Expanding the Debate–Watch Democracy Now!’s Full Three-Hour Special
As President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney squared off in their first debate, Democracy Now! produced a three-hour special, Expanding the Debate. We aired the Obama/Romney debate and paused after questions to include responses from two presidential contenders who were shut out of the official debate: Jill Stein of the Green Party and Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party.
The special broadcast also featured interviews with George Farah, founder and executive director of Open Debates, about how the Republican and Democratic parties secretly control the presidential debates; Vincent Harding, friend, colleague and former speechwriter of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; and Miriam Peña, executive director of the Colorado Progressive Coalition.
AMY GOODMAN: From Denver, Colorado, this is a Democracy Now! special broadcast, "Expanding the Debate."
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: What I’m most concerned about is having a serious discussion about what we need to do to keep the country growing and restore security for hard-working Americans. That’s what people are going to be listening for. That’s the debate that you deserve.
MITT ROMNEY: And so, my record is out there. Proud of it. And I think that if people want to have somebody who understands how the economy works, having worked in the real economy, then I’m the guy that can best post up against Barack Obama.
ROCKY ANDERSON: These two parties, Republicans and Democrats, have a stranglehold on our democracy. They are depriving people around this country not only of being able to get on the ballot; they’re denying all of us of our freedom of choice.
DR. JILL STEIN: We have a state of emergency, I think, at the national level. And to silence the only hope of an opposition voice in this election, when so much is at stake, I think, would be just a terrible loss for the American people.
AMY GOODMAN: As President Obama and Mitt Romney square off for the first time, we’ll break the sound barrier by expanding the debate to include two candidates shut out by the major two political parties. The Green Party presidential candidate, Jill Stein, and the Justice Party’s presidential candidate, Rocky Anderson, will participate in the debate in real time.
But first we’ll be joined by George Farah of Open Debates on how the Republicans and Democrats secretly control the debates and exclude third-party candidates. And here in Denver, we’ll speak with Miriam Peña of the Colorado Progressive Coalition and legendary civil rights activist, Dr. Vincent Harding, a former speechwriter for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
All that and more, coming up.
Welcome to Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. We’re broadcasting from Denver. We are less than 30 minutes from the first presidential debate of the 2012 race. We’re broadcasting just miles from the University of Denver, where President Obama and Mitt Romney are preparing to take the stage.
Tonight we bring you a three-hour Democracy Now! special, "Expanding the Debate." We will air the Obama-Romney debate, pausing after questions to include responses to the same questions in real time from two presidential contenders who were shut out of the official debate: Dr. Jill Stein of the Green Party and Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party. We also invited Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, the former governor of New Mexico, but he declined to join us.
We begin today’s show in New York with George Farah, founder and executive director of Open Debates and the author of No Debate: How the Republican and Democratic Parties Secretly Control the Presidential Debates.
George Farah, welcome to Democracy Now! Explain what we’re about to see in less than half an hour at the University of Denver, how this debate was shaped. Who decided who would participate?
GEORGE FARAH: The entity that is controlling the debate tonight, that is hosting the debate tonight, is the Commission on Presidential Debates. It is a private corporation that was created by the Republican and Democratic parties in 1987, and it hijacked the presidential debates from the League of Women Voters. And this private corporation is principally financed by Anheuser-Busch and major corporations that have regulatory interests before Congress. And the principal purpose of this commission is not necessarily to serve the interest of voters, to maximize voter education; it is to protect and strengthen the two parties. That’s why the Republican and Democratic parties created it.
And so, what this commission does is it allows the Republican and Democratic campaigns, every four years, to meet behind closed doors and hash out an agreement, a memorandum of understanding, that dictates many of the critical terms of the presidential debates. So everything that we’re seeing tonight has been vetted by the candidates. That is, each moderator was vetted by the candidates. The format was vetted by the candidates. And the fact that there are no third-party candidates in this actual debate is a reflection of the desire of the two major parties to keep them out.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, explain exactly how this took place—I mean, how the League lost control of this.
GEORGE FARAH: The League of Women Voters ran the presidential debates from 1976 until 1984. And they did, Amy, an absolutely marvelous job. They were a champion of the people. They were our voice in the negotiating room. Of course the candidates are always going to try to manipulate critical public forums that can decide the election. That’s happened for hundreds of years. So, what’s critical is to actually have a sponsor that has the courage to stand up to the candidates and say, "No, we’re not going to do that; that’s undermining our democratic process," and is going to protect the integrity of the debate. That’s the function the League played, and that’s why it was taken out and replaced.
In 1980, independent candidate John B. Anderson bolted the Republican Party. He ran for president as an independent, and the League invited him to participate in a presidential debate, despite the fact that Jimmy Carter refused to show up. Four years later, the Walter Mondale and Ronald Reagan campaigns, then the Republican and Democratic nominees, attempted to eliminate difficult questions from the presidential debate process. They vetoed 80 of the moderators that the League had proposed for the debates. And the League didn’t just take this; they didn’t sit down and just accept the vetting of moderators by the two major parties. They held a press conference and attacked the candidates for trying to eliminate difficult questions. And as a result, because of the extraordinary public outcry the League created by publicizing the candidates’ shenanigans, the candidates were forced to accept the League’s aggressive moderators for the next debate.
Well, these two components—including a popular independent candidate in 1980 and resisting the candidates’ efforts to manipulate the format in 1984—persuaded the Republican and Democratic parties that the League of Women Voters had to be taken out. And so, in 1986, the Republican National Committee and the Democratic National Committee actually ratified an agreement to, quote, "take over the presidential debates." They created this artifice of a commission in 1987. And in 1988, you have this remarkable situation. The first-ever contract, a 12-page memorandum of understanding, was negotiated by the Republican nominee and the Democratic nominee. And they handed it to the League of Women Voters. Well, the League of Women Voters balked. They said, "We’re not going to implement secretly negotiated contracts that undermine our formats." Instead, they held a press conference, released the document to the public, and announced they will not be, quote, "an accessory to the hoodwinking of the American people." Well, the commission, which, we just discussed, was created two years earlier, stepped in, totally by design, and implemented the very 12-page contract the League had denounced.
So, the existence of the commission is not by accident, and it’s not by necessity, and it’s not because the League wasn’t doing a good job. The commission was created precisely because the League was a champion of the public interest and resisted the Republican and Democratic nominees.
AMY GOODMAN: George Farah, explain the corporations that sponsor these debates and the corporations that have just in the last days pulled out.
GEORGE FARAH: So, when the League of Women Voters ran these debates, they struggled to raise $5,000, $10,000 contributions from civic organizations and major corporations. It was very difficult for them to raise money, because this was a truly civic event, and there were no serious potential political or financial interests in backing it. Well, now, the Commission on Presidential Debates is supported by 10 major corporations. Anheuser-Busch has given more than $13 million to the commission since its inception, by far the biggest contributor to the Commission on Presidential Debates.
These corporations have regulatory interests before Congress, and they have great benefits by sponsoring the commission. First of all, they get to rub shoulders with the campaigns. They get to attend the actual presidential debates themselves and sit in the audience. I have images that we’re seeing of the debates today already. There’s a giant Budweiser tent. They’re passing out free beer to journalists. There are pamphlets denouncing beer taxes. So, this is a very effective way, one of many we have in our political process, for large corporations with critical regulatory interests in Congress and in Washington to influence the political process, because they get multiple benefits, not only advertising benefits and not only access benefits, but they’re supporting a two-party system that is rarely hostile to corporate interest, and indirectly excluding third-party voices that may be critical of corporate power. So, it’s clearly a great investment for these large corporations.
We’ve been attacking this corporate sponsorship for eight years and since 2004. And for the first time ever, in large part because we were able to partner with other organizations who also were passionate about this issue and the vociferous enthusiasm from third-party activists, we were able to persuade three of the 10 sponsors to withdraw sponsorship. It’s unprecedented; this has never happened. BBH, a British advertising company, the two others—oh, I’m sorry, Philips Electronics and YWCA, those three sponsors, in the last seven days, withdrew sponsorship of the Commission on Presidential Debates, because they found it too expensive for their brand name to be associated with a commission that was perceived by extraordinary large segments of the population as fundamentally anti-democratic.
AMY GOODMAN: So, George Farah, how do you see this changing? And has President Obama ever been asked, publicly, about this secret contract? And Mitt Romney, for that matter?
GEORGE FARAH: Well, it’s very difficult to break the commission’s monopoly. There are today—over the last two weeks, actually, Amy, we had four different mayors of four different cities across the country invite the candidates to come to their towns and participate in debates. So, it’s not because there’s an insufficient number of debates out there. There are hundreds of civic groups, hundreds of cities and towns, that are stepping up and saying, "We will host fantastic debates with creative formats for free."
But it’s very difficult to crack this problem, because the Commission on Presidential Debates has an absolute monopoly over the process. Each of the contracts that the candidates negotiate contain a specific provision that says the candidates cannot participate in any other debate sponsored by any other sponsor or with any other candidate or any other third-party candidate. In other words, it’s a contractual provision that requires the candidates to only participate in the commission’s debates.
So, the only real way to fix this problem, the only way is to break the commission’s monopoly. It is to establish an alternative sponsor. And we’ve tried that, and we’re still working on that. We constructed a Citizens’ Debate Commission in 2004. It was comprised of 17 civic leaders from all over the political spectrum. It was absolutely nonpartisan, backed by 60 civic groups on its advisory board. Twenty-three newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times, editorialized in support of the Citizens’ Debate Commission. But it failed to persuade either the Republican candidate or the Democratic candidate to participate in its debates. But we will get there, because eventually we’re going to raise the public consciousness to such a point that any candidate seen dodging our real aggressive and challenging and inclusive presidential debates will pay a political price in the polls, as would the candidates if they dodged the current debates.
Now, as for the contract, the president of the United States nor Mitt Romney have never been asked directly the question of, "Is there a secret contract? Have you signed onto this contract? Why are you only participating in the commission’s debates?" They have never been challenged with these particular questions. But their campaigns refuse to comment. We have called their campaigns relentlessly. I’ve worked with reporters who are writing stories on these issues. The campaigns are complicit with the commission in concealing precisely how these events are structured. And it’s not, you know, accidental. The only reason the commission survives is by deception. So long as they can keep these contracts concealed from the public, the candidates are therefore permitted to manipulate these presidential debates without paying a political price.
AMY GOODMAN: Could the League of Women Voters reassert themselves and get backing from other groups to take back control of these presidential debates?
GEORGE FARAH: The League of Women Voters acknowledges that the debates are controlled by a commission and that this commission allows for softball formats, and it’s absolutely convenient for the candidates, and that there’s excessive candidate control. In other words, there’s no disagreement with my analysis and the League’s analysis. However, the League refuses, at the national level, to step up to the plate and actually try to reassert control over the sponsorship. They were so burned by the 1988 experience and overwhelmed, I believe, by the opposition of the major parties, that they’re making the strategic decision to avoid participating in this arena. In other words, the League has decided—and they’ve issued statements essentially stating this—that they will sponsor debates at the gubernatorial level, the senatorial level, at the local level, but they’ve given up at the national level. They’ve relinquished power, without wanting to, to the Republican and Democratic—the campaigns and the Commission on Presidential Debates.
AMY GOODMAN: We are just about, oh, almost just beyond 15 minutes before the major presidential debate. And again, here on Democracy Now! in this special broadcast, we will expand the debate. Just as there are two podiums on the stage at the University of Denver, there are two podiums here in our studios, just a few miles from the presidential debate. We will be joined by Dr. Jill Stein, the presidential candidate of the Green Party, and Rocky Anderson, the presidential [candidate] of the Justice Party. They will participate in real time, answering the same questions that the moderator, Jim Lehrer, puts to Mitt Romney and President Obama.
George Farah is the head of Open Debates. We’re also joined here in Denver by two guests that are—who are based here. Dr. Vincent Harding was a friend, colleague and former speechwriter of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. Harding is professor emeritus of religion and social transformation at Iliff School of Theology here in Denver. We’re also joined by Miriam Peña. She is executive director of the Colorado Progressive Coalition. She is also a board member for Rights for All People and Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition.
We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Miriam, talk about what is happening outside the debate right now. What’s been happening over the last few hours?
MIRIAM PEÑA: Well, I think, you know, it’s such an exciting place to bring national visibility to some of the issues that Coloradans are facing here. Some of the different various protests include, you know, asking these candidates to make sure that they are taking immigration as a serious issue. One of the issues that the organization I work for, the Colorado Progressive Coalition, is trying to make front and center is the issue around foreclosure and the crisis that has hit the country, as well as the issue of underwater mortgages that many of us are facing. So, we—I know the Colorado Progressive Coalition had a bunch of different puppets and a lot of different, you know, high-visibility things to bring some awareness to this. So we hope that it does gain that attraction across the country.
AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Vincent Harding, you take the—a long look at what is happening in 2012, as you go back over the decades participating in politics in this country. What about the debates so far at the presidential level in this election, 2012?
DR. VINCENT HARDING: Amy, it is good to be with you again. And there is much to say about the debates so far. I would start by saying that I’m very glad that Brother Farah is working on this matter of the sponsorship of the debates. It seems to me that in a society that, at its best, is trying to be a democratic society, then the candidates need to be as deeply committed to the democratic process as they can.
In addition to that, Amy, I am deeply concerned about so much that is missing so far from the debates, from the election campaigns. One is the fact that while "middle class, middle class, middle class" just keeps pouring out of the mouths of everybody, almost nobody is talking about the millions and millions and millions of those who are poor, of those who are dispossessed, of those who are homeless. I am deeply concerned that a society that does not concern itself about its poorest people is in deep moral, spiritual trouble.
I’m also concerned about the fact that nobody is talking about the great situation of mass incarceration in this society and what is happening to the young people, especially black and brown young people, who are more and more considered to be leftovers, not quite fit for the mainstream of the society, not being educated for the work that needs to be done in the society. And so they are being placed in prisons. And those who keep the prisons are being paid for the fact that these young people are there.
Those kinds of issues, especially the issue of what is the education that is necessary to prepare people to participate in a multiracial, democratic society, none of that is really being discussed. And that is at the heart of my own concern right now, Amy. And I’m glad that you’re trying to look at this issue of what’s left out.
AMY GOODMAN: You know, what we have here at this table—you, Dr. Harding, are 81 years old; Miriam Peña, you are 27 years old. You are half-a-century apart. Miriam, your own life story is very significant in your activism. Where were you born?
MIRIAM PEÑA: I was born in Juárez, the border city to El Paso, also now known as one of the most dangerous cities on the planet because of all the drug cartel and just rampant violence that’s happening. And to think that my life could be so much different just born, you know, 10 miles from an American-made border. I was lucky to have moved to Denver when I was six months old. But that contrast lives deeply with me when I think about cousins that are my age that are working in American-owned maquilas, making American products, risking their lives almost every night. And I take that to heart. And that’s why, you know, I’ve dedicated my life to working to make a difference in this country, so that we can have an impact across the world.
