On Thursday, Vice President Joseph Biden debated Rep. Paul Ryan at Center College in Danville, Kentucky. Martha Raddatz of ABC moderated the debate and posed a number of very important questions for each candidate to answer.
The first question involved the killing of Ambassador Stevens, the pre-planned
nature of the attack and whether or not intelligence worked the way it should have. Vice President Biden stressed that the people responsible would be found and brought to justice. Biden decried the Ryan cuts on embassy security and indicated that Thomas Pickering is investigating security issues in this incident. Biden criticized Russia and China for taking devasting actions with respect to Iran. Rep. Ryan indicated that the administration took several weeks to acknowledge the act as a terrorist attack. In addition, Ryan indicated that our Marines were needed in Benghazi. Ryan stressed that President Obama blames the YouTube video. Ryan pointed out that we knew there were Al Qaeda cells in Libya. Ryan criticized wavering on whether or not to support President Mubarak.
The moderator asked for clear responses on the potential effectiveness of a military strike on Iran. Ryan stressed that Iran should not be allowed to get nuclear weapons. He stated that the Ayatollahs need to change their minds. He criticized the administration for pursuing less stringent sanctions, even though Iran acted aggressively. Ryan also criticized President Obama for not meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu. He also stated that the Ayatollahs must change their minds to do this peacefully, and that in the past four years, the Iranians have moved closer to developing nuclear weapons. In addition, Ryan worried that the Ayatollahs see equivocation. Specifically, Russia watered down sanctions and the effect was to encourage the Ayatollahs. Biden indicated that the sanctions were crippling and dismissed the question of going to war as being in essence classified information. Biden stressed that getting enriched uranium beyond 20 percent was not enough without having a delivery capability. Beyond this, the administration simply will not let Iran get nuclear weapons. Biden pointed to Iran’s weakening economy and currency. He stated that Iran is isolated and that they would not be allowed to get nuclear weapons. In essence, facts matter and we will not let the Iranians acquire nuclear weapons. Lastly, this president doesn’t bluff.
The moderator cited unemployment below eight percent and asked how long it would take before unemployment would drop below six percent.
Biden cited the $1.6 trillion loss from the great recession. He stated that people were helped in saving their homes. Biden decried holding hostage the middle class tax cuts. He called for giving people solace, and remarked that Romney would have allowed the auto industry to go bankrupt. He cited 5.2 million new jobs and a uncooperative Congress preventing the administration from passing more tax cuts. Biden said that the recession came from Ryan voting for two wars and tax cuts for the rich. Biden also pointed out that the administration gave grant money to Ryan’s home state of Wisconsin and that under one percent of stimulus money was fraudulent. Biden explained that Moody’s affirmed that we needed the stimulus.
Ryan stated that unemployment was 8.5 percent in Scranton when President Obama took office, and today it’s at 10 percent. He criticized a 1.3 percent growth in the economy as being not enough. In addition, he stated that many Americans are in poverty. He called for energy independence and deficit reduction. Ryan indicated that Romney would champion small business. He stated that Romney gave 39 percent of his income to charity. Ryan stressed that this administration had control of both houses in 2009. He cited President Obama’s promise of 4 percent growth from implementation of the stimulus. Instead, growth only reached 1.3 percent. Ryan criticized $90 billion in green pork.
The moderator posed a question as to whether or not Medicare or Social Security would be sustainable.
Ryan said he feared that the programs would go bankrupt. He predicted that changes would be needed for people under age 54. He stated that Obamacare takes $716 billion dollars from Medicare to cover Obamacare’s underfunding. He criticized the 15 member review board as being comprised of people with not enough medical training and feared a 24 percent benefit cut. Ryan called for choice and competition with no changes for people 55 or older. He said that 7.4 million people would lose their Medicare Advantage supplemental insurance plans. Ryan would like to take down subsidies for the rich and fix the problems; otherwise seniors will experience cuts to Medicare. He would raise the eligibility age to 70 by 2103. Ryan stated that Social Security should be greater for low income people and less for upper income people. Biden stated that $716 billion will be saved by Medicare simply by not overpaying insurance companies for services. Besides, AARP approved the administration’s plan. In addition, there will be wellness visits without a copay. Biden stated that Social Security should never be privatized. He explained that privatization could have cost medicare recipients dearly in the market crash. Biden praised the fact that Medicare can now bargain for drugs with much greater concentrated purchasing power than previously. He stated that in the 1980s we made the program solvent until 2033. In addition, Biden worried that vouchers could not keep pace with healthcare costs. He also criticized Republicans for wanting to do the least on Social Security. He stated that we won’t jeopardize the Social Security program.
The moderator posed a question about the payment of taxes and how to pay for a tax cut.
Biden criticized holding tax cuts to the middle class hostage. He criticized 120 thousand families getting a half trillion dollars in tax relief over 8 years, despite the fact that they each had over a million dollars in income. He stated that Reagan gave specifics on tax cuts, and that what Ryan proposes has never been done before. At bottom, tax cuts cannot be given to the people making $8 million dollars a year. Ryan indicated that their administration would create 7 million new jobs. He stated that taking 28 percent from small business profits was enough. The Canadians only take 15 percent from small business. He stated that Obama wants a 40 percent tax on small business. Ryan also argued that the deficit should not be raised. He would lower rates and forgo $1.2 trillion in deductions to the rich. Ryan assured the audience that Romney would work with Congress as he did in Massachusetts where 87 percent of the legislature was Democratic. Ryan indicated that 97 percent of small businesses make under $250 thousand dollars a year. He fears overtaxing small business.
