Heritage Experts’ On the Second Presidential Debate

During last night’s debate between President Obama and former Governor Mitt Romney, Heritage’s policy experts were live-blogging their analysis of the ideas discussed. Below are some of the highlights of our experts’ reactions to the major points made.

“Getting Tough on China”: The Truth About Trade

President Obama said during the debate that he signed three trade deals. Not true. Obama was left three free trade agreements on his desk when he took office. Those deals and many others were initiated, negotiated, and signed by President Bush. The one trade agreement that Obama has prioritized, the Transpacific Partnership (TPP) involving now 11 countries, was also initiated by President George W. Bush.

What Obama did was to delay passage of agreements with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama that were already completed. He did so to appease labor unions and others in his political base. During the three years of waiting for the President to submit the U.S.-Korea FTA, the U.S. lost $30 billion in exports.

The United States needs an energetic, committed trade policy. We need a TPP that is truly a free trade agreement and of sufficient scale to make a major impact on the U.S. economy. That means accommodating the world’s third largest economy and U.S. ally, Japan. It means folding in other willing free trade partners like South Korea. And it means putting TPP on a timeline that gets it completed, passed and implemented as quickly as possible.

“Getting tough on China,” something both candidates claimed to aspire to, is good—as long as what is meant by that is ensuring China abides by its international trade commitments. But this is not enough—it is not a trade policy. The U.S. needs to create opportunity with trade, not just manage bad behavior.

– Walter Lohman

Chinese Currency Manipulation and U.S. Employment

Governor Romney suggested that China’s currency manipulation was related to business activity and job creation in the U.S. However, as Heritage’s Derek Scissors showed, there is in fact little to no relationship between China’s currency policy and U.S. employment:

[T]he exchange rate between the yuan and the dollar has no direct effect on American prosperity or American jobs. It never has. Seventeen years ago, China sharply devalued the yuan against the dollar. Yet American unemployment fell for years afterward. Since 2005, the PRC has been slowly raising the value of its currency, which is what protectionists say they want. And American unemployment has soared.

There are, however, other policies the U.S. President and Congress should pursue to return America to a place where businesses want to invest and hire workers. These include pro-growth tax reform, reducing undue regulatory burdens on the economy, and enabling energy exploration and production.

– Romina Boccia

Did Someone Say Libya?

The issue was raised in the debate: What did the Administration do about security before the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, and how did it respond afterward? It was the question that the President never clearly and explicitly responded to. When it comes to how the White House responded to the attack, the Administration has a lot of explaining to do. Its series of explanations was muddled and misleading.

When it comes to responding to the attack, Americans of course expect that our government will go after the perpetrators. The questions of how our government responded to the terrorist threat in Libya, however, still has to be answered.

James Jay Carafano

Are Oil Companies Sitting on Leases?

Are oil companies sitting on leases? The short answer is no. President Obama made this statement tonight, and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar routinely makes this statement. But as Kathleen Sgamma, Vice President of Government and Public Affairs for the Western Energy Alliance, recently testified:

By looking at the statistics over time, it is evident that industry has become much more efficient over the last several decades. While we used to hold 80,000 leases and produce on 24% in 1988, we now hold just 49,000 leases and produce on 46%. Secretary Salazar’s statements that this shows industry is intentionally leaving leases idle is tired rhetoric that fails to take into account the huge obstacles the federal government places in the way of oil and natural gas producers, and the fact that not every lease has recoverable oil and gas.

Just because oil companies aren’t drilling, this does not mean that no activity is occurring on that land. Environmental review, permitting, seismic research, and exploration may be occurring. But even that fails to address the real problem: The environmental review and leasing process takes entirely too long.

Rather than implementing an efficient leasing process, the Department of the Interior added three unnecessary and duplicative administrative regulations to the leasing process in 2010. Oil companies are not sitting on leases; they are simply not being issued by the DOI, or the DOI is making it more difficult to actually obtain the leases.

– Nicolas Loris

Energy Production on Federal Lands Has Fallen

While President Obama made the familiar statement that oil and gas production is the highest it has been in eight years, Governor Romney was right to point out that this was driven by production on private and state lands. Oil and gas production on federal lands is, in fact, down.

According to a recent report from the Energy Information Administration (EIA), energy production decreased 13 percent on federal lands in fiscal year (FY) 2011 when compared to FY 2010. The official moratorium and de facto moratorium as a result of a molasses-like permitting process reduced planned capital and operating investments by $18.3 billion and cost the Gulf more than 162,000 jobs in just the past two years.

Federal production in the West has experienced a similar fate: The Administration’s delays on permitting oil and gas projects public lands are preventing economic activity. In Utah and Wyoming, for instance, projects held up by the National Environmental Policy Act process are preventing the creation of 64,805 jobs, $4.3 billion in wages, and $14.9 billion in economic impact every year.

