Tuesday's debate at Hofstra University provided voters with more information about each candidate's positions. The forum of the debate was open - ended with the candidates fielding questions from the audience in a Town Hall format. This second presidential debate was moderated by Candy Crowley, CNN's Chief Political Correspondent.
The questioning opened with Governor Romney being asked about how a young college student could get a job after college.
Romney responded by indicating the importance of affordability of college and indicated that by 2014 you'll get a job out of college even though half of the graduates don't have jobs now. In addition, he explained how the top quarter of the high school class received scholarships in Massachusetts. He explained that he would bring back this economy.
Romney pointed out about chronic unemployment of people out of work 6 months or more and 23 million people out of work. Romney stated that the real unemployment is 10.8% when you count people who've given up looking for work. He explained that Detroit came out stronger after bankruptcy and that the bankruptcy procedure itself helps to get people back on their feet. (Generally, this procedure is refereed by a federal judge.)
President Obama explained that the future would be bright with good paying jobs. Obama indicated that manufacturing jobs would be built up by exporting to new markets. He indicated that everyone should have a college education. Obama stressed the importance of controlling our energy supply with new sources like solar, wind, bio-fuels. In addition, the rich would be asked to pay for rebuilding America.
Obama criticized Romney because the top don't play by the same rules. They ship jobs overseas and lay off workers.
Another question addressed whether or not it was the job of the Energy Department to get lower gas prices.
Obama stated that there is more oil, natural gas and coal production today. Fuel efficiency was on target to be doubled. New areas would be opened for drilling. The USA has 100 years of natural gas reserves or more. Obama stressed that energy efficiency was needed too. He criticized the lack of a clean energy policy by Romney.
Obama indicated that demand for energy is up so the price increase is a natural outgrowth of that. He indicated that we opened public lands and encouraged natural gas exploration and increased investments in clean coal. Obama indicated that oil and natural gas production is up. He criticized unused leases by oil companies. Obama indicated that you either drill on public lands or lose the lease.
Obama explained that it's hard to bring down gas prices in a messy economy. He stated that we have enough pipeline mileage to circle the earth. In addition, good manufacturing jobs were to be had in wind technologies.
Romney indicated that there was virtually no oil production on federal land. He criticized Obama for limiting oil licenses. In addition, the Administration took actions to penalize the huge Bakken energy exploration efforts. Romney would use oil, gas, coal, wind and solar energy technologies to the fullest. He pointed to a coal worker who came up to him and asked that his job be saved.
Romney would like the USA to become energy independent within 8 years. He believes manufacturing will come back when there is more drilling, licensing and greater building and utilization of pipelines. He criticized a $4 gallon of gas. He criticized this Administration for cutting permits on federal land in half over the last 4 years. Romney stated that energy production on government land is down by 9%. Coal production is down and 1200 people or more have lost jobs.
Gas went from $1.86 a gallon to over $4. in the last 4 years. Romney would bring oil from Canada. He challenged Obama by stating that if your policy is working - why are oil prices up? Romney believed that there were good energy jobs in places like Iowa that would yield over 3 million new jobs.
Another question dealt with cutting tax rates and tax brackets. Specific deductions were cited like mortgages, charitable, child tax credits, education credits etc. Would any of these be cut?
Romney stated that rates would go down along with middle income taxes. He criticized the current Administration for the middle class having $4300 less in income, $2500 more out of pocket health care expenses and higher food prices. Romney would bring rates down and limit deductions only for upper class. He stated twice that the top 5% would pay 60% of the taxes.
Romney stated that middle income people would no longer be taxed on savings bank or mutual fund investments if you are under $200 thousand in income. He stated that he's not reducing taxes for the wealthy. Romney criticized the Administration's taxing and borrowing which resulted in $4300 increased taxes. Romney wants to bring rates down especially for 54% who are small business people who hire people. He criticized unemployment as being over 8% and called for energy independence, increased trade with South America, a balanced budget, small business expansion and getting tough on China on trade and other issues.
Romney indicated that he ran business for 25 years and ran Massachusetts as the governor. He criticized $5 trillion in increased deficits over the last 4 years. He fears a doubling of debt so that the USA is on a similar road as Greece. Romney would hold down deductions for the rich.