The moderator posed a question about cuts to the defense budget and where
the line should be drawn.
Ryan stated that the defense budget shouldn’t be cut by a trillion dollars. The navy will be at its smallest since before World War I. Biden stated that there would be automatic cuts to defense if the military didn’t act. Besides, the Joint Chiefs of Staff made the recommendations on the nature of the automatic cuts.
The moderator asked whether or not the recruitment goal had been reached in
Ryan argued that if the Taliban haven’t come back, the 2014 date for withdrawal would be agreeable. He observed that the job there was short of amazing and that he would take the recommendation of General Petraeus. Ryan would make sure that the commanders have what they need to get the job done. He feared the unraveling of the Obama policy by broadcasting a date to the enemy and emboldening them. Ryan explained that when the snows begin the Taliban would be contained. He cautioned not to pull out before the mission has ended. Ryan doesn’t want to be stuck fighting the counterinsurgency with fewer troops. He decried the fact that we are sending fewer people to the East ( front of the U.S. engagement in Afghanistan). Biden stated that he was in Afghanistan and that Al Qaeda was decimated. He
pointed out that the training of the Afghan army was centralized. Biden believes that we can be out by 2014 and that 49 of our allies agree. He stated that Afghanistan should take care of its own security. In addition, the United States will save $800 billion. Biden admitted that it would take months to draw down our forces. He stressed that we trained the Afghan forces to take over. Biden wants to send more Afghan troops to do the job.
The moderator commented on the large number of people killed in Syria and asked for commentary.
Biden pointed to a huge geographic area with a fifth the population. The biggest
population in Syria is in the most dangerous area. The United States is working
with the Turks, Jordanians and Saudi Arabians on a post Syria plan. Biden felt that 100,000 of our troops would be needed if the situation deteriorated any further and that Romney probably wouldn’t do anything differently. Biden indicated that we don’t go through the UN and that our allies were on the same page as far as getting a settlement. Ryan criticized outsourcing our policy implementation to the United Nations. He fears that countries like Russia would thwart our efforts. Ryan criticized Assad for slaughtering his own people. At bottom, we need a better plan from our allies. If we wait for the UN, more Syrians will die. The United States should not put our troops in unless to secure chemical weapons. He criticized Iran for flying over Iraq to supply the Syrians with weaponry. Ryan supports the embargo and even sanctions.
The moderator asked about the role of religion on questions like abortion.
Ryan explained that he could not separate public from private life. He would like people to have a chance at life. He cited seeing his own first born just 7 weeks into life. Ryan opposes abortion, with rare exceptions, such as rape. He fears infringement on churches who might be required to sue the government. In addition, Ryan fears unelected judges making abortion decisions. Biden indicated that he is a practicing Catholic but he cannot tell women what
to do with their own bodies. He stated that no Catholic hospital is required to pay for contraception and that’s a fact.
The moderator asked for closing arguments.
Biden indicated that there was a sacred obligation not to put people into harm’s way. He challenged the audience to think about whether or not Romney or Obama can restore the middle class. Biden criticized Ryan budgets which cut Medicare and took $450 billion out of education. He criticized increased tax cuts to the wealthy and two wars put on our credit card. Biden stated that whatever he says, he will do. He would like to level the playing field for the middle class. Biden would bring relief to people who need our help.
Ryan indicated that huge cuts would not be imposed on the military which might endanger them. He stated that Obama runs from his record. Ryan fears that 7 million people will lose their health care and that premiums will rise by $3,000 per family. Ryan indicated that $4 trillion deficits could not go on. He stated that there is no credible plan from this administration to deal with the debt crisis or the deficit and that we can do better. Ryan called for a pro-growth policy to get people back to work. He felt that 23 million out of work was bad. The American people deserve better. Ryan called for a real recovery. He cited Romney as having the business experience to create jobs. Ryan called for opportunity and jobs instead of blaming others. In closing, he asked for votes from the public.
Overall, the debate was very lively. The participants were in command of many facts, although extensive fact checking needs to be done well before election day. Vice President Biden emphasized his concern for the middle class, the conduct of two prior wars on the credit card, the dangers of privatizing social security, the creation of 5 million new jobs, saving the auto industry and getting out of Iraq and the commitment to leave Afghanistan by 2014 which is agreed to by our allies consisting of 49 nations. Biden wouldn’t interfere with a woman’s right to choose.
Rep. Ryan decried the high numbers of people out of work. He indicated that Romney has the business experience to create 7 million new jobs. He cited Romney’s record in Massachusetts with a predominantly Democratic legislature. He feared the high deficit spending and huge cuts to the military.
Ryan understood abortion only in the context of rare exceptions such as rape. Ryan feared Iran getting nuclear weapons, although Biden indicated that a delivery capability is needed to actualize the threat. Ryan expressed concern that Social Security would go bankrupt unless action is taken primarily for people under age 55. He indicated that people over 55 would experience essentially no changes. In addition, Ryan fears overtaxing small business.
There were differences on what the $716 billion cuts or cost savings would mean to Medicare beneficiaries. Biden believes that insurance companies are being overpaid and that the cuts are simply a reflection of what should be paid to the insurance companies. Ryan disagrees.
The moderator, Martha Raddatz of ABC, did a splendid job of eliciting important
answers from the candidates. Neither one fully answered her question as to when the unemployment rate would get below six percent. This question could be posed again in future debates so that a definitive answer is on the record before election day. Voters received a ton of data to ponder now. Hopefully, the information received will help people to make a more informed decision this election day.
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