I suffered, mightily suffered through the first presidential debates last evening. I can’t honestly call Romney’s behavior “presidential,” given the desperate, wild-eyed, amped-up-on-Red Bull behavior he demonstrated. That, and his repetition of bald-faced lies, along with Obama’s hesitant efforts to respond, all gave me a sleepless night.
Put yourself in Obama’s place, however. How do you respond to all the lies told by your challenger in just two minutes? Overwhelmed by blatant untruth describes Obama’s performance during the debates. I’m sure that when the President’s eyes were closed, he was likely trying to visit his happy place.
Here’s the thing that chafes my hide more than anything said by either candidate: Hearing the hordes of newspersons, bloggers and tweeters, seconds after the debate ended, claiming which candidate won the debate and announcing it by using terms we’ve heard used in the aftermath of a sporting match. People behave as though the debates are a football game, rather than an opportunity to learn where the candidates stand on the issues. So what if President Obama looked tired and blinked a few times? So what if debating isn’t his forum? So what if Romney outshouted Jim Lehrer and acted like a petulant toddler on speed? Does that really mean a damn thing in the grand scheme of things?
The fact is, we couldn’t learn much in the way of detailed plans during that painful, lost-forever hour of our lives. Presidential debates simply are not a good means to find out where candidates stand on the issues. There is absolutely no way that in two minutes listeners can hear the intricacies of a decision made on a bill and the particulars behind a deficit-reduction plan or the Affordable Care Act. And, frankly, what with Romney’s nearly acrobatic flip flopping behavior that evening, I’d be surprised if even Paul Ryan knows where he stands on the issues.
And yet another pull-my-hair out and spit issue for me: The willingness of the voting public to let Fox News and other mainstream media personalities help them decide who to vote for. I’ve said it before: people expend more brain power choosing what to order from a McDonald’s menu than they do in picking out a candidate for POTUS. Diners contemplate the calories and fat between the small fries and Big Mac vs. the large fries and a Junior Mac, but won’t take a half hour to do any research related to a candidate’s position on an issue. I am appalled.
By listening in last evening, if you weren’t too busy counting the times Obama looked down and how many times Romney stared into the camera, you might have heard a few new names. Simpson-Bowles and Dodd-Frank came up several times. If you don’t know what these bills entail, is there any excuse not to find out what they’ re all about? Now think back to decades ago, when the Internet wasn’t around. If you heard unfamiliar names and ideas, you’d have to go to the library to find the information. Most of us, including me, were too lazy to make the effort.
But Lordy ME, look at this: Google, or whichever search engines you prefer, are some of the most useful tools available to us. They can act as an antidote to ignorance. Try doing a search on things you come across in the news or posted on Facebook. Heck, when I Googled Simpson-Bowles, I learned an interesting back story describing Paul Ryan’s involvement in the defeat of Simpson-Bowles. Though Romney tried to pin the blame solely on Obama for the bill’s failure, his own running mate’s involvement was described this way:
Stan Collender, a former Democratic staff member of the House and Senate Budget Committees, said that the “primary reason” the plan didn’t advance was that [Paul] Ryan and Camp “indicated that they were against it. If they had supported it, or at least allowed it to move forward, there is a very good likelihood that the plan would have been approved and that a deficit reduction deal would have been reached.”
To Collender, Ryan blaming Obama for the commission’s failure is “disingenuous, misleading and the worst form of hypocritical politics. It’s the political equivalent of killing your parents and then begging the court for mercy because you’re an orphan.”
Sleazy. Smarmy. Dishonest. You can’t tell me that Romney isn’t aware of Ryan’s role in defeating Simpson-Bowles. But did we hear that last evening?
But what about Obama’s rejection of the bill? Obama refused to sign the bill because it “would have raised more revenue without moving the needle much on the overall progressivity of the tax code, meaning that middle-income people would have paid significantly more than they do today.”