AMY GOODMAN: Are you going to apply, under President Obama’s—the kind of reprieve that has been set up for immigrants who are 30 years or under, or are you an American citizen now?
MIRIAM PEÑA: I am an American citizen.
AMY GOODMAN: Your dad, though, was deported?
MIRIAM PEÑA: My stepdad was deported in two thousand—let’s see. I mean, the memory is such a hard one, I try to not think about it as much. But it’s the separate—the reality of families living separated is a real one, and I know my story is just one of very many. He was deported in 2009 and was in the process of, you know, being able to come back to this country, having married my mother, who is also a U.S. citizen. And a month before the last hearing, which would have allowed him to come back to the country legally, he was killed in a car accident—
AMY GOODMAN: In Mexico.
MIRIAM PEÑA: —back home. Mm-hmm.
AMY GOODMAN: What are you doing around immigrant rights right now in Denver, in Colorado, as a leader of the Colorado Progressive Coalition?
MIRIAM PEÑA: The Colorado Progressive Coalition really works as an ally organization to a lot of immigrant rights efforts here. Immigrant rights, I feel, you know—and, I mean, this is also another concern with what the debates are bringing. If we had a leader that was as hard on banks, for instance, as they are on immigration, I think the country would look a lot different. So, we work on a variety of issues that are sort of broader umbrella issues that are indirectly connected to immigrant rights.
One of them, for example—and I’m glad you brought up, Dr. Harding, the issue of mass incarceration. I think those go hand in hand with, for example, the privatization of immigration facilities. We have one here, and we know that their pockets are lined when families are separated. One of the things Colorado Progressive Coalition does is work for accountability for—you know, we did several "move your money" campaigns, because we knew Wells Fargo was one of those benefactors. So when families are being separated, locked up, Wells Fargo is making money. And then, we’ve had several similar actions against Wells Fargo when it comes to foreclosures and what bad players they were in, you know, following in line with different investigations and regulations. So it’s all connected, and it’s just a shame.
AMY GOODMAN: Many say the immigrants’ rights movement today, Dr. Harding, is like—is really the rebirth of the civil rights movement. I wanted to ask you about the subject of tonight’s debate. It’s about the economy. There will be discussions about the economy, the role of government, and also about healthcare. You wrote the speech for Dr. King that he gave at Riverside Church a year to the day before he was assassinated, April 4th, 1967, why he opposed the war in Vietnam. He linked the war in Vietnam with the economy and the issue of racial justice at home. Can you talk about this?
DR. VINCENT HARDING: I could, but then I would be here right through the next debate. But let me just say this, that my sense, deeply, is that what is tied together is that troubling lack of real concern for the education of the majority of our children. And when they are not educated up to the level of any real world standard, they then are left out of the possibilities of engaging in the new society that has to be developed in this country. And so, we must recognize that if we do not educate our young people, we are consigning them to the trash bins of the penal system. And that is not right. That is not good for them. It is certainly not good for the society. And to see the connections is a very necessary thing.
For me, right now, we are at a point in history when we must recognize that the whole role of America in the world is being reset, as it were, and that we in America cannot deal with this new situation unless we are working on ways to bring each other together, closer together, so that Miriam and I can understand, for instance, that the tasks that we have to work on are a similar kind of situation. People who are now coming to be increasingly the majority of the society need to recognize that they no longer can think of themselves as minorities, but that they must now become a new conscious majority, willing to work for a new kind of truly multiracial society. That’s hard work, but we’ve been doing hard work ever since we struggled against slavery. So hard work is nothing new. And I think that we should be focusing ourselves on the hard work that Miriam has to do, that I have to do, that June Jordan said, "We are the ones we’ve been waiting for," so we’ve got to do that work of creating the new society that is the only kind of society that can live in peace and reconciliation in this world, not anymore the bosses of the world.
AMY GOODMAN: We have less than a minute.
DR. VINCENT HARDING: Yes, yes.
AMY GOODMAN: Let me ask you, Miriam Peña, what do you want to see the candidates asked tonight? Again, we will be broadcasting the debate with Mitt Romney and President Obama at the University of Denver and including the third-party candidates Jill Stein and Rocky Anderson. What do you want these four candidates asked?
MIRIAM PEÑA: I would—you know, I would love to hear the question around what kinds of steps they would take to address the issue of foreclosure—in particular, how they would hold the banks accountable and Wall Street accountable. I think the answers that you would get from all four candidates are very, very different.
AMY GOODMAN: And Dr. Vincent Harding?
DR. VINCENT HARDING: I would like them to ask, what is the kind of education that is necessary in our country to create citizens who are willing to work for a truly multiracial, creative society that is democratic to its core and not ruled by money or by fear?
AMY GOODMAN: We are going to leave it there. I want to thank you so much, Dr. Vincent Harding and Miriam Peña, for joining us—
MIRIAM PEÑA: Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: —as well as George Farah of Open Debates—
DR. VINCENT HARDING: Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: —as we prepare now to go to the University of Denver for the major-party debate between Mitt Romney and President Obama. We will expand the debate to include third-party candidates Jill Stein and Rocky Anderson, as we turn now to Leonard Cohen singing "Democracy."
AMY GOODMAN: From Denver, Colorado, this is a Democracy Now! special broadcast, "Expanding the Debate." As President Obama and Mitt Romney take the stage for their first debate, we expand tonight’s presidential debate by including live answers from two candidates shut out by the major two political parties: the Green Party’s presidential candidate, Dr. Jill Stein, and the Justice Party’s Rocky Anderson. For the next two-and-a-half hours, we’ll air the official debate and pause to give the third-party candidates a chance to respond. We will turn now to the official debate moderator, Jim Lehrer. He is at the University of Denver.
This is a special broadcast. This has not been done before. We will not just get responses from third-party candidates; they will actually participate in real time in this first presidential debate. The debate is on the economy. There will be segments asked about the economy, about healthcare, about the role of government. These questions will be put to President Obama, as well as Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate. They will be put here, on this Democracy Now! "Expand the Debate" coverage, to Rocky Anderson, the former mayor of Salt Lake City, who’s running for president on the Justice Party ticket, as well as Dr. Jill Stein, presidential candidate for the Green Party. This is Democracy Now! "Expanding the Debate."
JIM LEHRER: Good evening from the Magness Arena at the University of Denver in Denver, Colorado. I’m Jim Lehrer of the PBS NewsHour, and I welcome you to the first of the 2012 presidential debates between President Barack Obama, the Democratic nominee, and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee.
This debate and the next three—two presidential, one vice-presidential—are sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates. Tonight’s 90 minutes will be about domestic issues and will follow a format designed by the commission. There will be six roughly 15-minute segments, with two-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 and other means, but I made the final selections. And for the record, they were not submitted for approval 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 Governor Romney.
MITT ROMNEY: Jim.
JIM LEHRER: Gentlemen, welcome to you both.
Let’s start, the economy, segment one, and let’s begin with jobs. What are the major differences between the two of you about how you would go about 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.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Well, thank you very much, Jim, for this opportunity. I want to thank Governor Romney 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 I became the luckiest man on earth, because Michelle Obama agreed to marry me. And so, I just want to wish, Sweetie, you happy anniversary and let you know that a year from now we will not be celebrating it in front of 40 million people.
You know, four years ago, we went through the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. Millions of jobs were lost. The auto industry was on the brink of collapse. The financial system had frozen up. And because of the resilience and the determination of the American people, we’ve begun to fight our way back. Over the last 30 months, we’ve seen five million jobs in the private sector created. The auto 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 where we’ve been, but where we’re going. Governor Romney has a perspective that says if we cut taxes, skewed 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 important for us to develop new sources of energy here in America, that we change our tax code to make sure that 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, it ultimately is going to be up to the voters, to you, which path we should take. Are we going to double-down on top-down economic policies that helped to get us into this mess, or do we embrace 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 honor to be here with you, and I appreciate the chance to 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 most romantic place you could imagine here, here with me. So I—congratulations.
This is obviously a very tender topic. I’ve had the occasion over the last couple of years in meeting people across the country. I was in Dayton, Ohio, and a woman grabbed 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 and said, "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 been on, not the one the president describes as a top-down, cut taxes for the rich. That’s not what I’m going to do.
My plan has five basic parts. One, get us energy-independent, North American energy-independent. That creates about four 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 skills they need to succeed and the best schools in the world. We’re far away from that now. Number four, get to us a balanced budget. Number five, champion small business. It’s small business that creates the jobs in America, and over the last four years, small business people have decided that America may not be the place to open a new business, because new business startups are down to a 30-year low. I know what it takes 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 a view 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.
AMY GOODMAN: As Democracy Now! expands the debate, we put that question, "How would you create more jobs?" to the Green Party’s Dr. Jill Stein.
DR. JILL STEIN: Thank you, and thank you so much for expanding this debate tonight, as you so often do, Amy, here on Democracy Now!
So, first I just want to acknowledge that the crisis is not getting better. We still very much have a crisis in our economy. One out of two Americans are in poverty or living at low income and heading towards poverty. About 25 million people are either jobless or working in jobs that do not pay living wages. There are millions of people who have lost their homes, approximately eight million. And there is no end in sight to the foreclosure crisis. And we have an entire generation of students who are effectively indentured servants, who are trapped in unforgiving loans and do not have the jobs to pay them back, with a unemployment and underemployment rate of about 50 percent among our young people.
So, we very much need new solutions. What we hear, really, from both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are essentially the rehash of where we’ve been not only for the past four years, but certainly for the eight years before that. We’re hearing more about deregulating business and Wall Street, as if we didn’t have enough problem from that already. We’re hearing about more tax breaks for the wealthy, and we’ve seen tax breaks continue over the past many decades across all sectors really of the tax code, to where the wealthy are not paying their fair share now. And we’re hearing more about energy, dirty energy.
So, we’re calling for a Green New Deal, modeled after the New Deal that actually got us out of the Great Depression. They created approximately four million jobs in as little as two months. So there’s a lot that we can do if we put our mind to it. We’re calling for jobs created at the level of our communities, which are nationally funded and which put decisions in the hands of the communities about which kind of jobs they need, both in the green economy and meeting their social needs, that would be focused and controlled locally, but funded at the national level.
AMY GOODMAN: Justice Party presidential candidate Rocky Anderson, how would you create jobs?
ROCKY ANDERSON: Well, President Obama would like us to ignore what’s happened these past four years. And granted, he came into a tough situation, but we have to consider that during the last 43 months we’ve had more than 8 percent unemployment. It is the only time in this nation’s history that we’ve had a president that has presided even over three years of over 8 percent unemployment. And the fact is that those 43 months of over 8 percent unemployment during President Obama’s term is four months more than all of the months of over 8 percent unemployment from 1948 until President Obama’s inauguration.
He talks about recovery, all the new jobs. The fact is that in the downturn, 60 percent of the jobs lost were mid-skill and mid-paying jobs, and only 20 percent of the new jobs during the so-called recovery are of that category, the mid-skill and mid-paying jobs. Most of the jobs are low-paying jobs. These new jobs that he brags about, they’re in retail sales and in food preparation.
So there are things that have been proven in our history to work. We could have put in place—and it needs to be done immediately—a WPA, a Works Progress Administration, kind of program where we are investing in the future by building up our nation’s rapidly deteriorating infrastructure, putting people to work. In the WPA project, they put eight-and-a-half million people to work. We could be putting 20 to 25 million people to work and making that kind of investment in our nation’s future.
We need to renegotiate the outrageous free trade agreements and make sure they are fair trade, so that we’re not discriminating against those employers who want to hire United States workers. And also we need to get a handle on healthcare costs, because there are a tremendous competitive disadvantages because of the cost of healthcare in this country.
AMY GOODMAN: Let’s go back to moderator Jim Lehrer.
JIM LEHRER: Mr. President, please respond directly to what the governor just said about trickle-down, his trickle-down approach. He’s—as he said yours is.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Well, let me talk specifically about what I think we need to do. First, we’ve got to improve our education system. And we’ve made enormous progress drawing on ideas, both from Democrats and Republicans, that are already starting to show gains in some of the toughest-to-deal-with schools. We’ve got a program called Race to the Top that has prompted reforms in 46 states around 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 two million more slots in our community colleges, so that people can get trained for the jobs that are out there right now. 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 is too high. So I want to lower it, particularly for manufacturing, taking it down to 25 percent. But I also want to close those loopholes that are giving incentives for companies that are shipping jobs overseas. I want 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 energy production. And oil and natural gas production are higher than they’ve been in years. But I also believe that we’ve got to look at the energy sources 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 the things I’m sure we’ll be discussing tonight is, how do we deal with our tax code, and how do we make sure that we are reducing spending in a responsible way, but also, how do we have enough revenue 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 cuts, so that’s another trillion dollars, and $2 trillion in additional military spending that the military hasn’t asked for. That’s $8 trillion. How we pay for that, reduce the deficit and make the investments that we need to make, without dumping those costs onto 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 get through them in as specific a way as we possibly can. But first, Governor Romney, do you have a question 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 of all, I don’t have a $5 trillion tax cut. I don’t have a tax cut of a 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 to reduce the share of taxes paid by high-income people. High-income people are doing just fine in this economy. 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 the president’s policies, middle-income Americans have been buried. They’re—they’re just being crushed. Middle-income Americans have seen their income come down by $4,300. This is a—this is a tax in and of itself. 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 prices are up. Healthcare costs have gone up by $2,500 a family. Middle-income families are being crushed. And so, the question is how to get them going again, and I’ve described it. It’s energy and trade, the right kind of training programs, balancing our budget and helping small business. Those are the—the cornerstones of my plan.
But the president mentioned a couple of other ideas, I’ll just note. First: education. I agree, education is key, particularly the future of our economy. But our training programs right now, we got 47 of them housed in the federal government, reporting to eight different agencies. Overhead is overwhelming. We’ve got to get those dollars back to the states and go to the workers so they can create their own pathways to getting the training they need for jobs that will really help them.
The second area: taxation. We agree; we ought to bring the tax rates down, and I do, both for corporations and for individuals. But in order for us not to lose revenue and have the government run out of money, I also lower deductions and credits and exemptions so that we keep taking in the same money when you also account for growth.