Obama indicated that middle classes received a $3600 reduction in tax relief. Taxes on small business went down 18 times. He explained that there were tough spending cuts. The first $250 thousand in income would see no changes. 97% of small business saw no changes. Further tax relief was held hostage by Congress to get more tax relief for the rich. Obama indicated that your tax credit grows the economy. Tax cuts to everyone is the primary concern.
Obama indicated that the cost of lowering rates too far and eliminating estate taxes cost $5 trillion dollars. He criticized Romney for wanting to increase the military with over $2 trillion in spending they're not asking for. Obama challenged Romney to get specific on which deductions and loopholes would be closed and how tax cuts would be paid for. He worries that the deficit would blow up. Obama would close deductions for the wealthy.
Another question asked about pay equity for women.
Obama indicated that this was fixed legislatively with the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. He understood that women are breadwinners. They have young people in college. Obama expanded Pell Grants by taking $60 billion from banks and giving the money to students and cutting out the middlemen.
Obama criticized Romney for having politicians decide womens' issues. He criticized employers for deciding on contraception issues. Obama criticized Romney for wanting to get rid of Planned Parenthood. He felt that these issues impact whether or not women can work. In addition, child care issues are womens' issues. " I have two daughters and I want good opportunities for them."
Romney affirmed pay equity and indicated how his governorship actually sought out and hired more women in the cabinet. He cited a University of Albany study which affirmed more women in his administration than anyone. Romney called for flexible scheduling. Romney explained how over 580 thousand more jobs were lost in the last 4 years. He stated that we need a stronger economy and that 7.8% unemployment is not good. Also, 50% of college grads have no job.
Another question requested that Governor Romney distinguish himself from President Bush.
Romney indicated that the times are different. We don't have to go to Arabs now. ( for oil) I'd get tougher with China on trade and increase trade with South America. He admitted that Bush deficits went up but Obama deficits went up further. Romney came up through small business ranks. He wants taxes cut on small business. Obamacare keeps small business from hiring. Romney wants small business to grow.
Obama stated that he inherited an 830 thousand jobs loss a month. Obama took credit for 5.2 million new jobs. He criticized Romney tax cuts and stated that they would take us to deficits. Obama criticized Romney for investing in Chinese surveillance companies. He stated that we brought twice the cases against China for unfair trade and that China is flooding the USA with cheap tires. Obama embraced Bush for embracing immigration reform. Obama would not eliminate fundng for Planned Parenthood.
Another question asked President Obama why he should vote for him this election as he did in 2008.
Obama cited middle class tax cuts, ending the Iraq War, decimating Al Qaeda, health care reform, reigning in Wall Street and 5 million new jobs. Obama claims credit for saving the auto industry. Obama would use the savings from ending the wars to put people back to work. He stated that we'll get it done in a second term. Obama will not cut taxes for the rich and will fund Planned Parenthood in contradistinction to Romney.
Romney admitted that the last 4 years weren't good. If you elect Obama, there will be a repeat of the last 4 years. He promised a 5.4% unemployment and we're not there. There is no reform of Medicare. There's no reform of immigration or deficit reduction. A $2500. decrease in health insurance premiums was promised and premiums are up that amount. The middle class is crushed. Romney will create 5 million new jobs. One out of six people are in poverty. People on food stamps went from 32 million to 47 million. Romney indicated that Reagan had 10.8% unemployment but created twice the new jobs. Romney criticized the thousands of people who've simply dropped from the workforce entirely. The deficit wasn't cut but increased and there is no plan to preserve social security. In addition, median incomes have dropped significantly.
Another question asked about immigrants without green cards.
Romney stated that this is a nation of immigrants and that the law should work better for them. He would give a green card for skills. Romney wants to stop illegals from cutting the line in front of people who are legally waiting their turn. Romney does not want to give illegals driver's licenses. Romney wants the children of illegals to have a legal path to immigration in areas like military service. Romney wants an immigration model for employers and he doesn't support all of the Arizona law. He would not round up people. Romney digressed and explained that his investments are in a blind trust. He stated that Obama has investments in the Caymen Islands out of the USA.