– Nicolas Loris

Immigration: Finally, Debate Touches the Third Rail

For the first time in two debates, the issue of fixing our broken borders and flawed immigration system was finally addressed by the two sides that want to occupy the White House. They offered two very different approaches and a distinct choice. One approach is to change the laws to accommodate the unlawful population that is already here—an approach that will not only not fix the problem, it will just make America a magnet for more problems. The other approach is to make the laws work and create a legal system that gets employers the employees they need when they need them to grow the economy and create more jobs.

There are good answers to address these tough problems. What we need in Washington is leadership that is willing to do the job.

– James Jay Carafano

Tax Plan Details: No Taxes on Savings

Governor Romney, when giving more details on his tax plan tonight, discussed that families making $200,000 or less would face no taxes on savings. The Heritage Foundation’s New Flat Tax would deduct savings immediately from taxable personal income, and savings would remain tax exempt until spent on consumption. This would lead to greater financial security for the American middle class by providing incentives for greater personal savings.

The New Flat Tax, as outlined in Heritage’s Saving the American Dream plan, would replace today’s convoluted tax system with a simple, neutral, and transparent tax system that would allow America to achieve its full economic potential.

– Romina Boccia

The Auto Bailout and Bankruptcy

President Obama once more criticized Governor Romney for saying GM should go bankrupt. But Romney tonight finally cleared the record, pointing out that that is exactly what happened – GM and Chrysler DID go bankrupt. But, as Obama confirmed, the administration didn’t stop there – it nationalized the firms. Taxpayers are still some $25 billion in the hole and still own a quarter of the shares of GM. Bankruptcy was the right solution; a bailout was not.

– James Gattuso

Where Was Welfare Reform?

One major topic missing from the domestic policy debates was welfare reform. We never got an answer to our question about whether able-bodied welfare recipients should be required to work as a condition of receiving assistance. That’s a critical issue in the wake of the Obama administration’s gutting welfare reform by unlawfully claiming the authority to waive the work requirements that made the historic 1996 policy such a success.

On the other hand, we did hear tonight about where welfare reform needs to turn next: restoring marriage. Governor Romney pointed to the significance of married mothers and fathers in reducing child poverty and fighting social breakdown. Marriage reduces the probability of child poverty by 80 percent. Moms and dads are an antidote to youth violence. FamilyFacts.org has more on the significance of marriage and family for America’s social welfare.

– Jennifer Marshall

Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity was largely ignored by the candidates, but we cannot ignore this issue. The reality of cyber threats was exemplified by the reference to China’s theft of U.S. intellectual property. There was also a mention of the need for an adequate tech workforce. The big problem is that it is foolish to take action just to say “something” was done. The correct thing must be done, because the wrong cure could be worse than the present disease. The approach that is being pushed by the present Administration will do nothing to make our networks more secure, and will stifle innovation. Regulation is a static19th Century solution for a dynamic, modern-age problem.

A correct cyber policy has five parts. It will enable info sharing, not mandate it. It will develop a true cyber insurance industry. The cyber supply chain must be secured. A realistic cyber “right to self defense” must be developed. The badly needed awareness, education and training “culture” needs to be a major federal priority. Lastly, the creation, protection, and effective utilization of a 21st Century cyber workforce will provide the foundation for the future.

– Steve Bucci

The Truth on Trade Policy: Asia

President Obama said during tonight’s debate that he signed three trade deals. Not true. President Obama was left three free trade agreements on his desk when he took office. Those deals and many others were initiated, negotiated, and signed by President Bush. The one trade agreement that Obama has prioritized, the Transpacific Partnership (TPP) involving now 11 countries, was also initiated by President George Bush.

What President Obama did was to delay passage of agreements with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama that were already completed. He did so to appease labor unions and others in his political base. During the three years of waiting for the President to submit the U.S.-Korea FTA, the U.S. lost $30 billion in exports.

The United States needs an energetic, committed trade policy. We need a TPP that is truly a free trade agreement and of sufficient scale to make a major impact on the U.S. economy. That means accommodating the world’s third largest economy and U.S. ally, Japan. In means folding in other willing free trade partners like South Korea. And it means putting TPP on a timeline that gets it completed, passed and implemented as quickly as possible.

A robust trade policy in Asia also means initiating new agreements with countries like Taiwan and carving out select initiatives to American allies like the Philippines that are not quite ready for a gold standard free trade agreement like TPP.

“Getting tough on China,” something both candidates claimed to aspire to, is good – as long as what is meant by that is ensuring they abide by their international trade commitments. But it is not enough. It is not a trade policy. The U.S. needs to create opportunity with trade, not just manage bad behavior.

– Walter Lohman

Corporate Taxes and Jobs

President Obama misrepresented what is known as a territorial tax system. Obama said that moving from our worldwide system to a territorial system would create jobs in foreign countries. The exact opposite is true. We are the only developed country that taxes our businesses on the income they earn abroad. That is driving jobs overseas. Until we move to a territorial system and lower the corporate tax rate we’ll lose jobs to more competitive countries.

– Curtis Dubay

Marriage Protects Against Child Poverty and Promotes Child Well-being

Governor Romney touched on a very important point in tonight’s debate: the importance of marriage. Marriage is America’s number one weapon against child poverty. Children born to married-parent families are 82 percent less likely to live in poverty.