The third area: energy. Energy is critical, and the president pointed out, correctly, that production of oil and gas in the U.S. is up—but not due to his policies, in spite of his policies. Mr. President, all of the increase in natural gas and oil has happened on private land, not on government land. On government land, your administration has cut the number of permits and licenses in half. If I’m president, I’ll double them, and also get the—the oil from offshore and Alaska. And I’ll bring that pipeline in from Canada. And, by the way, I like coal. I’m going to make sure we can continue to burn clean coal. People in the coal industry feel like it’s getting crushed by your policies. I want to get America 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 the—the revenues going to the government. My—my number one principle is, there will be no tax cut that adds to the deficit. I want to underline that: no tax cut that adds to the deficit. But I do want to reduce the burden being paid by middle-income Americans. And I—and to do that, that also means I cannot reduce the burden paid by high-income Americans. So, any—any language to the contrary is simply not accurate.
JIM LEHRER: Mr. President?
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Well, I think—let’s talk about taxes, because I think it’s instructive. Now, four years ago when I stood on this stage, I said that I would cut taxes for middle-class families. And that’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 by giving them those tax cuts, they had a little more money in their pocket, and so maybe they can buy 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’s going off to college, which means they’re spending more money, businesses have more customers, businesses make more profits and then hire more workers.
Now, Governor Romney’s proposal, that he has been promoting for 18 months, calls for a $5 trillion tax cut on top of $2 trillion of additional spending for our military. And he is saying that he is going to pay for it by closing loopholes and deductions. The problem is that he’s been asked a—over a hundred times how you would close those deductions and loopholes, and he hasn’t been able to identify them. But I’m going to make an important point here, Jim.
JIM LEHRER: All right.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: When you add up all the loopholes and deductions that upper-income individuals can—are 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’s pledge of not reducing the deficit or—or—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 my analysis; that’s the analysis of economists who have looked at this. And—and that kind of top-down—top-down economics, where folks at the top are doing well so the average person making three million bucks 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?
MITT ROMNEY: Well—
JIM LEHRER: Let’s just stay on taxes for—
MITT ROMNEY: But I—but I—right, right.
JIM LEHRER: OK. Yeah, just—let’s just stay on taxes for a moment.
MITT ROMNEY: Yeah. Well, but—but virtually every—
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—so if—if the tax plan he described were a tax plan I was asked to support, I’d say absolutely not. I’m not looking for a $5 trillion tax cut. What I’ve said is I won’t put in place a tax cut that adds to the deficit. That’s part one. So there’s no economist can say Mitt Romney’s tax plan adds five 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 your running mate keep saying that, and I know it’s a popular thing to say with a lot of people, but it’s just not the case. Look, I’ve got five boys. I’m used to people saying something that’s not always true, but just keep on repeating it and ultimately hoping I’ll believe it. But that—that is not the case, all right? I will not reduce the taxes paid by high-income Americans.
And number three, I will not, under any circumstances, raise taxes on middle-income families. I will lower taxes on middle-income families. Now, you cite a study. There are six other studies that looked at the study you describe and say it’s completely wrong. I saw a study that came out today that said you’re going to raise taxes by three to four thousand dollars on middle-income families. There are all these studies out there.
But let’s get to the bottom line. That is, I want to bring down rates. I want to bring the rates down. At the same time, I’ll lower deductions and 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 that individual rate. Fifty-four percent of America’s workers work in businesses that are taxed not at the corporate tax rate but at the individual tax rate. And if we lower that rate, they will be able to hire more people. 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?
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Well, for 18 months, he’s been running on this tax plan. And now, five weeks before the election, he’s saying that his big, bold idea is "never mind." And the fact is that if you are lowering the rates the way you describe, Governor, then it is not possible to come up with enough deductions and loopholes that only affect high-income individuals to avoid either raising the deficit or burdening the middle class. It’s—it’s math. It’s arithmetic.
Now, Governor Romney and I do share a deep interest in encouraging small-business growth. So, at the same time that my tax plan has already lowered taxes for 98 percent of families, I also lowered taxes for small businesses 18 times. And what I want to do is continue the tax rates—the tax cuts that we put 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 we had when Bill Clinton was president, when we created 23 million new jobs, went from deficit to surplus, 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 can not only encourage job growth through small businesses, but we’re also able to make the investments that are necessary in education or in energy.
And we do have a difference, though, when it comes to definitions of small business. Now, under—under my plan, 97 percent of small businesses would not see their income taxes go up. Governor Romney says, "Well, those top 3 percent, they’re the job creators. They’d be burdened." But under Governor Romney’s definition, there are a whole bunch of millionaires and billionaires who are small businesses. Donald Trump is a small business. And I know Donald Trump doesn’t like to think of himself as small anything, but—but that’s how you define small businesses if you’re getting business income. And that kind of approach, I believe, will not grow our economy, because the only way to pay for it without either burdening the middle class or blowing up our deficit is to make drastic cuts in things like education, making sure that we are continuing to invest in basic science and research, all the things 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—on that point, which is—
JIM LEHRER: Just for the—just for the record—
MITT ROMNEY: These small businesses we’re talking about—
JIM LEHRER: Excuse me.
MITT ROMNEY: Uh-huh?
JIM LEHRER: Just so everybody understands—
MITT ROMNEY: Yeah.
JIM LEHRER: —we’re way over our first 15 minutes.
MITT ROMNEY: It’s fun, isn’t it?
JIM LEHRER: It’s OK. It’s great.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: That’s OK.
JIM LEHRER: Great, 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 the economy.
MITT ROMNEY: Right.
JIM LEHRER: But we’re going to come back to taxes, and I want to move on to the deficit and a lot of other things, too. OK, but go ahead, sir.
MITT ROMNEY: You bet.
Well, President, you’re—Mr. President, you’re absolutely right, which is that with regards to 97 percent of the businesses are not—not taxed at the 35 percent tax rate, they’re taxed at a lower rate. But those businesses that are in the last 3 percent of businesses happen to employ half—half—of all the people who work in small business. Those are the businesses that employ one-quarter of all the workers in America. And your plan is take their tax rate from 35 percent to 40 percent.
Now, and I talked to a guy who has a very small business. He’s in the electronics business in—in St. Louis. He has four employees. He said he and his son calculated how much they pay in taxes—federal income tax, federal payroll tax, state income tax, state sales tax, state property tax, gasoline tax. It added up to well over 50 percent of what they earned.
And your plan is to take the tax rate on successful small businesses from 35 percent to 40 percent. The National Federation 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 idea behind Bowles-Simpson, by the way. Get the rates down, lower deductions and exemptions, to create more jobs, because there’s nothing better for getting us to a balanced budget than having more people working, earning more money, paying more taxes. That’s by far the most effective and efficient way to get this budget balanced.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Jim, I—you may want to move on to another topic, but I would just say this to the American people. If you believe that we can cut taxes by $5 trillion and add $2 trillion in additional spending that the military is not asking for, $7 trillion—just to give you a sense, over 10 years that’s more than our entire defense budget—and you think that by closing loopholes and deductions for the well-to-do, somehow you will not end up picking up the tab, then Governor Romney’s plan may work for you. But I think math, common sense 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 talking about is the same sales pitch that was made in 2001 and 2003, and we ended up with the slowest job growth in 50 years. We ended up moving from surplus to deficits. And it all culminated in the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. And Bill Clinton tried the approach that I’m talking about. We created 23 million new jobs. We went from deficit to surplus, and businesses did very well.
So, in some ways, we’ve got some data on which approach is more likely to create jobs and opportunity for Americans, and I believe that the economy works best when middle-class families are getting tax breaks so that they’ve got some money in their pockets, and those of us who have done extraordinarily well because of this magnificent country that we live in, that we can afford to do a little bit more to make sure we’re not blowing up the deficit.
JIM LEHRER: OK. Three segment—
MITT ROMNEY: Jim, the president began this segment, so I think I get the last word, so I’m going to take it. All right?
JIM LEHRER: Well, you’re going to get the first word in the next segment.
MITT ROMNEY: Well, but—but he gets the first word of that segment; I get the last word of that segment, I hope. Let me just make this comment.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: He can—he can have it. He can have it. Go ahead.
MITT ROMNEY: First of all, let me—
JIM LEHRER: That’s not how it works.
MITT ROMNEY: Let me—let me repeat—let me repeat what I said. I’m not in favor of a $5 trillion tax cut. That’s not my plan. My plan is not to put in place any tax cut that will add to the deficit. That’s point one. So you may keep referring to it as a $5 trillion tax cut, but that’s not my plan.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: OK.
MITT ROMNEY: Number two, let’s look at history. My plan is not like anything that’s been tried before. My plan is to bring down rates but also bring down deductions and exemptions and credits at 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 we talk about evidence. Look at the evidence of the last four years. It’s absolutely extraordinary. We’ve got 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 food stamps; 47 million on food stamps today. Economic growth this year slower than last year, and last year slower than the year before. Going forward with the status quo is not going to cut it for the American people who are struggling today.
AMY GOODMAN: Rocky Anderson and Dr. Jill Stein, presidential candidates of the Green Party and the Justice Party, how do you disagree with each other and with the other presidential candidates, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, on the issue of jobs. Jill Stein, we begin with you.
DR. JILL STEIN: Yeah, so, first let me just say that I think if you lost the forest through the trees on that discussion, that you’re not alone. I think focusing fairly deep down in the weeds is a good way to keep people from looking at what’s actually happening around us, the fact that under Democrats as well as under Republicans over the past several decades, but accelerating really over the last 10 years, we have seen wealth increasingly concentrated at the top, and we’ve seen taxes basically cut for the wealthy and shifted onto middle-class, working and poor people. So, let me say first, you know, that I think it’s easy to lose sight of that in this discussion.
But just to clarify where we are, you know, if you had a hundred people in the room and a hundred loaves of bread, the way that wealth has become maldistributed in this country, one person in the room would have 40 of those loaves of bread, and 50 people in the room—again, a hundred people in the room, hundred loaves of bread, one person has 40 loaves of bread. That’s the top 1 percent right now. And the lower 50 people in that room—that’s half the population—has one loaf of bread to share among them.
So, we have a real urgent crisis here that has everything to do with the tailspin that the economy is in, because we have fundamentally a consumer-driven economy, so that people need to have the security and the resources in order to spend. We’ve had so much supply-side economics over the past several decades, so much tax breaks for the wealthy and for corporations, which both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are calling for more of in order to jump-start the economy. Well, that’s been done. And that money just piles up in the hands of the wealthy few. Corporations are not hiring. Banks are not lending. We continue to bail out the banks who got us into this problem.
We need some real changes. That’s why we’re calling for the Green New Deal, which would not only put 25 million people back to work, as we did—or analogously to how we did during the New Deal itself. It would also put an end to the climate crisis. And because it transfers our economy to a green energy economy, it would also make wars for oil obsolete.
And if I could comment quickly about President Obama’s words on education, that Race to the Top is improving education, what he’s looking at really is just a meaningless indicator. He’s looking at performance on a test. You teach to the test, you’ll see improvement on the test. But we don’t see improvement in worker performance. We don’t see improvement in college performance. We don’t see a reduction of remedial education needed when these students who are coming out of high school, trained to a test, to actually perform and to be independent and capable when they go to college.
AMY GOODMAN: This is the discussion part of the debate. And, Rocky Anderson, feel free to jump right in. You can both go at it.
ROCKY ANDERSON: OK. Well, it’s so clear to just about everybody, except those who still so stubbornly hold on to this idea about trickle-down economics, that if we want to pursue prosperity rather than simply job-killing austerity, we can’t engage in these major cuts in spending during a recession. It’s absolutely insane. You have to prime the pump.
Certainly, in the long term, we need a good plan to reduce our deficits and reduce the accumulated debt. We wouldn’t have a debt next—by next year. It was forecast during President Clinton’s term that the debt would be gone. He had four years of surpluses. He raised taxes, but he didn’t go crazy about it. The rates were not onerous. But we had a healthy economy. We saw those surpluses, and then those years of George W. Bush, when it didn’t seem like any of the Republicans thought that there was any problem with deficits. In fact, you remember Vice President Cheney saying that President Reagan proved that deficits aren’t a problem. Isn’t it amazing, whenever there’s a Republican president like President Reagan or President George W. Bush, all of a sudden deficits don’t matter, but then when there’s a Democratic president, they become all-important, even to the point of costing people jobs? So, if we want the prosperity long term, and also taking into account what’s going to be required to reduce the deficit over the long term, we need to prime the pump. We need to create the jobs that come from spending.
I mentioned earlier the WPA kind of project. We could, for instance, in building up our infrastructure, take every government building, retrofit them, bring them up to LEED Silver, Gold or Platinum levels, so that people are learning about how to put in place green technologies. The federal government would be using less energy over the long term, spending a lot less for their energy needs in these buildings, and we’d be putting people to work. My high school was a WPA project. It’s still ranked one of the three most beautiful high schools in the country. It’s been serving that community for generations, and they put hundreds of people to work in the process. So if we’re serious about jobs, that’s the kind of leadership we need in our federal government, not these people that talk constantly about cutting all the spending, which means that we’re going to be cutting out those jobs. We’ve got to make sure that the spending is wise. But wise spending is when we invest into the future, when we invest in healthcare, when we invest in education, when we invest in job training and providing jobs, especially in the green technology sector, because we are so far behind so much of the rest of the world.
And, Amy, it’s so absolutely true that the best job creators are working people with money in their pockets to go out and spend, because when they’re spending, it creates more jobs. It’s good for business. It helps grow the economy. And by growing the economy, then we can start bringing down the deficit and the accumulated debt.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going back to the moderator, Jim Lehrer.
JIM LEHRER: All right. Let’s talk—we’re still on the economy. This is, theoretically now, a second segment still on the economy, and specifically on what to do about the federal deficit, the federal debt. And the question—you each have two minutes on this—and, Governor Romney, you go first, because president went first on segment one.
MITT ROMNEY: You bet. You bet.
JIM LEHRER: And the question is this: What are the differences between the two of you as to how you would go about tackling the deficit problem in this country?
MITT ROMNEY: Well, good. I’m glad you raise that. And it’s a—it’s a critical issue. I think it’s not just an economic issue; I think it’s a moral issue. I think it’s, frankly, not moral for my generation to keep spending massively more than we take in, knowing those burdens are going to be passed on to the next generation, and they’re going to be paying the interest and the principal all their lives. And the amount of debt we’re adding, at a 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 grow the economy, because if more people work in a growing economy, they’re paying taxes and you can get the job done that way. The presidents would—president would prefer raising taxes. I understand. The problem with raising taxes is that it slows down the rate of growth, and you could never quite get the job done. I want to lower spending and encourage economic growth at the same time.
What things would I cut from spending? Well, first of all, I will eliminate all programs by this test, if they don’t pass it. Is the program so critical it’s worth borrowing money from China to pay for it? And if not, I’ll get rid of it. "Obamacare" is on my list. I apologize, Mr. President—I use that term with all respect, by the way.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I like it.