Obama indicated that we are a nation of immigrants and that there should be a path to legal immigration. There should be greater border control. Obama would not go after students. Young people brought here illegally should have a path to citizenship. Obama criticized Romney for wanting a veto of the Dream Act and for supporting the Arizona law. Obama wants to fix the system in a big way. America is still the land of promise.
Another question asked about why the State Department didn't request more security for the diplomats. The moderator questioned about why it took two weeks for the riot to come out.
Obama indicated that security would be beefed up. The terror incidents would be investigated and the people responsible would be brought to justice and held accountable. We will find out what happened. He stated that he was in the White House Rose Garden and greeted the caskets of those who died in the terror attack.
Romney stated that many days passed before the attacks were labelled as a terror attack. Why didn't we know 5 days later? He indicated that a day afteer the terror attacks, Obama flew to Las Vegas. He stated that in 4 years since '08, Iran is closer to a bomb and Syrian policy is more significant to us now.
Another question addressed how to keep AK 47 guns out of the hands of lawbreakers. The conversation then lead back into other areas.
Obama affirmed a long tradition of hunting and sportsman with guns. He cited the Aurora incident and wants weapons for soldiers off the streets. Obama was for the assault weapon ban before Romney was against it. Obama would retrain workers for jobs that are there now.
Obama called for a lower tax rate and closing loopholes to profit offshore. He criticized Romney for wanting to create jobs in places like India and China. Obama wants to double exports and better deals for Americans on foreign trade. He stated that our currency went up because we got tough on China.
Obama indicated that the low wage jobs aren't coming back. In addition, we need to make new investments in manufacturing technologies. In addition, we need more engineers in order to lead the world economy.
Romney doesn't want new legislation. He wants to enforce gun laws on the books already. Romney indicated the importance of having two parents in the home. He criticized AK 47 guns given to criminals. Romney stated that in Massachusetts both proponents and anti-gun people came together to sign a gun bill. There were good hunting opportunities in Massachusetts. There is gridlock now in Washington on this issue.
Romney stated that there are no plans by this Administration to keep jobs here. Now, China is first in the world in manufacturing. We made it less attractive for employers to stay here. We don't need trickle down government. America needs to be the most attractive place for people to come here.
Romney criticized China for keeping their currency low and therefore their prices low. On Day 1, I will label China a currency manipulator. Romney indicated that Canadian taxes on businesses are 15% as opposed to 35% here. He criticized Obamacare as a deterrent for business growth and expansion. In addition, unemployment is high. Romney would like America to be the best place to do business.
Another question asked that the candidates clear up misconceptions about themselves.
Romney indicated that he cares for people and for kids. He was a minister in the Mormon Church. We were number one in education in the nation in Massachusetts. We don't have to settle for high unemployment, 50% of college grads with no work and 23 million people out of work. Social programs need to be reformed. As the governor of Massachusetts, we got it done.
Obama stated that he was for free enterprise, self enterprise and that everyone deserves a fair shot. We differ in the approach to how we would build the middle class. He criticized Romney's remark about 47% of the country considering themselves as victims and named students, soldiers overseas and the working poor. Obama would give more opportunities to the next generation.
The debate closed with both candidates agreeing on either closing loopholes for the wealthy or not giving tax cuts to them. Obama claimed ' credit for creating 5 million new jobs and Romney cited 2014 as the date for college grads to secure jobs.
Romney cited 3 million new jobs in energy alone in places like Iowa. Neither candidate answered the question posed in the last debate regarding the date for getting the current unemployment rate under 6%.
Just after the '08 crash, Warren Buffet alluded to the 2013-2014 time frame as the period for the current housing inventories to clear with a recovery in the housing sector within sight. That assessment seems to be coming to fruition right now.
Jobs creation and unemployment are both impacted by the steady increase in the population of the United States. Well over a million new people are added to the existing population each year according to current trends since before the year 2000.
Neither candidate addressed population increases in attempting to articulate what a full employment economy would look like. On the other hand, increased population also implies the need for new products and services which leads to stimulating demand and more robust economic activity.
The general public has a lot more information from the candidates. During the closing weeks, a significant amount of fact checking will occur. New questions can be posed for the next and final presidential debate of this election season. The candidates did well overall in conveying their positions on the issues; however, there are differences in the approaches as noted above.