Last week's first presidential debate was heavy on rhetoric and short on facts, especially Romney's claims about Medicare and tax breaks. As the ninety minute debate pressed on, it became increasingly obvious that Jim Lehrer had lost all control of the debate, as both candidates spoke over their time limits, interrupted the moderator as well as each other, and often simply brushed over the question. To those who paid close attention, the back and forth between the President and his challenger, Mitt Romney, became repetitive and left viewers thirsting for more accountability.
When President Obama made the statement that Mitt Romney was advocating a $5 trillion tax break, Romney was quick to refute this claim responding, “I don’t have a $5 trillion cut. I don’t have a tax cut of the scale that you’re talking about.” However, Citizens for Tax Justice reports that the President's claim is true, and then some. According to the report, not only does Romney advocate extending the Bush Era tax cuts, which cost approximately $5 trillion, his new tax breaks would also cost another $500 billion per year, bringing the total up to almost $10 trillion.
Another contentious claim was made by Romney himself in regards to Medicare. "If the president were to be reelected you're going to see a $716 billion cut to Medicare," Romney said. "You’ll have 4 million people who will lose Medicare Advantage. You’ll have hospitals and providers that’ll no longer accept Medicare patients. I’ll restore that $716 billion to Medicare." Most likely Governor Romney is referring to a recent report from the congressional budget office that predicts that Obamacare will cut $716 billion in Medicare spending between 2013 and 2022.
The former Governor's claim is, in fact, disingenuous. In the sense that Mitt Romney is speaking, it implies that "Obamacare" will cut $716 billion from Medicare recipients, which is false. The law will institute changes over the next ten years in an effort to reduce spending allocated for the program's payments to insurance companies and to hospitals. This will not directly impact current or future recipients, as the amount is actually just a reallocation of the funds from Medicare to "Obamacare." The argument could be made that these cuts will have a greater impact on the health care system as a whole, but without this crucial context, Romney's claim is misleading.
Read more about Romney and Obama's stances on Medicare HERE
The fact that voters need to go to external sources to verify claims made during the debates indicates our desperate need for a new debate format in which candidates are held more accountable for what they say and how they respond to one another. What remains to be seen, however, is if any amendments will actually bring about more substantive discourse or if candidates will continue to manipulate language to benefit their campaigns.