MITT ROMNEY: Good. OK, good. So I’ll get rid of that. I’m sorry, Jim. I’m going to stop the subsidy to PBS. I’m going to stop other things. I like PBS. I love Big Bird. I actually like you, too. But I’m not going to—I’m not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for. That’s number one.
Number two, I’ll take programs that are currently good programs, but I think could be run more efficiently at the state level, and send them to state.
Number three, I’ll make government more efficient, and 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 for the last four years. The president’s put in place as much public debt—almost as much debt held by the public as all prior presidents combined.
JIM LEHRER: Mr. President. two minutes.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: When I walked in the Oval Office, I had more than a trillion-dollar deficit greeting me. And we know where it came from: two wars that were paid for on a credit card, two tax cuts that were not paid for, and a whole bunch of programs that were not paid for, and then a massive economic crisis.
And despite that, what we’ve said is, yes, we had to take some initial emergency measures to make sure we didn’t slip into a Great Depression. But what we’ve also said is, let’s make sure that we are cutting out those things that are not helping us grow. So, 77 government programs—everything from aircrafts that the Air Force had ordered but weren’t working very well, 18 government—18 government programs 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 than ever 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 a trillion dollars out of our discretionary domestic budget. 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 deficit-reduction plan. It’s on a website. You can look at all the numbers, what cuts we make and what revenue we raise. And the way we do it is $2.50 for every cut, we ask for a dollar of additional revenue, paid for, as I indicated earlier, by asking those of us who have done very well in this country to contribute a little bit more to reduce the deficit. And Governor Romney earlier mentioned the Bowles-Simpson commission. Well, that’s how the commission, bipartisan commission that talked about how we should move forward, suggested we have to do it: in a balanced way with some revenue and some spending cuts.
And this is a major difference that Governor Romney and I have. Let—let me just finish this point, because you’re looking for contrast. You know, when Governor Romney stood on a stage with other Republican candidates for the nomination, and he was asked, "Would you take $10 of spending cuts for 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 our investments in schools and education. It means that—Governor Romney talked about Medicaid and how we could send it back to the states, but effectively this means a 30 percent cut in the primary program we help for seniors who are in nursing homes, for kids who are with disabilities—
JIM LEHRER: Mr. President, I’m sorry—
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: And that is not a right strategy for us to move forward.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!’s special broadcast, "Expanding the Debate," #expandthedebate, where we, in real time, are including third-party candidates who have been locked out of debate responding to the same questions that Jim Lehrer is putting to the major-party candidates, Mitt Romney and President Obama: Jill Stein of the Green Party and the presidential candidate of the Justice Party, Rocky Anderson. The question is, how do you deal with the deficit? How do you disagree with or agree with the major-party candidates and with Jill Stein, Rocky Anderson?
ROCKY ANDERSON: Well, first of all, we have a good lesson to learn from the Clinton years. They raised taxes during that period of time. Again, it wasn’t outrageous, by any means. In fact, if we went back to those tax rates, it would be significantly lower than the average tax rate—the highest incremental tax rate as an average of all Republican administrations since the income tax was implemented. So we’re not talking about an enormous tax rate here.
But why are we in the fix we’re in with the deficit, after those years of a surplus during Clinton’s term? It’s because of the tax cuts for the wealthy. If we got rid of those tax cuts for people making over $250,000 a year, we would add, if you included insterest, about a trillion dollars over the course of 10 years.
It was also the wasteful, outrageous, illegal wars. And it was unprecedented in our nation’s history to be engaging in a war and, at the same time, to grant tax cuts. And my view is that if we told the wealthy in this country that were out there cheerleading for these wars that they were going to have to pay for them as we went along, there would have been a lot less enthusiasm for those wars.
We can cut down the costs of incarceration in this country, billions of dollars being wastefully spent as direct costs, let alone all the indirect costs, besides taking people out of the workforce. They’re not paying taxes.
But healthcare costs, getting a handle on healthcare costs—we’re the only country in the industrialized world that relies upon for-profit insurance companies to provide essential healthcare for our citizens. And we’re also the only country in the industrialized world that doesn’t provide essential healthcare for everybody. And we’re paying more than twice as much per capita as the average in the rest of the industrialized world. And we’re getting worse medical outcomes. And we’re the only nation where people are taking out bankruptcy because of their medical bills.
So, we eliminate the tax cuts for the wealthy, we stop the wars, we cut our military budget, we stop the empire building, and we get healthcare costs under control, we’ve resolved our deficit problem.
AMY GOODMAN: Green Party presidential candidate, Dr. Jill Stein.
DR. JILL STEIN: Yes. I mean, I think it only stands to reason that if we want to end the growing debt and deficit, we need to stop engaging in the drivers of that debt and deficit. So, we’re talking about ending the wars for oil, which we can do, because we are promoting a Green New Deal to meet our energy needs here at home, which ends the need and the rationale for undertaking these wars for oil and being the police force of the world.
Back in the year 2000, we were spending about half as much on our military-industrial-security complex as we are now. That cost is about a trillion dollars a year. Yet we’re seeing right now, with all the blowback in the Middle East and with the—you know, the U.S. soldiers being shot up by the Afghani soldiers to whom we are supposedly turning over this war effort, by the continuing, incredible civil chaos and violence in Iraq, as well as Afghanistan—we see exactly how much good these wars for oils are doing us. So, we’re calling for a year 2000 military budget, which will bring as much as half-a-trillion dollars a year back to our budget here at home. That will go a long way to stop the deficit.
Let’s talk about the Wall Street bailouts. Under George Bush, these bailouts were about $800 billion. Under Barack Obama, they’ve been four-and-a-half trillion in money disbursed, and another 16 trillion if you’re looking at zero-interest loans. The Fed just announced another quantitative easing for Wall Street that could cost another trillion or more. Instead of bailing out Wall Street, who got us into this mess, we should be bailing out the students.
Let’s end those tax breaks for the wealthy. And we’re talking specifically about taxing capital gains like income. Why should the millionaires, the super-millionaires and billionaires be paying half as much as the people who work for them, their secretaries and janitors? We want an income tax rate that’s justified for the very rich, as we had under Reagan, as we had under Clinton, and going back further, even under Eisenhower, up to a top marginal rate of 70 percent, 90 percent even, when we had the most productive and successful economy.
And finally, we need to put a sales tax on Wall Street. Why should Wall Street be the only industry that’s exempt from a sales tax? A very small 0.5 percent tax on Wall Street, which the National Nurses United calls the Robin Hood tax, would do wonders to slow down the reckless speculation on Wall Street and bring $350 billion into our economy, where we badly need it.
AMY GOODMAN: Back to moderator Jim Lehrer at the University of Denver.
JIM LEHRER: Way over the two minutes.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Sorry.
JIM LEHRER: Now, 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, the president should have grabbed it. If you wanted to make some adjustments to it, take it, go to Congress, fight for it.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: That’s what we’ve done, made some adjustments to it. And we’re putting it forward before Congress right now, a $4 trillion plan of balanced—
MITT ROMNEY: But you’ve been—but you’ve been president four years. You’ve been president four years. You said you’d cut the deficit in half. It’s now four years later. We still have trillion-dollar deficits. The CBO says we’ll have a trillion-dollar deficit each of the next four years. If you’re re-elected, 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 four trillion in cuts. You’ve found $4 trillion of ways to reduce or to get closer to a balanced budget, except we still show trillion-dollar deficits every year. That doesn’t get the job done.
Let me come back and say, why is it that I don’t want to raise taxes? Why don’t I want to raise taxes on people? And actually, you said it back in 2010. You said, "Look, I’m going to extend the tax policies that we have." Now, I’m not going to raise taxes on anyone, because when the economy’s growing 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 than when you made that statement. And so, if you believe the same thing, you just don’t want to raise taxes on people. And the reality is, it’s not just wealthy people. You mentioned Donald Trump. It’s not just Donald Trump 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 Businesses said your plan will kill 700,000 jobs. I don’t want to kill jobs in this environment.
Let me make one more point. And that—and that—
JIM LEHRER: Let’s let him answer the taxes thing for a moment, OK?
MITT ROMNEY: OK.
JIM LEHRER: Mr. President.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Well, we’ve had this discussion before.
JIM LEHRER: No, mainly about the idea that in order to reduce the deficit—
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Right.
JIM LEHRER: —there has to be revenue in addition to cuts.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: There has to be revenue in addition to cuts. Now, Governor Romney has ruled out revenue. He’s—he’s ruled out revenue.
JIM LEHRER: Is that—that’s true, right?
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: He’s ruled out revenue.
MITT ROMNEY: Absolutely.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: OK, so—
JIM LEHRER: Completely?
MITT ROMNEY: Look, the revenue I get is by more people working, getting higher pay, paying more taxes. That’s how we get growth and how we balance the budget. But the idea of taxing people more, putting more people out of work, you’ll never get there. You never balance the budget by raising taxes.
Spain—Spain spends 42 percent of their total economy on government.
JIM LEHRER: OK.
MITT ROMNEY: We’re now spending 42 percent of our economy on 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: Yeah. But, Mr. President, you’re saying in order to get it—the job done, it’s got to be balanced. You’ve got to have—
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: If we’re serious, we’ve got to take a balanced, responsible approach. And, by the way, 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 help the economy. The oil industry gets $4 billion a year in corporate welfare. Basically, they get deductions that those small businesses that Governor Romney refers to, they don’t get. Now, does anybody think that ExxonMobil needs some extra money, when they’re making money every time you go to the pump? Why wouldn’t we want to eliminate that? Why wouldn’t we eliminate tax breaks for corporate jets? My attitude is, if you got a corporate jet, you can probably 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-neutral way, close loopholes, deductions—he hasn’t identified which ones they are—but thereby bring down the corporate rate. Well, I want to do the same thing, but I’ve actually identified how we can do that. And part of the way to do it is to not give tax breaks to companies that are shipping jobs overseas. Right now, you can actually take a deduction for moving a plant overseas. I think most Americans would say that doesn’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 to college. It means that the teacher that I met in Las Vegas, a wonderful young lady, who describes to me—she’s got 42 kids in her class. The first two weeks, she’s got them, some of them, sitting on the floor, until finally 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, then that means that we’ve got to get rid of a whole bunch of stuff, and the magnitude of the tax cuts that you’re talking about, Governor, would end up resulting in severe hardship for people, but more importantly, would not help us grow.
As I indicated before, when you talk about shifting Medicaid to states, we’re talking about potentially a 30—a 30 percent cut in Medicaid over time. Now, you know, that may not seem like a big deal when it just is, you know, numbers on a sheet of paper, but if we’re talking about a family who’s got an autistic kid and is depending 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 up for 30 percent of revenue on something like Medicaid. What ends up happening is some people end up not getting help.
MITT ROMNEY: Jim, let’s—we’ve gone on a lot of topics there, and so I’m going to—it’s going to take a minute to go from Medicaid to schools to—
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Go ahead.
JIM LEHRER: Come back to Medicaid here, yeah.
MITT ROMNEY: —oil to tax breaks and companies overseas.
JIM LEHRER: Yeah, right.
MITT ROMNEY: So let’s go through them one by one. First of all, the Department of Energy has said the tax break for oil companies is $2.8 billion a year. And it’s actually an accounting treatment, as you know, that’s been in place for a hundred years. Now—
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: It’s time to end it.
MITT ROMNEY: And—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, and you say Exxon and Mobil—actually, this $2.8 billion goes largely to small companies, to drilling operators and so forth. But, you know, if we get that tax rate from 35 percent down to 25 percent, why, that $2.8 billion is on the table. Of course it’s on the table. That’s probably not going to survive, you get that rate down to 25 percent. But—but don’t forget, you put $90 billion, like 50 years’ worth of breaks, into solar and wind, to Solyndra and Fisker and Tesla and Ener1. I mean, I had a friend who said, you don’t just pick the winners and losers; you pick the losers. All right? So, this is not—this is not the kind of policy you want to have if you want to get America energy-secure.
The second topic, which is you said you get a deduction for taking a plant overseas—look, I’ve been in business for 25 years. I have no idea what you’re talking about. I maybe need to get a new accountant.
JIM LEHRER: Let’s—
MITT ROMNEY: But the idea that you get a break for shipping jobs overseas is simply not the case.
JIM LEHRER: Let’s have—
MITT ROMNEY: What we do have right now is a setting—
JIM LEHRER: Excuse me.
MITT ROMNEY: —where I’d like to bring money from overseas back to this country.
And finally, Medicaid to states, I’m not quite sure where that came in, except this, which is, I would like to take the Medicaid dollars that go to states and say to a state, you’re going to get what you got last year plus inflation, plus 1 percent. And then you’re going to manage your care for your poor in the way you 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 much better and more effective a way than having the federal government tell us how to care for our poor."
So let states—one of the magnificent things about this country is the whole idea that states are the laboratories of democracy. Don’t have the federal government tell everybody what kind of training programs they have to have and what kind of Medicaid they have to have. Let states do this.
And, by the way, if a states gets in trouble, why, we could step in and see if we could find a way to help them. But—
JIM LEHRER: Let’s go.
MITT ROMNEY: But the right—the right approach is one which relies on the brilliance—
JIM LEHRER: Two seconds.
MITT ROMNEY: —of our people and states, not the federal government.
AMY GOODMAN: In this part of the debate, this is a discussion. Rocky Anderson, Jill Stein—Rocky Anderson, do you really differ that much with President Obama?
ROCKY ANDERSON: Enormously. First of all, I do not support Simpson-Bowles. I support doing what it is going to take to reach our goals for prosperity in this country, to put people back to work. His record has been pathetic when it comes to getting people back employed, when we know what can be done to achieve that. And there are such enormous human costs involved.
And you combine that with a lack of access to healthcare, we—I know a lot of people think about the developed world, or developing world, in terms of maternal mortality and infant mortality. We actually have the next to the worst record in terms of infant mortality in the entire industrialized world. Only Latvia has a worse record than the United States. In terms of maternal mortality, we have—we’re number 50. Forty-nine countries do better than the United States, although we put far more money into all the specialists and all the equipment. We are behind 49 nations when it comes to women dying in connection with pregnancy and childbirth. And in this country, more than three times as many African-American women die in connection with pregnancy in childbirth than with regard—
AMY GOODMAN: Why don’t you support Simpson-Bowles?
ROCKY ANDERSON: Because it is a recipe for austerity. It’s not about prosperity. It’s not about building jobs. It’s just about cutting and slashing rather than making those long-term investments. And if we’re really interested in protecting American workers and the American economy, we’ve got to take steps to make certain that we don’t face another economic meltdown like we saw in 2008 and from which most of us are still reeling in this country.