Children raised in intact families are also less likely to engage in delinquent behavior and are protected against a variety of other negative outcomes.

Unfortunately, unwed childbearing has increased dramatically in the last five decades. Today, over 40 percent of children are born to single women.

Policies that support and promote healthy marriage are crucial to a thriving society.

– Rachel Sheffield

The Truth About Trade

Both Obama and Romney missed opportunities to highlight the benefits of trade.

President Obama talked about signing three free trade agreements during his administration. But those agreements were signed during the Bush administration, and the Obama administration took its time before eventually submitting them to Congress for approval, where they passed overwhelmingly. Although President Obama has taken several trade cases to the World Trade Organization (WTO), claims that his administration has filed twice as many cases with the WTO as the Bush administration are not accurate.

Governor Romney talked about creating more free trade agreements in Latin America, which is a good idea. But both President Obama and Governor Romney argued about who would be tougher on China, when they could have explained that imports from China and elsewhere actually create jobs in the United States.

And they missed an opportunity to point out that a big factor in our trade deficit with China is the U.S. budget deficit. The federal government borrows billions of dollars from China each year that otherwise could be used to buy U.S. exports. Instead of fighting over who would be more willing to crack down on China, they could have taken the opportunity to criticize U.S. policies, like deficit spending, that undermine export opportunities for American companies.

– Bryan Riley

Al-Qaeda Still Poses a Threat

During the debate President Obama, once again, took the credit for killing Osama bin Laden and implied that al-Qaeda is down and on the ropes. Although bin Laden is currently sitting at the bottom of the Arabian Sea, the inconvenient truth for the Administration is that al-Qaeda is very much alive and active—especially on the Arabian Peninsula and across North Africa. This was most vividly demonstrated on September 11, 2012, when the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, and three other brave Americans were murdered in Benghazi by terrorists with suspected links to al-Qaeda.

While Obama was blaming a YouTube video and a street protest (which never happened) as the reason for the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Heritage expert Jim Phillips made the link to al-Qaeda just a couple of days after the attack. Now, more than a month later, the Administration still has not been able to give a straight answer as to what the circumstances were surrounding the murder of Ambassador Stevens.

The Administration has either been misleading the American people or it is so incompetent that, more than a month later, it is still unable to tell the American people the facts. Either way, the American people deserve better.

– Luke Coffey

Making Sure America Remains a Nation of Immigrants

As both President Obama and Governor Romney said tonight, “this is a nation of immigrants.” Indeed, but our immigration system is broken.

“Talent from all around the world wants to come here.” Allowing those who want to come to the United States to come here legally, however, requires that the nation reform our visa system. Together with Congress, the next Administration should work to expand the Visa Waiver Program and remove the burdensome requirement that consular officers must interview 100 percent of visa applicants, instead of focusing on those individuals who truly pose a risk to the U.S.

At the same time, reforming our immigration system requires respect for rule of law. Amnesty is not the answer to our nation’s immigration woes and will, in fact, only make matters worse. Instead, America’s leadership should pursue meaningful immigration policies that discourage illegal immigration, while respecting rule of law and strengthening the security and prosperity of the United States.

– Jessica Zuckerman

Libya: Another Presidential Non-Answer

The Obama doctrine in action has led us to a point where terrorists feel emboldened again to attack the United States, as they did the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.

In the last few days, Mitt Romney has been outspoken on the topic of the attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya, as he was outspoken in his criticism of the statement of appeasement issued by the U.S. embassy under attack in Cairo on September 11. If we are to get the real details of what took place that day, it will have to be under pressure from House Republicans. Did the president mean what he said when stated that he is ultimately responsible? The Secretary of State said the same thing today, but they have yet to show what that actually means.

– Helle C. Dale

Chinese Currency Manipulation and U.S. Employment

Governor Romney tonight suggested that China’s currency manipulation was related to business activity and job creation in the U.S. However, as Heritage’s Derek Scissors showed, there is in fact little to no relationship between China’s currency policy and US employment:

“[T]he exchange rate between the yuan and the dollar has no direct effect on American prosperity or American jobs. It never has. Seventeen years ago, China sharply devalued the yuan against the dollar. Yet American unemployment fell for years afterward. Since 2005, the PRC has been slowly raising the value of its currency, which is what protectionists say they want. And American unemployment has soared.”

There are, however, other policies the U.S. President and Congress should pursue to return America to a place where businesses want to invest and hire workers. These include pro-growth tax reform, reducing undue regulatory burdens on the economy, and enabling energy exploration and production.

– Romina Boccia

Outsourcing Confusion in Presidential Debate

In the October 16 presidential debate a question was asked about outsourcing. Governor Romney blamed outsourcing on Chinese currency manipulation. But there is absolutely no relationship between the value of China’s currency and unemployment in the United States.

President Obama also complained about outsourcing. However, the real issue should be “insourcing” – many more dollars are invested by foreign companies setting up factories in the United States than by U.S. companies setting up factories in China and elsewhere.