Having read enough about Simpson-Bowles, however, I’m fairly certain I wouldn’t have supported it either. One of the most egregious omissions in the bill is the authors’ refusal to touch the financial industry and make them experience any tax consequences. But Erskine Bowles was on the board of Morgan Stanley while he was on the commission, so that doesn’t surprise me. No, it disgusts me.
When the discussion came up about Dodd-Frank, I admit that I wasn’t at all familiar with the bill. I couldn’t evaluate the comments made by either candidate. But, given that Romney kept repeating his criticism about Obama’s support of the Act, I sure did want to know if there was any substance behind it. Remember: Romney claimed that Obama gave five of the largest banks a “blank check” which “contributed to the collapse of smaller banks.”
Did YOU just swallow that statement whole? Or, did you make a note to check that statement out later on? Well, here’s what I found out:
- One provision created a protocol under which the largest, most complex financial institutions would be wound down safely, without lasting taxpayer burden, should they fail.
- Nine banks — including five of the largest U.S. banks — have submitted so- called “living wills” to U.S. banking regulators to map out how they would be dismantled under bankruptcy. If their bankruptcies threatened the financial system, Dodd-Frank gave the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. authority to liquidate them itself.
“The Facts: Romney was off base. There is no connection between the failure of community banks and the provision in Dodd-Frank designed to contain the harm from the failure of a big bank. FDIC statistics show that 37 banks, not five, have enough assets to come under that provision.
Since enactment of Dodd-Frank, yet before its provisions are fully implemented, 188 small banks — those with less than $1 billion in assets — have closed, not 122. The trend is down since Dodd-Frank. After peaking in 2010 at 136, the small-bank failures declined last year to 86 and are down to 42 through the first nine months of this year. In the same period, no systemically important bank has gone under, meaning the provision Romney criticized has never been used and wasn’t a factor in the small-bank failures.”
Of course Romney would be opposed to Dodd-Frank, because it regulates the very institutions that he, himself, has been able to manipulate and use to amass his huge wealth.
Good luck, though trying to figure out what Romney’s Medicare plan is all about. He continues to refuse to detail it. He’ll wait until he’s President. You comfy with that? But Romney and Ryan have both made this wild-ass claim: Obama and the Democrats “turned Medicare into a piggy bank to fund Obamacare. They took $716 billion from Medicare to pay for their Obamacare program.” This is an utter, utter falsehood. Why?
- There isn’t $700 billion in any kind of “piggy bank” to “raid.”
- The president can’t actually take money out of the trust fund that includes Treasury bonds. Medicare holds those Treasury bonds and can cash them in anytime it needs the money.
- Without the spending cuts in the Affordable Care Act, the Part A trust fund was expected to be exhausted in 2016. With the ACA cuts, that date was pushed back to 2024.
If you want to get behind the lies told about Obama’s Medicare plan as well as the erroneous assumptions by both candidates about when Medicare will go bankrupt, here’s a good link.
Where do you find the truth? I’m not entirely sure, but I do know it’s not sitting in a chair between the candidates debating on national TV. You’ve got to expend a little bit of energy to find out more; perhaps you’ll find out more than you want to know. But, dammit, if you can spend an hour or two reading the sports section or some cheezy entertainment magazine, you sure as heck can devote some time to learning about the candidates running for political office, your government and how it operates.
Yeah, it’s work for you, it will keep you from doing something else you wanted to do, but it’s a helluva lot more useful than mewling on and on over some falsehood about Obama that you believe has gone about purposefully ruining your life and pursuit of happiness.
And finally, if you truly care at all about making a more informed decision, check out Politifact’s Truth Meter web site. The Truth Meter tests the veracity of statements made by the candidates and claims about them made by others. You can find out how truthful or how close to a flame-out your candidate’s pants are. Because all of the candidates, and probably nearly all politicians, bend the truth, exaggerate, and leave out critical details. So, knowing this, let’s move on and stop complaining that all politicians lie. Let’s seek out the backstory and then make our decisions about whom to put in office.
And to all the voters who feel perfectly comfortable picking a candidate based on his looks, his middle name, or how First Lady-ish his wife appears, please stay home on election day and leave the voting to responsible adults.