You know, the average harm done to personal wealth was so enormous. For retirement plans, private retirement plans were reduced by 26 percent in one year because of that meltdown. It came about because of the Democrats and the Republicans colluding. It was the repeal of Glass-Steagall under President Clinton at the behest of his treasury secretary, Larry Summers, who President Obama has brought in as his head economic adviser. It was the deregulation, including the Commodities Futures Modernization Act of 2000. It was deregulation that helped lead to this disaster. It was the fraud on Wall Street. There hasn’t been one person on Wall Street held accountable for the massive financial fraud that helped lead to this disaster.
So if we want to really protect the American people and the American economy, we need to restore Glass-Steagall. Glass-Steagall was Depression-era legislation that prohibited the common ownership by commercial banks, investment banks and insurance companies. Why did they get rid of that during the Clinton administration? We know what it was. It was the corrupting influence of money in politics. We see that all the time in our government.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!'s special broadcast, "Expanding the Debate," the first presidential debate tonight being held at the University of Denver. We are not far from there, also in Denver, as we bring in real time the responses of third-party candidates who have been locked out of this presidential debate. This is Democracy Now! I'm Amy Goodman. Jim Lehrer is the moderator of the debate at the University of Denver. Rocky Anderson, the presidential candidate of the Justice Party. And now Jill Stein, the presidential candidate of the Green Party, on the issue of Simpson-Bowles, on the issue of taxes and taxing corporations.
DR. JILL STEIN: Yes. In so many ways, I think that Barack Obama has just continued the problem, and Simpson-Bowles would do more of the same. If you look at the consequences of austerity in the European countries, where it’s been proposed as the solution to their debt problem, it certainly doesn’t get countries out of debt. It only makes recessions worse. It catapults countries into depression. It puts more people out on the streets searching for food and losing their homes and their jobs and cuts government programs that provide a safety net and that keep people employed. So it’s had exactly the opposite effect.
Now, there is again—in history, there’s a very good example of what does work. And again, I want to just mention the New Deal that did get us out of the Great Depression. And again, that is what we are calling for, specifically jobs created at the community level both in public works and public services that would address the spectrum of needs in the green economy, as well as our social needs. And we’re also calling for support for grants and for—for supports in general for small businesses and for worker co-operatives, which are the backbone of our economy. And we’re calling for community-based small businesses and co-operatives, so that the money stays within the community and is not shipped overseas or to the Cayman Islands to corporate headquarters. We’re calling for the jobs in green energy, in clean, renewable energy and conservation; in agriculture, in local sustainable and organic agriculture; in public transportation; and in clean manufacturing in solar and wind and geothermal and efficiencies; as well as jobs in the social sector that communities also need to be sustainable. We’re calling for jobs in teachers, for healthcare workers, for child care after school, home care, affordable housing construction and so on. These are jobs that we can create right now, put people back to work right now. We don’t have to wait for more voodoo economics to suddenly take hold.
The reason that the establishment parties do not want us in the debates is because we’re actually going outside of the box. They’re very much trapped inside of the box. And on this issue of, you know, keeping our jobs from going overseas, the problem here is the free trade agreements, brought to us by Bill Clinton, expanded by Barack Obama, and now being expended behind closed doors by Barack Obama with this very draconian Trans-Pacific Partnership that will continue to send our jobs overseas, undermine wages here at home and to compromise American sovereignty by putting an international corporate board in charge of ruling on whether our laws and regulations are adequate. So there are real reasons that we are stuck, because we have a corporate-funded government, two political parties that are essentially funded by Wall Street who are obliged to their corporate sponsors not to challenge the status quo. And that’s why it’s very essential that we be in this debate.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going back to moderator Jim Lehrer at the University of Denver.
JIM LEHRER: We’re going on, still on the economy on another—but another part of it.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: OK.
JIM LEHRER: All right? All right, this is segment three, the economy, entitlements. First—first answer goes to you. It’s two minutes. Mr. President, do you see a major difference between the two of you on Social Security?
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: You know, I suspect that on Social Security we’ve got a somewhat similar position. Social Security is structurally sound. It’s going to have to be tweaked the way it was by Ronald Reagan and Speaker—Democratic Speaker Tip O’Neill. But it is—the basic structure is sound. But—but I want to talk about the values behind Social Security and Medicare, and then talk about Medicare, because that’s—
JIM LEHRER: Sure, yeah, you bet.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: —the big driver of our deficits right now.
You know, my grandmother, some of you know, helped to raise me. My grandparents did. My grandfather died a 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 living alone by choice. And the reason she could be independent was because of Social Security and Medicare. She had worked all her life, put in this money, and understood that there was a basic guarantee, a floor under which she could not go. And that’s the perspective I bring when I think about what’s called "entitlements." You know, the name itself implies 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 our long-term deficits, but to do that, let’s look where some of the money is going. $716 billion we were able to save from the Medicare program by no longer overpaying insurance companies, by making sure that we weren’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—make a significant dent in providing them the kind of preventive care that will ultimately save money through the—throughout the system.
So, the way for us to deal with Medicare, in particular, is to lower healthcare costs. When it comes to Social Security, as I said, you don’t need a major structural change in order to make sure that Social Security is there for the future.
JIM LEHRER: We’ll follow up on this. First, Governor Romney, you have two minutes on Social Security and entitlements.
MITT ROMNEY: Well, Jim, our seniors depend on these programs, and I know any time we talk about entitlements, people become concerned that something’s going to happen that’s going to change 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, you don’t need to listen any further.
But for younger people, we need to talk about what changes are going to be occurring. Oh, I just thought about one. And that is, in fact, I was wrong when I said the president isn’t proposing 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 program—now, he says, by not overpaying hospitals and providers, actually just going to them and saying, "We’re going to reduce the rates you get paid across the board. Everybody’s going to get a lower rate." That’s not just going after places where there’s abuse; that’s saying we’re cutting the rates. Some 15 percent of hospitals and nursing homes say they won’t take any more Medicare patients under that scenario. We also have 50 percent of doctors who say they won’t take more Medicare patients. This—we have four million people on Medicare Advantage that will lose Medicare Advantage because of those $716 billion in cuts.
I can’t understand how you can cut Medicare $716 billion for current recipients of Medicare. Now, you point out, well, we’re putting some back; we’re going to give a better prescription program. That’s one of—that’s $1 for every 15 you’ve cut. They’re smart enough to know that’s not a good trade. I want to take that $716 billion you’ve cut and put it back into Medicare. By the way, we can include a prescription program, if we need to improve it. But the idea of cutting $716 billion from Medicare to be able to balance the additional cost of "Obamacare" is, in my opinion, a mistake. And with regards to young people coming along, I’ve got proposals to make sure Medicare and Social Security are there for them without any question.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, expanding the debate with the third-party presidential candidates Rocky Anderson and Jill Stein. Jim Lehrer has just asked about Social Security and the so-called "entitlements." Dr. Jill Stein.
DR. JILL STEIN: Yes, I think, first, it’s very important to point out that while we hear a very different narrative from Barack Obama and the Democrats than we do from Mitt Romney, with Mitt Romney’s narrative being usually harsh, scary, selfishness on steroids, and the Democratic narrative being warm and fuzzy and we’re all in this together, let’s just wait for things to get better, you know, it’s really important to look beyond the talk, to look at the walk, to look at what’s actually being proposed.
And Jeffrey Sachs at the University of Columbia has pointed out in his analysis of the budget proposals of both Obama and of Romney-Ryan—points out that they’re both aiming for essentially for the same targets. They’re both aiming for Social Security to be about 5 percent of GDP some years down the line, whether it’s four or eight years, and on Medicare, they’re both aiming for Medicare to be reduced to about 3.2 percent of GDP. So, the point is, while they have different scenarios, they both have the same targets.
Obama himself is also looking to cut non-security discretionary expenditures, things like that cover education and housing and job training, also looking to cut that nearly in half, according to his own budget figures, down to about 1.8 percent of GDP from 3.2 percent, where it is right now. On Social Security, Obama is already calling for some cuts, basically to the cost-of-living reimbursements. So, heads up about what’s going to happen after the election. You will see the walk differ from the talk. And on Medicare, yes, it is true they are both proposing the same changes—again, a sign that things are not really different between these two corporate-sponsored candidates. They’re both proposing about $700 billion in Medicare cuts.
We can fix this. For Social Security, we simply need to raise the cap on Social Security. It will be perfectly solvent when the rich are paying their fair share. And on Medicare, one thing we can do right now is to fix Medicare Part D so that it’s no longer a boondoggle, a giveaway for pharmaceutical companies, and to allow bargaining and negotiation to get bulk purchasing and bring down the cost.
AMY GOODMAN: Rocky Anderson, you have two minutes.
ROCKY ANDERSON: Thank you. The solution to Medicare is to provide Medicare for everybody, to make it a single-payer system. If you look around the world—Canada, Taiwan—Taiwan did a study. They looked at all other nations’ systems, and they incorporated the very best elements. And they have a single-payer, basically Medicare-for-all system.
And we are paying more than double the average of the rest of the industrialized world per capita for our healthcare costs. A large part of that is because we’re relying upon the for-profit insurance industry to provide healthcare for most of the people in this country. We need to get rid of that. We can control costs.
In all of these systems—and by the way, there’s not another nation in the industrialized world that does it anywhere like we do, that has the waste, that has the poor medical outcomes, and where people are taking out bankruptcy by the hundreds of thousands. So that is the solution for Medicare. We can make it affordable. We can provide better services. And we can do it for all. You just get the for-profit insurance companies out of the way, and all of the burdensome paperwork and the different billing systems and all the rest that end up costing over a third of what we pay for what’s supposed to go toward our medical care.
As to Social Security, the Social Security payroll tax is as regressive a tax known to mankind, because if you make one $110,000, you don’t pay anything on the income over that amount. Everybody pays the same thing up to that point. We need to lift that cap. You could reduce the percentage that workers pay. You could bring it down to 4 percent, so that the middle class and the working poor come out ahead. You lift the cap, and then you also have those who make their money through investments pay their fair share, as well. There’s no reason why working people are paying toward Social Security, and those who are living off their investments get away, once again, without paying their fair share.
AMY GOODMAN: Back to presidential debate moderator Jim Lehrer.
JIM LEHRER: Mr. President.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: First of all, I think it’s important for Governor Romney to present this plan that he says will only affect folks in the future. And the essence of the plan is that he would turn Medicare into a voucher program. It’s called premium support, but it’s understood to be a voucher program. His running mate—
JIM LEHRER: And you—and you don’t support that?
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I don’t. And let me explain why.
MITT ROMNEY: Again, that’s for future people—
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I understand.
MITT ROMNEY: —right, not for current retirees.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: For—so, if you’re—if you’re 54 or 55, you might want to listen, because this—this will affect you. The idea, which was originally presented by Congressman Ryan, your running mate, is that we would give a voucher to seniors, and they could go out in the private marketplace and buy their own health insurance. The problem is that because the voucher wouldn’t necessarily keep up with healthcare inflation, it was estimated that this would cost the average senior about $6,000 a year.
Now, in fairness, what Governor 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 at figuring out who are the younger and healthier seniors. They recruit them, leaving the older, sicker seniors in Medicare. And every healthcare economist who looks at it says over time what’ll happen is the traditional Medicare system will collapse. And then what you’ve got is folks like my grandmother at the mercy of 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 my own—only my opinion. AARP thinks that the savings that we obtained from Medicare bolstered the system, lengthened the Medicare trust fund by eight years. Benefits were not affected at all. And ironically, if you repeal "Obamacare" — and I have become fond of this term, "Obamacare" — if you repeal it, what happens is those seniors right away are going to be paying $600 more in prescription care. They’re now going to have to be paying copays for basic check-ups that can keep them healthier. And the primary beneficiary of that repeal are insurance companies, that are estimated to gain billions of dollars back when they aren’t making seniors any healthier. And I don’t think that’s the right approach when it comes to making sure that Medicare is stronger over the long term.
JIM LEHRER: We’ll talk about—specifically about healthcare in a moment, but what—do you support the voucher 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 program.
JIM LEHRER: What about the vouchers?
MITT ROMNEY: So that’s—that’s number one.
JIM LEHRER: OK. All right.
MITT ROMNEY: Number two is for people coming along that are young. What I’d do to make sure that we can keep Medicare in place for them is to allow them either to choose the current Medicare program or a private plan—their choice. They get to—and they’ll have at least two plans that 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 to get a private plan. I know my own view is, I’d rather have a private plan. I’d just as soon not have the government telling me what kind of healthcare I get. I’d rather be able to have an insurance company. If I don’t like them, I can get rid of them and find a different insurance company. But people will make their own choice.
The other thing we have to do to save Medicare, we have to have the benefits high for those that are low-income, but for higher-income people, we’re going to have to lower some of the benefits. We have to make sure this program is there for the long term. That’s the plan that I’ve put forward.
And by the way, the idea came not even from Paul Ryan or—or Senator Wyden, who’s a co-author of the bill with Paul Ryan in the Senate, but also it came from Bill Clinton’s—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 get competition into the Medicare world so that people can get the choice of different plans at lower cost, better quality. I believe in competition.
JIM LEHRER: OK.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Jim, if I—if I can just respond very quickly, first of all, every study has shown that Medicare has lower administrative costs than private insurance does, which is why seniors are generally 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 save any money through what Governor Romney is proposing, what has to happen is, 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 insurance companies. 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, and that’s why they were supportive of the approach that we took.
One last point I want to make. We do have to lower the costs of healthcare, not just in Medicare and not—
JIM LEHRER: Well, talk about that, in a minute.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: —but overall.
JIM LEHRER: Go. OK.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: And so—
MITT ROMNEY: That’s—that’s a big topic. Could we—could we stay on Medicare? Can we finish?
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Oh, is that a—is that a separate topic?
JIM LEHRER: Yeah, we’re going to—yeah.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I’m sorry.
JIM LEHRER: I want to get to it, but all I want to do is, very quickly—
MITT ROMNEY: Let’s get back to Medicare.
JIM LEHRER: —before we leave the economy—
MITT ROMNEY: Let’s get back to Medicare.
JIM LEHRER: No, no, no, no—
MITT ROMNEY: The president said that the government can provide the service at lower—
JIM LEHRER: No.
MITT ROMNEY: —cost and without 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 at a lower cost.
JIM LEHRER: Can we—can the two of you agree that the voters have a choice, a clear choice, between the two of you—
MITT ROMNEY: Absolutely.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Yes.
JIM LEHRER: —on Medicare?
MITT ROMNEY: Absolutely.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Absolutely.
JIM LEHRER: All right. So, to to finish quickly, briefly, on the economy, what is your view about the level of federal regulation of the economy right now? Is there too much? And in your case, Mr. President, is there—should there be more? Beginning with you—this is not a new two-minute segment—to start, and we’ll go for a few minutes, and then we’re going to go to healthcare. OK?