– Bryan Riley

The Cost of Regulation

Gov. Romney correctly points out that the number of new regulations under the Obama administration was four times that of his predecessor. According to Heritage Foundation calculations, 106 major new rules were adopted during Obama’s first three years in office, compared to 28 during President Bush’s first three years. In terms of cost, the increase is even bigger, with $$6 billion in new costs, compared to $8.1 billion under Bush.

– James Gattuso

Did Someone Say Libya?

The issue was raised in the debate: What did the administration do about security before the Benghazi attack, and how did it respond afterward? It was the question that the president never clearly and explicitly responded to. When it comes to how the White House responded to the attack, the administration has a lot of explaining to do. Its series of explanations were muddled and misleading.

When it comes to responding to the attack, Americans of course expect that our government will go after the perpetrators. The questions of how our government responded to the terrorist threat Libya, however, still has to be answered.

James Jay Carafano

Obamacare and Small Businesses

Obamacare is very harmful for America’s small businesses. As Heritage’s tax expert Curtis Dubay explains, “The new health care law will impose new compliance regulations, employer mandate taxes, taxes on business ‘flow-through’ and investment income, and numerous indirect costs on small- and medium-size companies. Altogether, these constraints will dramatically affect companies’ per-employee costs, firm-level allocation of labor, desire to take on health coverage, and motivation to grow both in terms of income and employment.”

Despite President Obama’s repeated promise that his health care law would significantly decrease premiums, the opposite has happened. On average, premiums for individuals in the employer market have increased by $566 between 2010 and 2012 and family coverage has increased by $1,975. Even when the law is in full effect, premiums will likely continue to rise.

– Alyene Senger

Blame High Corporate Taxes for Job Flight

What is to blame for jobs heading overseas? In part, it’s the burdensome corporate tax rate plaguing businesses right here at home. The U.S. has the dubious distinction of having the highest corporate tax rate, at more than 39 percent. To reverse that trend, Congress should act soon to make our corporate tax system more competitive. That will encourage businesses to invest in jobs in the U.S., not overseas.

Oh, and while they’re at it, they can fix Taxmageddon and stave off massive tax hikes on businesses, investors, and families.

– Emily Goff

Who Creates Energy Jobs?

An “energy strategy for the future” does not include creating and supporting energy jobs with federal spending. That is a strategy for increasing government dependence and a bloated, stretched-thin government. Industry is threatened when the government becomes a stakeholder by artificially creating and supporting demand, because government and regulators are then directly interested in the success of these companies. We’ve seen this recently in the auto industry and in green jobs, but also in pet Republican projects like the ethanol mandate.

Rather than helping companies, government supports – whether in the form of grants, loans, or special tax breaks – hurt companies, not only opening these companies up to greater government intervention but also turning them into political punching bags as their business decisions carry weight in political policy arguments.

An “all-of-the-above” energy policy isn’t a policy that makes all energy types succeed. It’s not punishing some energy resources while favoring others. It’s not a Lake Wobegon policy where “all the children are above average.” It’s creating the space for the market – businesses, investors, consumers, the people who have most to gain and lose – to pick winners and losers, to create energy jobs and opportunity.

– Katie Tubb

Why Federally Funding Planned Parenthood Is a Bad Idea

Federal funding for Planned Parenthood has long been under debate, as the organization continues to see surpluses while the country sinks deeper into debt. Unlike the hard economic times faced by American families, Planned Parenthood has ridden the waves of taxpayer funding to millions of dollars in annual surpluses. In 2009-2010 (the latest year for which data is available), Planned Parenthood had a budget in excess of $1 billion, with over $18 million in profit. Yet, the non-profit organization received over $350 million in taxpayer funding in 2009 and kept the title of America’s largest abortion provider, performing over 300,000 abortion procedures.

There has been longstanding consensus that federal taxpayer dollars should not be used to fund abortions. As the country faces a burgeoning national deficit, policymakers should question the necessity of supporting a financially self-sufficient organization–especially one exposed as willing to be complicit in illegal sex trafficking of minor girls. Policymakers should end taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood and make current prohibitions on federal funding of abortion (like the Hyde amendment) permanent.

– Sarah Torre

On Criminal Prosecution of Drilling Company

During tonight’s debate, Governor Romney said that the current administration brought a misguided criminal prosecution against companies trying to drill for oil in North Dakota. The facts bear this out. In a blog post, Heritage discussed this case in which Brigham Oil and some other companies used reserve pits to hold fluid and oil that accumulated from their drilling operations. The law of North Dakota allows this storage practice, which is a basic and essential function of businesses in this area and is not intended to harm wildlife. However, the U.S. Attorney’s office prosecuted the companies for violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act – which makes it a federal offense to kill, possess, or take migratory birds – when a couple dead birds were found in their reserves. This 1918 law was meant to protect migratory birds from those who would “take” them in violation of the treaty with Great Britain. In that context, it was clear that the Migratory Bird Treaty Act was meant to halt poachers and illegal hunting of the birds—that is, deliberate, not accidental, conduct. Fortunately, a federal district court dismissed the charges, ruling that the use of reserve pits was “legal, commercially useful activity” that cannot be considered criminal, and that if the government’s theory of prosecution were correct, any activity could violate the law. The episode reflected little concern for business and undue concern for environmentalism, as well as a propensity for criminalizing what should have, at most, been a civil matter.

