Two students play the roles of Joe Biden and Paul Ryan during preparations for the debate to take place tonight in Centre College in Kentucky. (Photo AP/Morry Gash)
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
Times Opinion: Biden carries debate
Conventional wisdom on vice presidential debates is that they rarely move the needle in presidential elections. Vice President Joe Biden’s performance last night may be the exception to that rule. He pointedly shifted the campaign focus back to the core points — the giveaways in the Romney tax plan to the privileged rich while adding taxes on America’s vast middle class and simultaneously stripping them of guaranteed Medicare and Social Security, along with the threat to women of losing reproductive choice. Biden did so, as well, with the conviction that Democrats and swing voters had expected last week of President Obama.
Congressman Paul Ryan was stuck with defending those flawed plans. Try as he did, he couldn’t do it — mainly because the facts of Romney’s tax plans and voucherized health care proposals simply work against the common interest of American families and workers who aren’t rich, and who rely more than ever on their earned entitlements.
Ryan made a decent impression in his first major debate, and decidedly partisan Republicans surely found what they wanted to hear in his misleading talking points. Problem is, he admittedly could not cite the details of Romney’s budget plan — because there are none — to justify Romney’s claim that cutting taxes by 20 percent on the already heavily favored top 1 percent, and on big corporations, would not cost $5 trillion in new national debt over the next decade.
Leaving in place the high end Bush dividend, capital gains and “carried interest” tax cuts that chiefly benefit the ultra rich would cost nearly $1 trillion over the next decade, and Romney’s plan would increase that by a new 20 percent more.
Neither could Ryan credibly say Romney would not add another $2 trillion in new debt by singling out the Pentagon, alone, for more money if Congress hits the mandated cuts in January because Republicans won’t agree to a balanced deficit reduction plan. Ryan did trot out Romney’s documentably false claim that Obama would cut $716 billion from projected Medicare spending, but he couldn’t refute Biden’s fact-check: Obama would restore that money to Medicare, strengthening benefits and its trust fund, by taking back the subsidies to for-profit insurers that Republicans wrongly shoveled to the insurance and pharmaceutical industries in their so-called Medicare Modernization Act in 2003, when they were trying to unravel Medicare.
Ryan’s attempts to sell the idea that Obama’s foreign policies are “unraveling” were similarly untenable. Though Romney has been big on saber-rattling and hinting of the need for war — in Iran and Syria — to make himself look tough, Ryan essentially admitted that Obama’s disciplined policies on both do all that the United States can and should do in current circumstances.
As Biden pointed out, the Obama administration has made it clear that Washington will not allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons, and has organized the most crippling international sanctions Iran has ever suffered, wrecking its currency and its economy. He also correctly noted that Iran yet is years away — experts widely agree on about five years — from developing capacity to make viable delivery weapon and missile systems to launch a crude nuclear weapon.
Biden, mentioning the neighbors, friends and his own parents who worked but earned too little to pay federal income taxes, notably defended the 47 percent of Americans that Romney told rich Florida donors that he had written off as moocher — leaving Ryan fatuously backtracking on Romney’s own words.
Biden also discredited the claim of religious infringement fueled by Catholic church’s conservative bishops (Biden and Ryan are both practicing Catholics) over contraception under Obamacare. The church is not required to do anything under Obamacare to help employees of any faith who work in their affiliated public hospitals and universities to access or pay for contraception.
Ryan sought often, of course, to portray the Obama administration as having failed to make progress toward jobs and an improved economy the past four years. Any American who watched the Great Recession unfold, however, should easily recall, as Biden did, that Obama walked into the worse recession in more than 80 years, which wrecked banks and businesses and destroyed nearly 9 million jobs from 2007 to 2009. Any clear-minded voter, of any stripe, should know that after quelling the national panic of 2008 and stabilizing the wrecked economy, the western banking system and state governments (Tennessee, for example, got $5 billion in stimulus funds over three years to shore up state services and jobs), Obama’s administration has delivered 32 straight months of job growth and more than 5 million new private sector jobs.
That admittedly has not yet replaced the stunning 9 million jobs lost, but it has added jobs over the past 32 months at a rate that economist predict will outpace the job growth that Romney claims he can produce in the next presidential term. Ryan couldn’t refute that, either.
2012 Vice President debate