MITT ROMNEY: Regulation is essential. You can’t have a free market work if you don’t have regulation. As a business person, I had to have—I needed to know the regulations. I needed them there. You couldn’t have people opening up banks in their—in their garage and making loans. I mean, you have to have regulations so that you can have an economy work. Every free economy has good regulation. At the same time, regulation can become excessive.
JIM LEHRER: Is it excessive now, do you think?
MITT ROMNEY: Well, in some places, yes; in other places, no.
JIM LEHRER: Like where? Give me an—
MITT ROMNEY: It can become out of date. And what’s happened in—with some of the legislation that’s been passed during the president’s term, you’ve seen regulation become excessive, and it’s hurt the—it’s hurt the economy.
Let me give you an example. Dodd-Frank was passed, and it includes within it a number of provisions that I think have 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 the federal government. This is the biggest kiss that’s been given to—to New York banks I’ve ever seen. This is an enormous boon for them. There’s been—122 community and small banks have closed since Dodd-Frank. So there’s one example.
Here’s another. In Dodd-Frank, it says if—
JIM LEHRER: You want to repeal Dodd-Frank?
MITT ROMNEY: Well, I would repeal it and replace it. You—we’re not going to get rid of all regulation. You have to have regulation.
JIM LEHRER: OK, all right.
MITT ROMNEY: And there’s some parts of Dodd-Frank that make all the sense in the world. You need transparency. You need to have leverage limits for institutes.
JIM LEHRER: Well, here’s a specific. Let’s get—
MITT ROMNEY: But let’s—
MITT ROMNEY: Excuse me—
MITT ROMNEY: Let’s mention—let me mention the other one. Let’s talk the other big one.
JIM LEHRER: Well, no, no, let’s—no, no, let’s not.
MITT ROMNEY: OK.
JIM LEHRER: Let’s let him respond—let’s let him respond to this specific on Dodd-Frank and what the governor just said.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Well, I think this is a great example. The reason we have been in such a enormous economic crisis was prompted by reckless behavior across the board. Now, it wasn’t just on Wall Street. You had—loan officers were—they were giving loans and mortgages that really shouldn’t have been given, because they’re—the folks didn’t qualify. You had people who were borrowing money to buy a house that they couldn’t afford. You had credit agencies that were stamping these as A1 great investments when they weren’t. But you also had banks making money hand over fist, churning out products that the bankers themselves didn’t even understand, in order to make big profits, but knowing that it made the entire system vulnerable.
So, what did we do? We stepped in and had the toughest reforms on Wall Street since the 1930s. We said you’ve got—banks, you’ve got to raise your capital requirements. You can’t engage in some of this risky behavior that is putting Main Street at risk. We’re going to make sure that you’ve got to have a living will, so—so we can know how you’re going to wind things down if you make a bad bet so we don’t have other taxpayer bailouts. In the meantime, by the way, we also made sure that all the help that we provided those banks was paid back, every single dime, with interest.
Now, Governor Romney has said he wants to repeal Dodd-Frank, and, you know, I appreciate, and it appears we’ve got some agreement that a marketplace to work has to have some regulation. But in the past, Governor 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 was too much oversight and regulation of Wall Street? Because if you do, then Governor Romney is your candidate. But that’s not what I believe.
MITT ROMNEY: Sorry, Jim, but that’s just not—that’s just not the facts. Look, we have to have regulation on Wall Street.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Yeah.
MITT ROMNEY: That’s why I’d have regulation. But I wouldn’t designate five banks as too big to fail and give them a blank check. That’s one of the unintended consequences of Dodd-Frank. It wasn’t thought through properly. We need to get rid of that provision, because it’s killing regional and small banks. They’re getting hurt.
Let me mention another regulation in Dodd-Frank. You say we were giving mortgages to people who weren’t qualified. That’s exactly right. It’s one of the reasons for the great financial calamity we had. And so, Dodd-Frank correctly says we need to—
JIM LEHRER: All right.
MITT ROMNEY: —have qualified mortgages, and if you give a mortgage that’s not qualified, there are big penalties. Except they didn’t ever go on to define what a qualified 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 are reluctant to make loans, mortgages. Try and get a mortgage these days. It’s hurt the housing market—
JIM LEHRER: All right.
MITT ROMNEY: —because Dodd-Frank didn’t anticipate putting in place the kinds of regulations you have to have. It’s not that Dodd- Frank always was wrong with too much regulation. Sometimes they didn’t come out with a clear regulation.
JIM LEHRER: OK.
MITT ROMNEY: I will make sure we don’t hurt the functioning of our—of our marketplace and our businesses, because I want to bring back housing and get good jobs.
AMY GOODMAN: As we expand the debate with the third-party presidential candidates, Dr. Jill Stein of the Green Party and Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party, this is a pretty free-wheeling presidential debate, Dr. Jill Stein, from government regulation to what is Dodd-Frank, and what do you think should be done about it?
DR. JILL STEIN: Yeah, OK. So Dodd-Frank is the response of Congress to the Wall Street catastrophe of 2007 and 2008. And Dodd-Frank is a completely inadequate response. The banks continue to be too big to fail and too big to jail. We just saw the Justice Department of Barack Obama recently say to Goldman Sachs, "Don’t worry. You know, we’re not going to bring you into court and really take a hard look at the waste, fraud and abuse on Wall Street, particularly at Goldman Sachs."
And, you know, there is a pattern here. We’re not seeing the White House or Congress actually deal with what got us into this mess. And that mess was deregulation, brought to us really by the Clinton administration under Larry Summers as treasury secretary. And under Summers, we had the rollback of the protections put in place after the Great Depression. So those protections were the Glass-Steagall Act, the separation of commercial banks and investment banks, and Larry Summers basically killed that and also opened up a whole new area of derivatives, essentially a kind of betting that would not be subject to transparency or to regulation. And these two developments really laid the groundwork for the crisis on Wall Street.
Then you had Barack Obama coming to office in the midst of that crisis and bringing in the very guys that had engineered that crisis to start with. And that means Larry Summers, who was brought in as chief economic adviser, to advise Obama how to deal with the crisis he created. So, you know, it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that the solutions were not going to be forthcoming. Likewise, Obama then brought in Timothy Geithner as secretary of the treasurer, who had been head of the Fed while—in New York, while waste, fraud and abuse were taking place on Wall Street. So this was a very bad beginning if the point was to fix the problems.
And then, I must say, you know, not only did Dodd-Frank not solve the problem, but the president, you know, went on to reappoint the same head of the Fed, Bernanke, who has continued to bail out Wall Street over and over again.
AMY GOODMAN: Rocky Anderson?
DR. JILL STEIN: And just to finish, we don’t need to—instead of bailing out the big banks, we need to be breaking up the banks, creating public banks and state and municipal banks to actually provide the credit and help jumpstart our economy.
AMY GOODMAN: We are expanding the debate, #expandthedebate. Our feed to the PBS satellite and PBS stations is ending now. For those of you watching on those stations, you can catch the final hour of this exclusive Democracy Now! inclusive "Expand the Debate" coverage at our website, democracynow.org. We are staying with this debate right to the end. And I thank all of you for joining us. But we’re continuing this debate. Rocky Anderson, your response?
ROCKY ANDERSON: It is astounding to me to hear Mitt Romney talk about Dodd-Frank as being too much regulation. The fact is, it was watered down unbelievably by the lobbyists for these same banks that took this country and so many of us to the cleaners.
Dodd-Frank doesn’t provide the reserve requirements for credit default swaps. And it sounds a little complicated, but there were billions and billions of dollars paid by the government to cover the bets of companies like AIG that had promised people that if they lost money in these toxic instruments that were rated AAA, that they would then pay them. But then, when they were called upon to pay them, they said, "Oh, gee, we don’t have any money." Imagine if you paid your premium for your insurance and you got in a car accident and you called your insurance company, and they said, "Gee, we’d love to cover it, but we don’t have any money." Well, the government covered those losses, because, they said, "These banks are all too large to fail. If we don’t cover it, then they’re going to go down, and we’re going to be facing a major depression."
So, the Dallas branch of the Federal Reserve agrees with Jill Stein and me: you have to break up the banks that are considered too large to fail, so if they engage in these risky activities again, they engage in the sort of gambling that shouldn’t have been allowed in the first place—but it was only allowed because of the deregulation by the Democrats and the Republicans. It was probably at its apex during the Clinton administration. But both of these parties have been in bed with the financial industry. But we need to break up those banks, so if they engage in that kind of conduct, they go down, and we’re not going to bail them out.
We also need to restore Glass-Steagall—we’ve talked about that—so that you don’t have these combinations of commercial banks and investment banks, and the insurance companies to boot. And then we need to prosecute—you just heard President Obama talk about these phony ratings of these instruments that helped build up the bubble that then burst and hurt millions and millions of people not only in this country but around the world. And yet, he received more money from Wall Street four years ago than any candidate has ever received, and they got a really good return on their investment, because not only do we not have adequate regulation, not only has he not proposed breaking up the banks that are too large to fail, but his administration hasn’t prosecuted one of these people for their massive financial fraud that caused so much tragedy for the people of this country.
AMY GOODMAN: Let’s go presidential debate moderator, Jim Lehrer.
JIM LEHRER: All right, I think we have another clear difference between the two of you. Now let’s move to healthcare, where I know there is a clear difference, and that has to do with the Affordable Care Act, "Obamacare." And it’s a two-minute new segment, and it’s—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 New Hampshire. A woman came to me, and she said, "Look, I can’t afford insurance for myself or my son." I met a couple in Appleton, Wisconsin, and they said, "We’re thinking of dropping our insurance. We can’t afford it." And the number of small businesses I’ve gone to that are saying they’re dropping insurance because they can’t afford it. The cost of healthcare is just prohibitive. And we’ve got to deal with cost.
And, unfortunately, when—when you look at "Obamacare," the Congressional Budget Office has said it will cost $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 have brought down the cost of insurance for each family by $2,500 a family. Instead, it’s gone up by that amount. 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 in Medicare for our seniors.
Number three, it puts in place an unelected board that’s going to tell people ultimately what kind of treatments they can have. I don’t like that idea.
Fourth, there was a survey done of small businesses across the country, said, "What’s been the effect of 'Obamacare' on your hiring plans?" And three-quarters of them said, "It makes us less likely to hire people." 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—at the kitchen table, and spend his energy and passion for two years fighting for "Obamacare" instead of fighting for jobs for the American people. It has killed jobs.
And the best course for healthcare is to do what we did in my state: craft a plan at the state level that fits the needs of the state. And then let’s focus on getting the costs down for people, rather than raising it with a $2,500 additional premium.
JIM LEHRER: Mr. President, the argument against repeal?
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Well, four years ago when I was running for office, I was traveling around and having those same conversations that Governor Romney talks about. And it wasn’t just that small businesses were seeing costs skyrocket and they couldn’t get affordable coverage even if they wanted to provide it to their employees. It wasn’t just that this was the biggest driver of our federal deficit, our overall healthcare costs. But it was families who were worried about going bankrupt if they got sick, millions of families, all across the country. If they had a pre-existing 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 hit the limit. So, we did work on this, alongside working on jobs, because this is part of making sure that middle-class families are secure in this country.
And let me tell you exactly what "Obamacare" did. Number one, if you’ve got health insurance, it doesn’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 lifetime limits. They have to let you keep your kid on their insurance—your insurance plan until you’re 26 years old. And it also says that you’re going to have to get rebates if insurance companies are spending more on administrative costs and profits than they are on actual care.
Number two, if you don’t have health insurance, we’re essentially setting up a group plan that allows you to benefit from group rates that are typically 18 percent lower than if you’re out there trying to get insurance on the individual market.
Now, the last point I’d make before—
JIM LEHRER: Two minutes—two minutes is up, sir.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: No, I think—I had five seconds before you interrupted me—was—the irony is that we’ve seen this model work really well, in Massachusetts, because Governor Romney did a good thing, working with Democrats in the state to set up what is essentially the identical model, and as a consequence, people are covered there. It hasn’t destroyed jobs. And as a consequence, we now have a system in which we have the opportunity to start bringing down costs, as opposed to just leaving millions of people out in the cold.
AMY GOODMAN: We are expanding the debate with the third-party candidates. Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party, healthcare.
ROCKY ANDERSON: Well, we’re talking here about "Obamacare" and "Romneycare." I would call it "Insurance Companycare," because they’re the ones that wrote it. They joined up with a very conservative foundation years ago to develop this plan, to make the American people buy this perverse product. Again, we’re the only country in the world that depends upon for-profit insurance companies for the majority of our coverage for healthcare, for those who are lucky enough to have it.
There are now over 50 million people without basic healthcare coverage in this country. The latest report indicates that there will be over 30 million people without essential healthcare coverage when "Obamacare" is fully implemented. That means misery. It means extended disease. It means extended illness and injuries. And it means the loss of lives. Now over 40,000 people in this country die every year because of the lack of healthcare. And I talked earlier about the enormous rates of infant mortality and maternal mortality. These are women and children dying because—primarily, because they don’t have access to healthcare. And there’s still going to be that major problem. And watch your premiums skyrocket. It’s already happened since the beginning of this program, and it’s just going to get far worse.
So, what we need is what the vast majority of Americans said they wanted during the healthcare debate. There were some 70 percent or more people and the majority of doctors saying, "We want a single-payer, Medicare-for-all system. President Obama and his compatriots that were colluding with the insurance companies wouldn’t even let a single-payer, Medicare-for-all proposal see the light of day in Congress. And then the president folded even on the idea of a public option. It was an enormous betrayal of the public interest, so that they could please the for-profit insurance company that has such a stranglehold on our Congress and now on our White House.
AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Jill Stein, this is your profession, healthcare.
DR. JILL STEIN: That’s right, it’s my profession, and this is where I live. I live in the state of Massachusetts, so I’ve seen the Affordable Care Act. We also call it "Romneycare" or "Obamacare," take your pick. We’ve seen it actually roll out.
And what we’ve seen is that the Affordable Care Act, actually, in the flesh, is neither affordable nor caring, because, in fact, it provides stripped-down plans, which are fairly expensive, unless you are in a very low income. Unless you’re poor and you’re covered, costs go up astoundingly. So, if you are making less than $20,000 a year as a family, you’re covered. And it actually has expanded care for the very poor, and that’s a good thing. But if you’re in the $20,000 to $40,000 bracket—so, near poor and fairly poor, I think, by many standards—actually, your costs go up 5 percent of your income, which is just a staggering amount of money to add an additional 5 percent of your income to your healthcare costs. And yet you are not covered. So, on average, these plans cover about 75 percent of your costs—or actually I think it’s more like 70 percent of your costs. Yet you’re paying approximately 10 percent of your income for them. So it’s not affordable for families. You’re not fully covered. The proof of the pudding here is that when people get sick in Massachusetts now, they go into medical bankruptcy just as much as they did before, before we had the Affordable Care Act.
