Of all debate formats, I believe the town hall debate to be one of the most critical destinations on along the journey to the presidency, or any elected office. As Lincoln said at Gettysburg, we are a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. It is here where everyday citizens get to inquire and get answers on how electing this man or woman will effect [me]. At this town hall debate on Tuesday, October 16, 2012, the gloves were off and candidates went after each other full tilt.
Although Romney did not disclose details of his five point plan as would have been necessary to give complete answers to many of the questions, he made points about what is not working; the expansion of the deficit from $10 Trillion to $16 Trillion and the increase in gasoline prices from $1.86 per gallon to over $4.00 per gallon. Let us look at some bullet points.
The debate opened with a statement Romney made about allowing the auto makers (General Motors and Chrysler) to go bankrupt. Romney replied by telling Obama effectively this is what you did. Truth be told, George W. Bush was still president when the decision was made to bail out the auto makers. Costly as it was, it was for the most part a necessary evil. Accountability for the auto makers goes to the Bush administration and the only area where Obama is involved is the follow-up. To give credit where credit is due, the situation got better, but let’s not forget Chrysler is now owned by Fiat, which is not an American company. Technically, there are now two major auto makers in America and one division of an Italian company.
The most controversial moment in the debate was the Benghazi terrorist action where five people including Libyan Ambassador Chris Stevens were killed. While Obama insisted he announced it in the Rose Garden right away, Romney pointed out it took fourteen days before Obama admitted it was an act of terrorism. I think what’s done is done with respect to the announcement; the real issue is why were our soldiers denied proper security? This should be addressed in the Foreign Policy Debate on Monday, October 22.
The issues of permits for drilling and mining of fossil fuels on federal land was discussed. Romney mentioned the acquisition of coal, oil, and gas was down. Obama mentioned many of these permits were 10, 20, even 30 years old and permits to drill and mine on federal lands are use it or lose it. And that he renewed them to allow for energy relief. Early in Barrack Obama’s presidency, I remember he talked about focusing on education, health care reform, and green energy. He did not mention domestic sources of fossil fuels. Natural gas production is up, coal and oil are down. Mitt Romney shut down coal burning power plants in Massachusetts to cut down on air pollution. As a science major at The University of Connecticut in the 1980s, I can tell you this—there is no such thing as clean coal. Cleaner coal is coal with little to no sulphur, and sulphur dioxide is one of the most toxic chemicals we put into our air. But coal is by definition, pure carbon, and when you burn pure carbon, in the best case scenario known as complete combustion, coal produces pure carbon dioxide. Since complete combustion does not exist in the real world, carbon monoxide and other impurities also emit. Petroleum fuels derived from crude oil are called hydrocarbons which in the ideal complete combustion scenario produce a mixture of carbon dioxide and water vapor. With less carbon dioxide, petroleum and other hydrocarbon fuels will always be cleaner than coal. One thing I give credit to Obama, if he had the leadership skills to take it to the finish line, is his green energy initiative. Unfortunately, drilling and mining on American soil for fossil fuel resources in moderation is a necessary evil; we must ensure the cleanest, most high tech methods are being used. If we are going to have clean, green energy in the future, we must keep the lights on and the Bunsen burners burning in the present. We must also first balance the budget as we cannot fund such and initiative while trillions in debt and we cannot burrow from the Chinese to do this and risk Chinese control over American energy sources.
One of the biggest highlights of the debate with respect to who Romney labeled as the 47% was when Romney asked to see Obama’s pension fund. Obama replied “show me yours! Yours is bigger!” I don’t think middle class American with struggling unemployed or on a minimum wage job with no pension plan, would be impressed by either man’s pension fund. The focus must be on the candidate that can best help the situation; who is more on the side of the middle class, and whose plan is most-likely to work.
On the issue of binders for hiring women, Romney mentioned when he was governor of Massachusetts that the most qualified applicants for the positions opened happened to be men. He had a committee put together a binder of qualified women and hired women. This brings back an old 1970s issues of qualification vs. quotas. The utilization of binders is one bridge but Obama and the Democrats over the most recent years have often not bothered with binders and have hired out of the blue just to say they are pro-women. Look at Sotomeyer and Kagen, the last two appointees to the Supreme Court.
Finally, does Romney’s plan add up? This is one bone of contention I have with Mitt Romney as he will not discuss pedagogy or methodology. He talked about the federal deficit increasing from $10 Trillion to $16 Trillion under Obama and that Obama-nomics is a road to Greece, making reference to the nation of Greece going bankrupt. Mitt Romney cleared up the misconception that he is strictly a rich man’s [president]. That he wants to help all Americans and ascribes that to his belief in God and that as a rich man, he has a responsibility to care for all people and help all people the best way he knows how; and politics is his chosen vehicle. He mentioned he was a pastor in his church, and Romney is very religious, Godly, and connected to the Mormon church. Tony Jones on a site called patheos.com points out that Moron churches do not have pastors, only bishops. For the most part, Mitt was just trying to one of the oddities of the Mormon church versus other sects of Christianity, but he needs to be careful speaking in this area. Obama replied by mentioning he believes the free enterprise system is the best economic system ever created. The question is does he believe that? He talks about giving everyone a fair shot. But policies that give handouts are exactly what takes away fair shots; they make it impossible to overcome one’s class and many poor and lower middle class become content to stay poor or lower middle class by living off the handouts. Agreed we cannot take away entitlements for those of age where it is too late to start over, but if America is going to rebuild, be prosperous, and have a balanced budget which is absolutely essential for such prosperity to exist, we must replace entitlements with opportunities for the young generation about to enter the workforce. We must have an education system that not only teaches the skills, but promotes using the skills in self-employment; I believe small businesses and networks of small businesses is the future of American and the direction America is going—employment will be the fallback plan. Though I admit I question the nuts and bolts of the Romney-nomic plan, I think he is our best hope and that is the way we should vote.
If I could have advised Mitt Romney in these debates, I would recommend he do two things: (1) give some details that prove it adds-up. He claims if we give the middle class a tax break without raising the deficit or increasing taxes on the rich—because the rich will pay the same percentage but will not have the deductions and loopholes. Now this is what the middle class has been asking for since the 1960s. We just need proof that eliminating the deductions for the wealthiest Americans alone will actually stabilize or reduce the deficit and make America prosperous. In the words of Jerry McGuire, show me the money! (2) Don’t limit the debate to thesis vs. antithesis; I admit the Republican conservative economic thesis is not an easy sell to poor and lower middle class. Start using terms like witching hour and Hobson’s choice. After all, the American economy is truly at the witching hour and something has to be done in the next four years or the only alternative may be national bankruptcy. The Catch-22 is that both tax increases and spending cuts will be necessary to achieve a balanced budget within a reasonable period of time, and you cannot raise taxes because the American taxpayer, especially the unemployed just doesn’t have it. You can tax the rich extra to a degree but you must ensure they have the resources to create jobs. The Hobson’s choice is spending cuts—they can be made right now. Privatize what can be privatized, prioritize properly, i.e. Amtrak before Social Security, and the result will be a reduction in the deficit and more jobs created. Get wages up; before you consider tax increases to carry the operation to the finish line, make sure you have reached a nirvana where higher wages and higher taxes is more net gain than current wages and current taxes. For now our best option is take a leap of faith on Romney and the Republicans!