– Daniel Dew

Limiting Religious Liberty, Not Health Care Choices

President Obama tried to deflect intense opposition to an anti-conscience mandate under his health care law by framing critics as taking away health care choices for women. That couldn’t be further from the truth. What’s actually being lost is religious liberty.

Under Obamacare, the Health and Human Services (HHS) preventive services mandate requires nearly all employers to cover abortion drugs, contraception, and sterilization regardless of moral or religious objections, effectively exempting only formal houses of worship. The anti-conscience mandate is unprecedented and unconstitutional. This mandate is about the federal government forcing employers to subsidize drugs and services in violation of their deeply held beliefs or face burdensome fines. Women, like all Americans, deeply value our Constitution’s “first freedom,” and many of the more than 100 individuals and organizations suing over the Obamacare mandate are women.

Unfortunately, this mandate is only an early warning sign of how one-size-fits-all health care requirements will trample on religious liberty as well as individual liberty. To protect all Americans’ religious liberty, and freedom generally, Obamacare must be repealed. Health care reform that reduces cost, increases access, and protects conscience is possible.

– Sarah Torre

Are Oil Companies Sitting on Leases?

The short answer is no. President Obama made this statement tonight, and Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar routinely makes this statement. But as Kathleen Sgamma, Vice President of Government and Public Affairs for the Western Energy Alliance, recently testified, “By looking at the statistics over time, it is evident that industry has become much more efficient over the last several decades. While we used to hold 80,000 leases and produce on 24% in 1988, we now hold just 49,000 leases and produce on 46%. Secretary Salazar’s statements that this shows industry is intentionally leaving leases idle is tired rhetoric that fails to take into account the huge obstacles the federal government places in the way of oil and natural gas producers, and the fact that not every lease has recoverable oil and gas.”

The statements by President Obama and Secretary Salazar fail to take into account that just because oil companies aren’t drilling does not mean that no activity is occurring on that land. Environmental review, permitting, seismic research and exploration may be occurring. But even that fails to address the real problem: The environmental review and leasing process takes entirely too long.

Rather than implementing an efficient leasing process, the Department of Interior added three unnecessary and duplicative administrative regulations to the leasing process in 2010. DOI has not only canceled 77 lease sales in Utah, but also continually fails to issue the leases to companies who win the bids, despite being statutorily required to do so within 60 days. Oil companies are not sitting on leases; they are simply not being issued by the DOI, or the DOI is making it more difficult to actually obtain the leases.

– Nicolas Loris

Terrorism

America is still at risk from the threats of terrorism. The Obama Administration likes to focus on the laudable success of having “gotten” Osama bin Laden. They have also pushed the narrative that al-Qaeda is defeated and the tides of war have receded. Everyone wishes that this were true. Unfortunately, it is not.

The attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi by an AQ affiliate organization was a stake through the heart of this falsehood. Ambassador Chris Stevens and the three Americans who were trying to protect him were murdered in a premeditated, highly organized terrorist assault. It showed that the narrative of “victory” is a hope with no substance. There are still evil men who would do us ill, but the present policies of weakness have not deterred them.

– Steve Bucci

Immigration: Finally, Debate Touches the Third Rail

For the first time in two debates, the issue of fixing our broken borders and flawed immigration system was finally addressed by the two sides that want to occupy the White House. They offered two very different approaches and a distinct choice—one to change the laws to accommodate the unlawful population that is already here—an approach that will not only not fix the problem, it will just make America a magnet for more problems. The other approach is to make the laws work and create a legal system that gets employers the employees they need when they need them to grow the economy and grow more jobs.

There are good answers to address these tough problems. What we need in Washington is leadership that is willing to do the job.

James Jay Carafano

On Oil Subsidies and Addressing Gas Prices

While oil subsidies do exist and we should get rid of them, President Obama overreaches on what truly is a subsidy for oil and ignores the fact that the government does far more to hurt domestic oil production than to help it. Congress and the Administration should be working to open access to areas of oil and gas exploration that are off limits, transition the permitting process to the states, issue leases on time, and reform the environmental review process to allow oil and gas projects to come online in a timely fashion. In the near, intermediate, and long term, oil producers can bring more domestic oil to the world market, increasing supply to offset rising demand and increasing America’s percentage of the world’s total production to help minimize supply shocks. Increasing American energy production will create jobs, increase economic growth, lower gas prices and raise government revenue—without raising taxes.

– Nicolas Loris

Increasing Federal Higher Ed Subsidies Will Not Lower College Costs

Increasing federal grants and subsidies have failed to mitigate the rising cost of college. In fact, they have exacerbated the problem, allowing colleges to increase tuition and fees. The Obama Administration would like to continue building on decades of increases in Pell funding and other subsidies in the coming years.