And it’s certainly not affordable for government, not for state government, not for municipalities, not for small businesses. Costs are skyrocketing, and it’s cannibalizing all other aspects of budget.
The answer here is Medicare for all, which provides care for everyone, comprehensively. You are in charge, not your boss at work or not a profiteering CEO. But you get to call the shots. And, well-kept secret, it actually saves us trillions of dollars over the coming decade, because it eliminates that massive, wasteful health insurance bureaucracy, and it stabilizes medical inflation. So, it is a win-win. It’s absolutely—you know, it’s a sign of how hijacked Washington and our state capitals are that we don’t have Medicare for all right now.
AMY GOODMAN: We go back to presidential debate moderator Jim Lehrer at the University of Denver.
JIM LEHRER: Governor, tell—tell the president directly why you think what he just said is wrong about "Obamacare."
MITT ROMNEY: Well, I did with my first statement.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: You did.
MITT ROMNEY: But I’ll go on.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Please elaborate.
MITT ROMNEY: I’ll elaborate, exactly right.
First of all, I like the way we did it in Massachusetts. I like 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 Republican senator to stop "Obamacare," you pushed it through anyway. So entirely on a partisan basis, instead of bringing America together and having a discussion on this important topic, you pushed through something that you and Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid thought was the best answer and drove it through. What we did, in a legislature 87 percent Democrat, we worked together. Two hundred 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 a trillion dollars under "Obamacare." We didn’t cut Medicare. Of course, we don’t have Medicare, but we didn’t cut Medicare by $716 billion. We didn’t put in place a board that can tell people ultimately what treatments they’re going to receive.
We didn’t—we didn’t also do something that I think a number of people across this country recognize, which is put—put people in a position where they’re going to lose the insurance they had and they wanted. Right now, the CBO says up to 20 million people will lose their insurance as "Obamacare" goes into effect next year. And likewise, a study by McKinsey & Company of American businesses said 30 percent of them 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 Republicans said, "Do not do this." And the Republicans had a—had a plan. They put a plan out. They put out a plan, a bipartisan plan. It was swept aside. I think something this big, this important, has to be done in a bipartisan basis. And we have to have a president who can reach across the aisle and fashion important legislation with the input from both parties.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Governor Romney said this has to be done on a bipartisan basis. This was a bipartisan idea. In fact, it was a Republican idea. And Governor Romney, at the beginning of this debate, wrote and said, "What we did in Massachusetts could be a model for the nation." And I agree that the Democratic legislators in Massachusetts might have given some advice to Republicans in Congress about how to cooperate, but the fact of the matter is, we used the same advisers, and they say it’s the same plan.
It—when Governor Romney talks about this board, for example—unelected board that we’ve created—what this is, is a group of healthcare experts, doctors, etc., to figure out how can we reduce the cost of care in the system overall, because there are two ways of dealing with our healthcare crisis. One is to simply leave a whole bunch of people uninsured and let them fend for themselves, to let businesses figure out how long they can continue to pay premiums until finally they just give up and their workers are no longer getting 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 are ways of doing it.
So, at Cleveland Clinic, one of the best healthcare systems in the world, they actually 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’s get all the doctors together at once, do one test instead of having the patient run around with 10 tests. Let’s make sure that we’re providing preventive care so we’re catching the onset of something like diabetes. Let’s—let’s pay providers on the basis of performance as opposed to on the basis of how many procedures they’ve—they’ve engaged in. Now, so what this board does is basically identifies best practices and says, let’s use the purchasing power of Medicare and Medicaid to help to institutionalize all these good things that we do.
And the fact of the matter is that when "Obamacare" is fully implemented, we’re going to be in a position to show that costs are going down. And over the last two years, healthcare 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.
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’d replace it with, other than saying we’re going to leave it to the states. But the fact of the matter is that some of the prescriptions that he’s offered, like letting you buy insurance across state lines, there’s no indication that that somehow is going to help somebody who’s got a pre-existing condition be able to finally buy insurance. In fact, it’s estimated that by repealing "Obamacare," you’re looking at 50 million people losing health insurance at a time when it’s vitally important.
JIM LEHRER: Let’s let the governor explain what you would do if "Obamacare" is repealed. How would you replace it? What do you have in mind?
MITT ROMNEY: Well, actually, it’s—it’s a lengthy description, but number one, pre-existing conditions are covered under my plan. Number two, young people are able to stay on their family plan. That’s already offered in the private marketplace; you don’t have to have the government mandate that for that to occur.
But let’s come back to something the president and I agree on, which is the—the key task we have in healthcare is to get the costs down so it’s more affordable for families, and—and then he has as a model for doing that a board of people at the government, an unelected board, appointed board, who are going to decide what kind of treatment you ought to have.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: No, it isn’t.
MITT ROMNEY: In my opinion, the government is not effective in—in bringing down the cost of almost anything. As a matter of fact, free people and free enterprises trying to find ways to do things better are able to be more effective in bringing down the costs 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 healthcare providers. I was astonished at the creativity and innovation that exists in the American people. In order to bring the cost of healthcare down, we don’t need to have an—a board of 15 people telling us what kinds of treatments we should have. We instead need to put insurance plans, providers, hospitals, doctors on targets such that they have an incentive, as you say, performance pay, for doing an excellent job, for keeping costs down, and that’s happening. Intermountain Healthcare does it superbly well.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: They do.
MITT ROMNEY: Mayo Clinic is doing it superbly well—Cleveland Clinic, others. But the right answer is not to have the federal government take over healthcare and start mandating to the providers across America, telling a patient and a doctor what kind of treatment they can have. That’s the wrong way to go. The private market and individual responsibility always work best.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Let me just point out, first of all, this board that we’re talking about can’t make decisions 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 cover people with pre-existing conditions. Well, actually, Governor, that isn’t what your plan does. What your 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 getting continuous coverage, and an insurance company can’t deny you if you’ve—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 pre-existing conditions.
There is a reason why Governor Romney set up the plan that he did in Massachusetts. It wasn’t a government takeover of healthcare; 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 that you’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 in Massachusetts was because there isn’t a better way of dealing with the pre-existing conditions problem, it just reminds me of—you know, 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 replace Dodd-Frank, Wall Street reform. But we don’t know exactly which ones. He won’t tell us. He now says he’s going to replace "Obamacare" and assure that all the good things that are in it are going to be 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 Governor Romney is keeping all these plans to replace secret because they’re too good? Is it because that somehow 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 pre-existing conditions, then—you know, these are tough problems, and we’ve got to make choices. And the choices we’ve made have been ones that ultimately are benefiting middle-class families all across the country.
JIM LEHRER: All right, we’re going to move to a—
MITT ROMNEY: No, I have to respond to that—
JIM LEHRER: No, but —
MITT ROMNEY: —which is—which is, my experience as a governor is, if I come in and—and lay down a piece of legislation and say it’s my way or the highway, I don’t get a lot done. What I do is the same way that Tip 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 he was 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’m going to work together with Congress to say, OK, what are the various ways we could bring down deductions, for instance? One way, for instance, would be to have a single number. Make up a number—25,000, $50,000. Anybody can 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 make differences that way. There are alternatives to accomplish the objective I have, which is to bring down rates, broaden the base, simplify the code and create incentives for growth.
And with regards to healthcare, you had remarkable details with regards to my pre-existing condition plan. You obviously studied up on—on my plan. In fact, I do have a plan that deals with people with pre-existing conditions. That’s part of my healthcare plan. And what we did in Massachusetts is a model for the nation, state by state. And I said that at that time. The federal government taking over healthcare for the entire nation and whisking aside the 10th Amendment, which gives states the rights for these kinds of things, is not the course for America to have a stronger, more vibrant economy.
AMY GOODMAN: This is a more open-ended discussion about healthcare with Jill Stein and Rocky Anderson. Dr. Jill Stein, why don’t you begin?
DR. JILL STEIN: Yeah, so first I just want to reiterate, in answer to that discussion, that the Affordable Care Act in Massachusetts has not brought down premiums. It has not reduced the rate of healthcare inflation. And that’s one of the very critical reasons why we do need to move to a Medicare-for-all system. And to just reiterate, that under the current privatized health insurance system, we’re spending—30 percent of every healthcare dollar is not going to healthcare; it’s going to paper pushing and bureaucracy and red tape. Under a Medicare-for-all system, that 30 percent of bureaucracy shrinks down to just 2 or 3 percent. That’s how come it doesn’t cost us anything more to actually cover everyone and to cover everyone comprehensively. And something else kicks in, which is that under a private system you have this massive medical inflation, so the price of healthcare goes up much faster than inflation in the general economy. But under Medicare for all, that inflation goes away, so that is what actually saves us trillions of dollars over the coming decade.
But I want to just quickly introduce one other idea, which is that we not only need to change the insurance system, we need to fundamentally change the focus of healthcare, because right now we have a sick care system, not a healthcare system. We need to actually address the drivers of chronic disease in our communities. Seventy-five percent of our healthcare dollars, and that’s $2.2 trillion a year if you add up private, out-of-pocket, business and government expenses—it’s a huge amount of money, $2.2 trillion—and it turns out 75 percent of those dollars are actually being spent on the treatment of chronic diseases that are preventable at a tiny fraction of the cost.
How do we deal with that upstream? Basically by creating an infrastructure for health by creating healthy communities. That means a healthy, local, sustainable food supply, not this agribusiness, refined corn, soy, high-calorie, nutrient-poor food. Instead, you have a nutrient-rich, local, organic food supply with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, like what your mother always told you. It means having an active transportation system that would double—that would dovetail with transportation through a public transportation system. This is what we’re calling for through the Green New Deal, that would create that relocalized, healthy, resilient food system, as well as creating a public transit system, including active transportation—bike paths, walking and so on—as well as pollution prevention. And that’s what the green economy does in getting us off of fossil fuels and dangerous nuclear power.
So, the Green New Deal turns out to provide not only for jobs for jumpstarting the economy, getting us off of dirty energy and making wars for oil obsolete; it also provides the basics of a healthcare system that can decompress this $2.2 trillion that we’re spending every year, because we’ve got—if we’ve got health integrated into our communities, we can bring down 75 percent of that cost of healthcare. That’s how you get to real prevention and cost savings in our health system.
AMY GOODMAN: Rocky Anderson.
ROCKY ANDERSON: There has been such a massive campaign of misinformation around the single-payer, Medicare-for-all proposal. But even with that campaign, the vast majority of people have supported this kind of a medical system because of the tremendous successes these systems have seen all around the world.
One of the things that we hear from people is, "Oh, you’re talking about socialized medicine." It’s not socialized medicine. If you’re socializing anything, it’s the insurance. Who’s going to pay for it? Is it a company that spends millions upon millions of dollars every year with advertising and paying people that review claims so that they can try to deny them and jack everybody around? Is it the expense for the CEOs, the salespeople? You cut all of that out with a single payer, the government. And Jill is right. The experience has been that most countries that have single-payer system pay about 3 to 5 percent in administrative costs, rather than upwards of 15, 20, even more, percent on administrative costs.
So in terms of coverage, in terms of quality, in terms of the medical results, the cost control and the choice—because you do get to choose your own medical provider under a single-payer system—these systems excel far beyond what we have in this country, whether it’s our present system or once "Obamacare" is fully implemented. We all need to demand better of our elected officials, or we’re never going to see this, because of the corrupting influence of so much money coming from the pharmaceutical and the for-profit insurance companies.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!'s special coverage, "Expanding the Debate," of the presidential debate, the first. It's being held at the University of Denver. We are not far. We’re going to go back to the debate moderator, Jim Lehrer.
JIM LEHRER: ... the role of government. And let’s see, role of government, and it is—you are first on this, Mr. President. 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 how you view the mission of the federal government?
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Well, I definitely think there are differences.
JIM LEHRER: And do you—yeah.
PRESIDENT 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 on and 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 to help open up opportunity and create ladders of opportunity and to create frameworks where the American people can succeed. Look, the genius of America is the free enterprise system and freedom and the fact that people can go out there and start a business, work on an idea, make their own decisions. But, as Abraham Lincoln 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 transcontinental railroad, let’s start the National Academy of Sciences, let’s start land-grant colleges, because we want to give these gateways of opportunity for all Americans, because if all Americans are getting opportunity, 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 to education, what I’ve said is we’ve got to reform schools that are not working. We use something called Race to the Top. Wasn’t a top-down approach, Governor. What we’ve said is, to states, we’ll give you more money if you initiate reforms. And as a consequence, you had 46 states around the country 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 we maintain our technological lead and our people are skilled and able to succeed. And hard-pressed states right now can’t all do that. In fact, we’ve seen layoffs of hundreds of thousands of teachers over the last several years. And Governor Romney doesn’t think we need more teachers. I do, because I think that that is the kind of investment where the federal government can help. It can’t do it all, but it can make a difference. 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 number one of all 50 states. And the key to great schools: great teachers. So, I reject the idea that I don’t believe in great teachers or more teachers. Every school district, every state should make that decision 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, and that means a military second to none. I do not believe in cutting our military. I believe in maintaining the strength of America’s military.
Second, in that line that says we are endowed by our creator with our rights, I believe we must maintain 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 as we choose. I interpret that as, one, making sure that those people who are less fortunate and can’t care for themselves are cared by—by one another. We’re a nation that believes that we’re all children of the same god, and we care for those that have difficulties, those that are elderly and have problems and challenges, those that are disabled. We care for them. And we—we look for discovery and innovation, all these things desired out of the American 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 have the government substitute itself for the rights of free individuals. And what we’re seeing right now is, in my view, a—a trickle-down government approach, which has government thinking it can do a better 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 one out 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 percent 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.
AMY GOODMAN: Rocky Anderson?
ROCKY ANDERSON: Certainly, our government is supposed to keep us safe, but, more and more, United States citizens are worried about being safe from our government. Our government is spying on us. Even when there was illegal spying under the Bush administration, what did the next president, President Obama, do? He said, "Oh, let’s not worry about those who violated federal laws when they spied on American citizens. Let’s just move forward and not look backwards." No accountability for a certain class of people. No sense of the rule of law controlling. No sense that we have a one-tiered system of justice. The PATRIOT Act needs to be repealed. We need to follow due process. We have a president who’s targeting U.S. citizens for assassination. Where’s the due process in that—
AMY GOODMAN: Jill Stein?
ROCKY ANDERSON: —or indefinite detention?
