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Expanding the Debate Exclusive: Third-Party Candidates Break the Sound Barrier as Obama-Romney Spar

StoryOctober 04, 2012
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As President Obama and Mitt Romney squared off for the first time on Wednesday night, Democracy Now! broke the sound barrier by pausing after Obama’s and Romney’s answers to get real-time responses from candidates Jill Stein of the Green Party and Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party. Stein and Anderson joined Democracy Now! for a live special just miles away from the Obama-Romney contest at the University of Denver. Many Obama supporters have expressed surprise that Romney was able to put the president on the defensive, while Obama failed to mention several of Romney’s potential weak spots, including including his record at the private equity firm Bain Capital, his vast personal wealth and offshore investments, and his recent remark that 47 percent of Americans are government dependents. Today, highlights from our “Expanding the Debate” special with the voices of all four candidates, showcasing the broadened perspectives on the critical issues beyond the Democratic-Republican political spectrum. [includes rush transcript]

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: With less than five weeks before the general election, President Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney squared off in their first presidential debate Wednesday in Denver, Colorado. For 90 minutes, the candidates faced off over taxes, unemployment, economic regulations, Social Security, healthcare, education, partisan gridlock and other domestic issues.

Romney repeatedly attacked Obama’s record, often putting the president on the defensive. Many supporters of President Obama have expressed surprise that he never mentioned several of Romney’s potential weak spots, including his record at the private equity firm Bain Capital, his vast personal wealth and offshore investments, and his recent remark that 47 percent of Americans are government dependents. Some domestic issues went virtually unmentioned in Wednesday night’s debate, including immigration policy, global warming, gun control, incarceration rates and poverty.

In addition, some key voices were shut out the conversation, including those of third-party presidential candidates. Well, as Obama and Romney were facing off at the University of Denver Wednesday night, Democracy Now! was just miles away airing a special three-hour broadcast expanding the debate. We broke the sound barrier by pausing after President Obama’s and Romney’s answers to get real-time responses from Jill Stein of the Green Party and Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party. Dr. Stein is a physician from Massachusetts. Rocky Anderson is former mayor of Salt Lake City. We also invited Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, but he declined to join us. Today we bring you highlights from our Expanding the Debate special. We begin with debate moderator Jim Lehrer.

JIM LEHRER: 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: 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: 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: Third-party presidential candidates Rocky Anderson and Dr. Jill Stein joining in real time, through Democracy Now!’s special Expanding the Debate broadcast, with Mitt Romney and President Obama as they debated at the University of Denver here in Colorado. Back with the debate in a minute.


AMY GOODMAN: We’re on the road in Denver, Colorado, as we continue our special coverage of the first presidential debate, “Expanding the Debate: This Is What Democracy Sounds Like.” As President Obama and Mitt Romney squared off in Denver Wednesday, we broke the sound barrier by expanding the debate to include two other presidential candidates in real time: the Green Party’s Jill Stein and the Justice Party’s Rocky Anderson. We turn now to Social Security. During the official debate, moderator Jim Lehrer asked Obama and Romney if there were any differences in their views on Social Security. This is President Obama.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: 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: 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: Green Party presidential candidate, Dr. Jill Stein, and Justice Party’s Rocky Anderson, as they participated in the presidential debate last night in real time, at real podiums, albeit in a different place: on Democracy Now!'s special broadcast, Expanding the Debate. We'll be back with this debate in a moment.


AMY GOODMAN: We’re on the road on a 100-city tour in Denver, as we continue our special coverage of the first presidential debate. Last night we aired the Obama-Romney debate, pausing after questions to include responses 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. During the official debate, moderator Jim Lehrer asked President Obama and Mitt Romney if there’s a fundamental difference between how they view the mission of the federal government. This is President Obama.

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: 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: The Justice Party’s presidential candidate Rocky Anderson and Green Party candidate Dr. Jill Stein, as they participated in the presidential debate last night in real time at real podiums, albeit outside the gates of the official debate, on Democracy Now!’s special broadcast “Expanding the Debate.” To see our whole hourspecial”>three-hour broadcast, go to our website, democracynow.org, and to get a copy, as well. “This Is What Democracy Sounds Like.”

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