Such a policy will not make college more affordable for students. Since 1982, the cost of attending college has increased 439 percent, more than four times the rate of inflation. Increases in college costs exceed increases in health care costs, which have risen more than 250 percent over the same time period. An increase in Pell funding would not break this vicious cycle, and it would also fail to place pressure on universities to use resources more efficiently.

– Lindsey Burke

Still No Social Security Plan

Governor Romney is right that President Obama has no plan to fix Social Security. Over the last four years, Social Security has moved from cash flow surpluses to perpetual cash flow deficits. Partly this is due to the Great Recession, and partly it is due to long predicted structural weaknesses in the program. If nothing is done, every American who is receiving Social Security will see their benefits cut by 25 percent.

Back in 2011, President Obama said that in his State of the Union Address, the President called for a bipartisan solution, but then he effectively took everything except raising taxes off the table. Unfortunately for the President, increasing taxes just delays major across-the-board benefit cuts—it does not prevent them.

This problem is nothing new. Even President Clinton recognized the need to fix Social Security. We know what needs to be done. A fix will include increasing the retirement age to recognize that Americans are living longer than in the past and changing the benefit formula so that scarce resources go to those who most need them. However, the President has done nothing over the last four years to prevent the coming across-the-board benefit cuts.

David C. John

Cutting Big Bird’s Subsidies Necessary and a Good Start

President Obama claimed the only ideas coming from Governor Romney consist of cutting funding for Big Bird. It’s not his only idea, but it’s certainly a subsidy ripe for pruning. Yet ending subsidies to the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) is not an attack on Big Bird. These subsidies are unnecessary and in fact politicize both public broadcasting and Big Bird.

Sesame Workshop (and Big Bird) does not even get a large amount of its funding from the federal government. Yet even these small cuts should be made. If Congress can demonstrate that it’s capable of cutting the small programs, it will build momentum for it to address complex, big-ticket items like the entitlement programs.

Proposals for spending cuts both small and large is a welcome change, considering Washington’s spending addiction seems to know no bounds. And as for Obama’s grand plan? The same failed, damaging policies of higher taxes and increased government spending that have gotten us into the current economic malaise.

– Emily Goff

The State of the Housing Market and Credit

President Obama makes a lot of claims about his supposed achievements in the past four years. But a cornerstone of the economy—the housing sector—remains deeply troubled. His policies—fiscal and regulatory—as well as the flaws of the excessive Dodd-Frank financial regulation statute he supported have lenders holding credit tight. Indeed, the vast majority of new mortgages these days are simply the refinancing of existing loans. And, as long as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are supplanting private housing investment, would-be home buyers will confront a weak housing market.

– Diane Katz

Premium Support Is Not a Voucher

The Medicare reform proposal based on premium support is not a voucher plan. Heritage’s Bob Moffit explains, “It’s all scary nonsense. The Ryan proposal, among others, is a defined-contribution system that in, say, 2023 would provide direct payment from a government account to a health plan of a person’s choice, including traditional Medicare.”

– Alyene Senger

More Than $4,000 in Taxes for the Average American Family

Governor Romney mentioned a $4,000 tax increase for American families in order to pay for President Obama’s spending. Under Taxmageddon, a destructive economy policy President Obama and Congress have failed to avert, the average American family would see its tax bill rise by $4,138. Moreover, the Congressional Budget Office projects a recession in 2013 if these tax hikes and the fiscal cliff go into effect. Nevertheless, the President and Congress are holding the economy hostage to push through a tax hike on the rich.

In 2009, President Obama argued that the economy was too weak to sustain a major tax hike. The same is true today. And yet, under President Obama’s leadership the country is heading steadily towards the fiscal cliff—and this is hurting job creation and economic growth today.

– Romina Boccia

Obama Administration Is No Friend to Coal

The Obama Administration may be a friend to coal by way of trying to subsidize clean coal technologies, but unfortunately the Administration’s Environmental Protection Agency is proposing and implementing costly new regulations that will prematurely shut down existing coal power plants, make it almost impossible to build new coal power plants and place burdensome new regulations on coal mining operations. In fact, the consulting group ICF International projects that 20 percent of America’s coal generated plants could retire as soon as 2020 because of the EPA’s air, quality and waste regulations.

These new regulations are already producing very real—and undesirable—consequences. Ohio’s FirstEnergy Corp. announced that it will close six coal facilities because of the new environmental regulations. A Georgia utility recently retracted funding for a permit application, citing the EPA’s air-quality rules. That’s home-grown energy capacity—present and future—down the tubes. Further, Alpha Natural Resources recently announced it would close 8 coal mines and shutter 1,200 jobs in part because of “a regulatory environment that’s aggressively aimed at constraining the use of coal.”

If coal shrinks as a result of cheaper natural gas or nuclear prices, then the market will determine that. But we have 500 years worth of coal, and the industry is facing unnecessary regulations that are prematurely forcing the closure of coal-fired plants and mines and making it exceedingly difficult to build new coal plants.

