly to the issue addressed in this particular blog.

My American History teacher in high school drafted me onto the debate team, of which she was the coach. My first debate was with a team from Wichita Falls High School, a BIG school compared to Iowa Park High. 

The topic was whether or not the Electoral College process for electing presidents should be abolished. My partner and I made our speeches and our coach said we didn't do badly in the rebuttals. By a flip of a coin at the beginning, the team from Wichita Falls had the last word. 

The last word came from a smooth talking senior. I could hardly believe my ears. One after another, he offered falsehood after falsehood to bolster their case. I thought he must have violated the Interscholastic League rules, but no, that's just the way debates are. The other team won the debate. In my view, we were pretty much even going into the closing statements and lost it based on patently untrue statements. Welcome to the real world, Milo!

The debate between President Obama and former Governor Romney, and the pundits responses afterward, brought back the memory of my first formal debate. Style points, aggressiveness, and appearances count for a lot in formal debates, whether in high school or in presidential debates. Truth seems to count for much less. The debate last night was not an academic exercise, but a forum in which potential voters were to be informed and so better able to make a decision about how to vote.

What I wanted to know was what was true and false in what they said. I didn't give a damn about whether Romney acted like a corporate executive and Obama as a college professor. So, I've done some fact-checking and I want to summarize what I found. (Since you already know that I plan to vote Democratic, you might do well to check my summary statements against the 29-page document to see if they are indeed accurate. I hope you will let me know if I have misstated or omitted any pertinent facts.)

Fact Check: Romney's 12 Million Jobs: Mr. Romney promised to create 12 million jobs over the next four years if he is elected president. Catherine Rampell found,
That is actually about as many jobs as the economy is already expected to create, according to some forecasters.
Fact Check: Medicare Cost Control Board: Among his objections to the new health care law, Mr. Romney said, "It puts in place an unelected board that is going to tell people, ultimately, what kind of treatments they can have. I don't like that idea.
Under the 2010 law, the Affordable Care Act, the board cannot make recommendations to "ration health care," raise revenues or increase premiums, deductibles or co-payments for Medicare beneficiaries. 
Fact Check: Did Half of Green Companies Fail? Mr. Romney said that half the companies invested in under the president's green energy stimulus have gone out of business. John M. Broder found 
That is a gross overstatement. Of nearly three dozen recipients of loans under the Department of Energy's loan guarantee program, only three are currently in bankruptcy, although several others are facing financial difficulties.
Fact Check: Education Cuts: Mr. Obama said that tax cuts would lead to lower government support for public education, and pointed out that the House budget authored by Mr. Romney's running mate, Representative Paul D. Ryan, would cut "the education budget up to 20 percent." Trip Gabriel found  
Mr. Romney rejected the charge. “I’m not going to cut education funding,” he said. “I don’t have a plan to cut education funding.”
But in the past Mr. Romney has said he would do just that. In a speech to donors in Florida in the spring overheard by reporters, Mr. Romney said he would either merge the federal Education Department with another agency “or perhaps make it a heck of a lot smaller.”
Fact Check: Medicare's $716 Billion Cut: Mr. Romney said that the $716 billion in Medicare reductions would come from current beneficiaries. Jackie Calmes reminded us that
While fact-checkers have repeatedly debunked this claim, it remains a standard attack line for Mr. Romney.
Fact Check: $5 Trillion Tax Cut: Mr. Romney rejected the President's charge that he advocates a $5 trillion tax cut. Annie Lowery sorts through the complexities of this issue and finds
It is true that Mr. Romney has proposed “revenue neutral” tax reform, meaning that he would not expand the deficit. However, he has proposed cutting all marginal tax rates by 20 percent — which would in and of itself cut tax revenue by $5 trillion.
To make up that revenue, Mr. Romney has said he wants to clear out the underbrush of deductions and loopholes in the tax code. But he has not yet specified how he would do so, opening himself to persistent Democratic attacks.
Fact Check: Doubling the Deficit: Mr. Romney said Mr. Obama doubled the deficit. Jackie Calmes found

That is not true. When Mr. Obama took office in January 2009, the Congressional Budget Office had already projected that the deficit for fiscal year 2009, which ended Sept. 30 of that year, would be $1.2 trillion. (It ended up as $1.4 trillion.) For fiscal year 2012, which ended last week, the deficit is expected to be $1.1 trillion — just under the level in the year he was inaugurated. Measured as a share of the economy, as economists prefer, the deficit has declined more significantly — from 10.1 percent of the economy’s total output in 2009 to 7.3 percent for 2012.

Fact Check: Cutting Deficits a Total of $4 Trillion: Mr. Obama said his budget plan would reduce deficits by $4 trillion over ten years. Jackie Calmes reported that the President's claim is true, but depends on what gets counted as deficit reduction:
Some nonpartisan groups dispute this claim. Yet while Mr. Obama still uses the $4 trillion figure on the campaign trail, his current budget updates it to $5.3 trillion through 2022, reflecting compounding savings in later years.
The difference is mainly in what Mr. Obama counts as deficit reduction. He counts: $1.7 trillion in savings from budget compromises with Congressional Republicans in 2011; more than $1.4 trillion from the expiration of Bush-era tax rates on high incomes and $480 billion from other revenue-raising tax provisions; $597 billion in savings from Medicare, Medicaid, farm subsidies and other so-called entitlement spending programs; $848 billion in savings from the winding down of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars; and $800 billion from reduced interest payments on a smaller federal debt. (Some of this money goes to additional job-creation measures.)..But, all sides agree, it is not enough to right the nation's fiscal imbalance.. 
There are other facts from the debate that can be checked, but I believe that the President pretty much stuck to the facts while Mr. Romney consistently made untrue assertions and refused to supply details on critical matters, except of course for his determination to cut funding for PBS and make Big Bird on Sesame Street depend on commercials to survive. 

Apart from ephemeral style points, I think voters were more interested in who told the truth. At least I hope so. That President Obama was more of a truth-teller that Mr. Romney in last night's debate is one of the reasons why I plan to vote Democratic. 

I invite you to review the facts and point out where if I have misstated them, but don't send anything that doesn't include your sources.

- Milo 


A n J said...

Heaven help us if a President is elected because he is a better liar.

Milo Thornberry said...

This from Art:

Tried 4 times to leave a comment on the blog, but never could get the run together letters of the code word correct.

Anyway, I mentioned someplace else as well that we are in big trouble if we elect a President because he is a better liar. Romney has been shown again and again to lie about anything with great ease and aplomb. The scary part is a lot of people believe him outright.

Milo Thornberry said...

I think Romney is using what is known in logic as "Proof by assertion."

Wikipedia says sometimes "proof by assertion" informally referred to as proof by repeated assertion. It is a logical fallacy in which a proposition is repeatedly restated regardless of contradiction. Sometimes this may be repeated until challenges dry up, at which point it is asserted as fact due to its not being contradicted. In other cases its repetition may be cited as evidence of its truth.(

I share Art's worry about how a lot of people believe Romney without qualification, but I also believe that there are people who do care about what is true and what is false. I hope those folks stand up.