DR. JILL STEIN: Yes. So, we certainly do need to hold government accountable. And as Rocky is pointing out, the attack on our civil liberties has been devastating under the Obama White House, which basically codified the violations of George Bush, the attacks on our privacy rights, on First Amendment rights, the criminalization of the right to protest, the National Defense Authorization Act, in which the president has claimed the right to incarcerate us, basically, without charge or trial, and to do that at his pleasure without having to justify that in any way. So, yes, there are very serious problems. Things are not working under Democrats, under Republicans alike. We need a government that’s of, by and for the people, not sponsored and working for big money on Wall Street.
AMY GOODMAN: Moderator Jim Lehrer.
JIM LEHRER: Let’s go through some specifics in terms of what—how each of you views the role of government. How do—education. Does the federal government have a responsibility to improve the quality of public education in America?
MITT ROMNEY: Well, the primary responsibility for education is, of course, at the state and local level. But the federal government also can play a very important role. And I—and I agree with Secretary Arne Duncan, his—some ideas he’s put forward on Race to the Top. Not all of them, but some of them, I agree with, and congratulate him for pursuing that. The federal government can get local and 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 are getting federal dollars from IDEA or Title I—these are disabled kids or—or poor kids or—or lower-income kids, rather. I want them to be able to go to the school of their choice. So all federal funds, instead of going to the—to the state or to the school district, I’d have go—if you will, follow the child and let the parent and the child decide where to send their—their student.
JIM LEHRER: How do you see the federal government’s responsibility to—as I say, to improve the quality of public education in this country?
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Well, as I’ve indicated, I think that it has a significant role to play. Through our Race to the Top program, we’ve worked with Republican and Democratic governors to initiate major 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 Romney on—about education and the federal government?
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: You know, this is where budgets matter, because budgets reflect choices. So, when Governor 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 makes a difference.
You know, his running mate, Congressman Ryan, put forward a budget that reflects many of the principles that Governor Romney has talked about. And it wasn’t very detailed. This seems to be a trend. But—but what it did do is to—if you extrapolated how much money we’re talking about, you’d look at cutting the education budget by up to 20 percent.
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 things I suspect Governor Romney and I probably agree on is getting businesses to work with community colleges so that they’re setting up their training programs—
JIM LEHRER: Do you agree, Governor?
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Let—let me just finish the point.
MITT ROMNEY: Oh, sure. Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I suspect it’ll be a small agreement.
MITT ROMNEY: It’s going very well in my state, by the way, yeah.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The—where they’re partnering so that—they’re designing training programs, and people who are going through them know that there’s a job waiting for them if they complete it.
JIM LEHRER: OK.
PRESIDENT 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 to banks and lenders as middle men for the student loan program, even though the loans were guaranteed. So there was no risk for the banks or the lenders, but they were taking billions out of the system. And we said, why not cut out the middle man? And as a consequence, what we’ve been able to do is to 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 genuinely believe, cares about education. But when he tells a student that, you know, you should borrow money from your parents to go to college, you know, that indicates the degree to which, you know, there may not be as much of a focus on the fact that folks like myself, folks like Michelle, kids probably who attend University of Denver just 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 that door, that is vitally important—not just to those kids. It’s how we’re going to grow this economy over the long term.
JIM LEHRER: We’re running out of time, gentlemen.
MITT ROMNEY: Jim, Jim—
JIM LEHRER: So, to give you a chance to respond to that, yes, sir, Governor.
MITT ROMNEY: Mr. President, you’re entitled, as a president, to your own airplane and to your own house, but not to your own facts, all right? I’m not going to cut education funding. I don’t have any plan to cut education funding and grants that go to people going to college. I’m planning on continuing to grow, so I’m not planning on making changes there.
But you make a very good point, which is that the—the place you put your money makes a pretty clear indication of where your heart is. You put $90 billion into—into green jobs. And I—look, I’m all in favor of green energy. Ninety billion, that would have—that would have hired two million teachers, $90 billion. And these businesses, many of them have gone out of business, I think about half of them, of the ones that have been invested in. They’ve gone out of business. A number of them happened to be owned by—by people who were contributors to your campaigns.
Look, the right course for—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 health treatment they can receive, taking over the healthcare system that has existed in this country for—for a long, 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 more efficient and more effective? How do we get schools to be more competitive? Let’s grade them. I propose we grade our schools, so parents know which schools are succeeding and failing, so they can take their child to a—to a school that’s being more successful. I don’t—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. Massachusetts schools are ranked number one in the nation. This is not because I didn’t have commitment to education. It’s because I care about education for all of our kids.
AMY GOODMAN: Rocky Anderson, the role of the federal government in education?
ROCKY ANDERSON: Well, of course, the federal government has an enormous role in education, because the future of this country, whether we’re going to regain our global competitive edge, depends upon the quality of education in this country. But it doesn’t mean the federal government should be dictating these failed programs that require teachers to teach to the test. It requires that we provide decent funding; that we cut class sizes; that we pay teachers well enough; that we develop a rich curriculum where students can really learn; and we increase the capacity of our students in the sciences, in math, in their reading skills, because we are falling behind in this country globally, and we need to pick it up.
AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Jill Stein?
DR. JILL STEIN: Yes, I would agree with that, that Race to the Top is really a scam, a privatization scam that allows schools to be declared, you know, illegitimate and basically closed and turned over to private charters. High-stakes testing has not been shown—in fact, it’s extremely counterproductive. It flies in the face of everything that we know about the science of education. And likewise, demonizing our teachers is exactly the wrong thing.
To teach a child, it actually takes a village. Poverty is the problem here. They’ve been trying to distract from that. We need kids that are—that are well housed, that come from families that have jobs, which are well nourished, and that come to school ready to learn and to whom school is basically a teaching to the whole student for lifetime learning, not to the test. Finland is the example of a—the best school system, really, throughout the world. They do not use a single high-stakes test.
AMY GOODMAN: Moderator Jim Lehrer.
JIM LEHRER: And so I want to ask finally here—and remember, we’ve got three minutes total time here. And the question is this: many of the legislative functions of the federal government right now are in a state of paralysis as a result of partisan gridlock. If elected, in your case—if re-elected, 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 being elected in a state where my legislature was 87 percent Democrat, and that meant I figured out, from day one, 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. We—
JIM LEHRER: What would you do as president?
MITT ROMNEY: As president, I will sit down on day one—actually, a day after I get elected, I’ll sit down with leaders—the Democratic leaders as well as Republican leaders—and continue—as we did in my state. We met every Monday for a couple hours, talked about the issues and the challenges in the—in our state, in that case. We have to work on a collaborative basis, not because we’re going to compromise our principle, but because 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 in Washington that will actually bring people together and get the job done and could not care less if it’s a Republican or a Democrat. I’ve done it before. I’ll do it again.
JIM LEHRER: Mr. President?
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Well, first of all, I think Governor Romney’s going to have a busy first day, because he’s also going to repeal "Obamacare," which will not be very popular among Democrats as you’re sitting down with them.
But, look, my philosophy has been, I will take ideas from anybody, Democrat or Republican, as long as they’re advancing the cause of making middle-class families stronger and giving ladders of opportunity into the middle class. That’s how we cut taxes for middle-class families and small businesses. That’s how we cut a trillion dollars of spending that wasn’t advancing that cause. That’s how we signed three trade deals into law that are helping us to double our exports and sell more American products around the world. That’s how we 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 the war in Afghanistan. That’s how we went after al-Qaeda and bin Laden. So we’ve—we’ve seen progress, even under Republican control of the House or Representatives.
But ultimately, part of being principled, part of being a leader, is, A, being able to describe exactly what 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—to folks both in your own party and in the other party. And, you know, yes, have we had some fights between me and the Republicans when they fought back against us, reining in the excesses of Wall Street? Absolutely, because that was a fight that needed to be had. When—when we were fighting about whether or not we were going to make sure that Americans had more security with their health insurance and they said no, yes, that was a fight that we needed to have. 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 it comes to his own party during the course of this campaign, has not displayed that willingness to say no to some of the more extreme parts of his party.
AMY GOODMAN: Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein.
DR. JILL STEIN: So, I’ll just say that bipartisan collaboration is not necessarily a good thing, when they’re collaborating to send more people and trillions of dollars overseas for more wars for oil, more tax breaks for the wealthy and more bailouts for Wall Street. What we need is fundamental change.
And as president, I would be not simply a commander-in-chief, but an organizer-in-chief who would actually inform and empower everyday citizens to be in charge of ensuring that the proper bills get passed, like what we saw happen with the SOPA bill, Stop Online Piracy Act. When word got out about what was happening, everyday people got on the phone, got on the email, went to their representatives’ office, and told them, "Stay away from my internet. Don’t you dare censor it." That should be the model for how the congressional agenda works. The president is perfectly situated to be the whistleblower on Congress, so that the American people can be the driver.
AMY GOODMAN: Rocky Anderson.
ROCKY ANDERSON: George Washington feared political parties, because he felt—and we’re seeing exactly this happening today—that people’s loyalties would be to their parties rather than to their nation. And for people just to stay in power and for their parties to fight against each other, it ends up being the case where, both in Congress and the White House, these people fold to the interests that buy their elections, that hire all the expensive lobbyists. The corrupting influence of money in Washington has taken over our government. Everybody knows it, across the political spectrum. That’s why millions of people in the last four years have left the Democratic and Republican parties, and it’s why today there are more people who are unaffiliated or consider themselves independents than consider themselves either Republicans or Democrats.
AMY GOODMAN: Debate moderator Jim Lehrer.
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.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Well, Jim, I want to thank you, and I want to thank Governor Romney, because I think this was a terrific debate, and I very much appreciate it. And I want to thank the University of Denver.
You know, four years ago, we were going through a major crisis. And yet, my faith and confidence in the 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 she wanted to inspire her daughter and now has a job from that new training that she’s gotten, because a company in Minnesota who was willing to give up salaries and perks for their executives to make sure 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 the world, not just because of a paycheck, but because it gives them that sense of pride that they’re helping to build America.
And so, the question now is, how do we build on those strengths? And everything that I’ve tried to do and everything that I’m now proposing for the next four years, in terms of improving our education system or developing American energy or making sure that we’re closing loopholes for companies that are shipping jobs overseas, and focusing on small businesses and companies that are creating jobs here in the United States, or closing our deficit in a responsible, balanced way that allows us to invest in our future—all those things are designed to make sure that the American people, their genius, their grit, their determination, is—is channeled, and they have an opportunity to succeed, and everybody’s getting a fair shot, and everybody’s getting a fair share—everybody’s doing a fair share, and everybody’s playing 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’d fight every single day on behalf of the American people and the middle class and all those who were striving 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 second term.
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 a—this is an important election, and I’m concerned about America. I’m concerned about the direction America has been taking over the last four years. I—I know this is bigger than election about the two of us as individuals. It’s bigger than our respective parties. It’s an election about the course of America. What kind of America do you want to have for yourself and for your children?
And there really are two very different paths that we began speaking about this evening. And over the course of this month, we’re going to have two more presidential debates and a vice-presidential debate. 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 can look at the record.
There’s no question in my mind that if the president were to be re-elected, you’ll continue to see a middle-class squeeze, with incomes going down and prices going up. I’ll get incomes up again. You’ll see chronic unemployment. We’ve had 43 straight months with unemployment above 8 percent. If I’m president, I will create—help create 12 million new jobs in this country with rising incomes.
If the president’s re-elected, "Obamacare" will be fully installed. In my view, that’s going to mean a whole different way of life for people who counted on the insurance plan they had in the past. Many will 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 place in my own state and allow each state to craft their own programs to get people insured, and we’ll focus on getting the cost of healthcare down.
If the president were to be re-elected, you’re going to see a $716 billion cut to Medicare. You’ll have four million people who will lose Medicare Advantage. You’ll have hospitals and providers that will no longer accept Medicare patients. I’ll restore that $716 billion to Medicare.
And finally, military. If the president’s re-elected, you’ll see dramatic cuts to our military. The secretary of defense has said these would be even devastating. I will not cut our commitment to our military. I will keep America strong and get America’s middle class working again.
AMY GOODMAN: We continue now with final statements. First, Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein.
DR. JILL STEIN: We clearly are in a crisis now. People are losing their jobs, their homes, decent wages, affordable healthcare and higher education. Our civil liberties are under attack, and the climate is in meltdown. Yet the wealthy few are making out better than ever, making out like bandits, richer than ever, while the political establishment, who got us into this mess to start with, actually is making it worse. Both Democrats and Republicans are making it worse, imposing austerity on the everyday people of this country, while they continue to squander trillions on wars for oil, Wall Street bailouts and tax breaks for the wealthy.
The American people are at the breaking point, and we can use this election to turn that breaking point into a tipping point to take back our democracy and the peaceful, just, green future we deserve. We’re at the breaking point not only for people, but for the planet, for the economy and for our democracy. So it’s very important that we have a real change in course. And we can change that course, and my campaign provides a way to do that.
Across the country, we’re on the ballot. For 85 percent of voters, we will be on the ballot. And we will allow you to go to the polls and actually vote for real change, not to give a mandate for four more years of the same by voting for either corporate and Wall Street-sponsored candidates, but instead to stand up for the solutions that we deserve and that the American people are clamoring for and that are within our reach: jobs for everyone, to end unemployment; to transition to a green economy that can put an end to climate change through the Green New Deal; healthcare as a human right for everyone through Medicare for all; public higher education that is free, which pays for itself seven times over, and by ending student debt, bailing out the students, not the banks once again; and downsizing the military, bringing our troops home, cutting back to year 2000 level; and respecting immigrant rights as human rights, and reforming NAFTA and the free trade agreements that created this crisis to start with.
AMY GOODMAN: Rocky Anderson, your final statement?
ROCKY ANDERSON: This race is about our most fundamental values, about who we, the American people, are and who we are becoming. It is about whether we will work together for equality of opportunity, equality under the law, liberty and justice—economic justice, social justice, environmental justice for all—or whether we will, in the face of gross inequalities of opportunity, simply leave everybody to fend for themselves, as in a bad Ayn Rand novel or a Mitt Romney speech.
This race is also about whether our nation will continue down the road toward totalitarianism with an imperial presidency that has been made so much worse under both the Bush and the Obama administrations, which have shown such utter contempt for the rule of law, due process and the restrictions under the War Powers Clause of the United State Constitution.
We must say no to any more assassinations of U.S. citizens. We must say no to indefinite detention without any semblance of due process, and to the continued drone killings that have made our nation so much less secure. So, let your voices be heard loudly from the voting booth, as you are guided by your most deeply held values.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, that concludes Democracy Now!'s special broadcast, "Expanding the Debate." As President Obama and Mitt Romney took to the stage for their first debate, we expanded tonight's debate by including live answers from two candidates shut out by the major two political parties: the Green Party’s Jill Stein and the Justice Party’s Rocky Anderson. Tomorrow, we will play highlights from our special broadcast on our daily Democracy Now!
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