– Nicolas Loris

Nuclear Energy Policy Must Match Nuclear Energy Rhetoric

Governor Romney said tonight that he wants to see more nuclear energy. President Obama has argued the same in the past. While bringing more safe, clean and affordable nuclear energy online is a great idea, doing so takes more than rhetoric.

Unfortunately, President Obama’s policies during his first term didn’t meet his rhetoric. A nuclear energy policy that would actually expand nuclear energy production as both the Governor and President claim to support must consist of three parts:

Fix nuclear waste management. President Obama’s policy to terminate the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository has set the prospects of a broad expansion of nuclear energy back. Reversing this policy is critical and that starts with directing the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to restart its review of the permit to build Yucca.

Fix nuclear regulation. The United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission does a good job of regulating public health and safety for a slow to no growth industry but take the wrong approach for regulating a technological diverse and growing industry. The NRC must be reformed to allow for more efficient regulation of existing technology as well as to promote the introduction of new technologies.

Get the government out of the nuclear energy business. The federal government has too much power over what nuclear technologies move forward. Instead of spending money at the Department of Energy to develop technologies that should be funded by the private sector, the federal government should focus on updating the NRC’s ability to regulate a modern, 21st century industry.

– Jack Spencer

Hardly a Balanced Approach to Fix Spending and Debt Crisis

President Obama’s recycled “balanced approach” mantra surfaced for the umpteenth time this evening—even though Americans know it is far from balanced, never mind mathematically impossible. Raising taxes on wealthier Americans who, in President Obama’s own words, “can afford to pay a little bit more,” would be a direct hit to the very businesses and investors we need to be encouraged, not discouraged from creating jobs. Failing to address Taxmageddon and inject certainty into the economy is an abysmal failure of Congress and President Obama. It’s already threatening the economy, and causing economic stagnation.

On the other side of this “balanced approach” is spending cuts, which the President merely pays lip service to. The facts show that spending is on the rise; everything from anti-poverty to education to transportation spending has grown dramatically over the past ten years. Without reforms, entitlement programs are set to exceed 40 percent of the economy within a few decades. Obama initially even wanted a clean debt limit increase last year—with no spending cuts in exchange. Is that balanced? Hardly.

– Emily Goff

No Taxes on Savings

Governor Romney, when giving more details on his tax plan tonight, discussed that families making $200,000 or less would face no taxes on savings. The Heritage Foundation’s New Flat Tax would deduct savings immediately from taxable personal income, and savings would remain tax exempt until spent on consumption. This would lead to greater financial security for the American middle class by providing incentives for greater personal savings.

The New Flat Tax, as outlined in Heritage’s Saving the American Dream plan, would replace today’s convoluted tax system with a simple, neutral, and transparent tax system that would allow America to achieve its full economic potential.

– Romina Boccia

Damaging Deficits Persist

For all the talk about the deficits that would persist under Governor Romney’s policies, the President is perhaps forgetting what has happened over the past four years. Under President Obama, the federal government has consistently recorded annual deficits in excess of $1 trillion. These deficits persist largely due to inflated levels of spending. The 2012 deficit of $1.1 trillion was about 7.3 percent of GDP; by comparison, the historical average is only 2.1 percent of GDP. If the country does not have leadership at the top, as well as in Congress, that will cut spending, the federal budget will continue to be plagued by damaging, unsightly deficits. It is imperative that Congress and the President get federal spending under control.

– Emily Goff

On “Investing” in Education

President Obama suggested asking the “wealthy to pay more” in order to invest in education. For President Obama, “investing in education” means spending more precious taxpayer dollars on federal education programs. There has been a near tripling of federal per-pupil expenditures since the 1960s, yet student achievement has remained flat. That’s because spending has no correlation with academic achievement. But spending does have a strong correlation with federal intervention in education. The more federal spending and programs grow, the more control Washington has over education. That control comes at the expense of state and local – and ultimately parental – control over education.

Yet the Obama Administration has proposed a nearly $70 billion budget for the Department of Education for 2013, and proposes spending $60 billion in supplemental spending on new education programs. These staggering new spending increases are in addition to the one-time $98 billion provided to the Department of Education in 2009 as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act—the “stimulus”—and on top of the $10 billion “EduJobs” bill passed in the summer of 2010.

Americans are calling for fiscal restraint in Washington. As has been the case for the past half century, more spending and federal programs are not a recipe for educational success.

– Lindsey Burke

Tax Reform and Lowering Tax Rates

Tax reform is about economic growth. Lower tax rates are important to improving growth because they improve the incentives for engaging the activities that grow the economy like working, saving, investing, and taking risks.

Governor Romney’s tax plan would lower rates to improve those incentives. His plan can be made revenue and distributionally neutral.

President Obama has a different approach. He does not have a tax reform plan, but instead proposes to raise taxes on “the rich.” He defines that as incomes over $250,000. Obama’s plan to raise tax rates on incomes over that amount would hit small businesses that employ workers. In fact, the accounting firm Ernst & Young found that Obama’s plan would destroy more than 700,000 jobs.

Obama said he would raise rates to the same level they were under President Clinton. Because Obamacare raised the payroll tax rate and levied a surtax on investment income, Obama’s plan would raise tax rates above where they were in the Clinton years.

And arguing that the economy grew in the 1990s with higher rates does not mean we can raise taxes now and have the same result. In the 1990s, the economy had everything going for it. Today, the economy continues to face stiff headwinds.

– Curtis Dubay

Energy Production on Federal Lands Has Fallen

While President Obama made the familiar statement that oil and gas production is the highest it has been in 8 years, Governor Romney was right to point out that this was driven by production on private and state lands. Oil and gas production on federal lands is, in fact, down. According to a recent report from the Energy Information Administration (EIA), energy production decreased 13 percent on federal lands in fiscal year (FY) 2011 when compared to FY 2010. The official moratorium and de facto moratorium as a result of a molasses-like permitting process reduced planned capital and operating investments by $18.3 billion and cost the Gulf more than 162,000 jobs in just the past two years. Federal production in the West has experienced a similar fate: The Administration’s delays on permitting oil and gas projects public lands are preventing economic activity. In Utah and Wyoming, for instance, projects held up by the National Environmental Policy Act process is preventing the creation 64,805 jobs, $4.3 billion in wages, and $14.9 billion in economic impact every year.

– Nicolas Loris

Where Are the Jobs from the Keystone Pipeline?

President Obama suggested tonight that he was concerned with creating jobs in the U.S. Yet, when he had the opportunity to allow the Keystone pipeline and the many jobs this would have created, the President rejected both. The Keystone XL pipeline would deliver oil from our Canadian ally, relieve some of the pain of high prices at the gas pump, and create jobs in America. Nevertheless, and despite a State Department environmental review concluding that the project poses no significant environmental risk, the President chose to reject TransCanada’s permit application to build the pipeline.

– Romina Boccia

Investing in Our Energy Future?

President Obama discussed creating jobs by investing in energy sources for the future, 10 to 20 years from now. First, we don’t know what the energy sources 20 years from now will be. That’s for the market to determine, not the federal government. As economist F.A. Hayek famously wrote: “The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design.” The government shouldn’t be designing our energy policy by subsidizing politically preferred energy sources. That does not create jobs. It merely allocates labor and capitol from one sector of the economy to another. We need to open access, reduce onerous and duplicative regulations, and remove subsidies for all energy sources to allow the market to determine our energy mix.

– Nicolas Loris

The Auto Bailout

President Obama once more criticized Governor Romney for saying GM should go bankrupt. But Romney tonight finally cleared the record, pointing out that that is exactly what happened – GM and Chrysler DID go bankrupt. But, as Obama confirmed, the administration didn’t stop there – it nationalized the firms. Taxpayers are still some $25 billion in the hole and still own a quarter of the shares of GM. Bankruptcy was the right solution; a bailout was not.

– James Gattuso

Energy and Jobs

Both President Obama and Governor Romney recognize the power of energy to create economic growth and jobs, not only within the energy sector but economy wide. But the means to the end are just as important as that end.

Obama talks about “controlling” our energy. His means has been to harness America’s domestic energy, financial, and human resources to a vision and a plan for a politically preferred definition of energy independence. Obama has created a narrow direction for American energy rather than creating space for Americans and the market to pursuit America’s resources and tackle problems.

– Katie Tubb

Stimulus Was a Failure

The President’s economic theories are a failure. If anything, he has proved the folly of the kind of Keynesian-inspired “stimulus” with which he launched his tenure. The $833 billion exercise in economic ideology, enacted within a month of his inauguration, has been a stunning failure—and American households have paid the price.

It is true the President inherited a difficult economy, but his policies haven’t helped. In some respects they have made matters worse. This year’s second quarter growth in real gross domestic product was a meager 1.3 percent—down from 1.7 percent for all of 2011, which was lower than the 2.9 percent rate in 2010. Meanwhile, federal deficits have held stubbornly above $1 trillion every year of the Obama Administration. Further, though the President can point to some net job creation over his term, it has barely kept pace with the growth in the U.S. population. As a result, the ratio of employed persons to the total population has remained flat since mid-2009—not the sign of a growing economy.

Equally stunning are the household income figures. From June 2009—the start of the “recovery”—until June this year, median household incomes declined by 4.8 percent, adjusted for inflation. The drop itself is bad enough—but it is almost twice as deep as the 2.6 percent decline during the recession.

These are the fruits of an economic and fiscal policy that has failed decisively. It is no surprise, really. Every dollar spent by government is taxed or borrowed from the economy, where it would otherwise be available for growth-producing activities. The lesson is clear: Less government spending is not “austerity”; it will not starve the economy. Smaller government, and less government spending, is a fundamental policy for growth.

– Patrick Knudsen

Difficulty Finding a Job, and Saddled with Debt

Not only will the young man who is concerned about his future have difficulty finding a job in the current Obama economy, but just like his peers, he will also be saddled with a tremendous amount of federal debt. Thanks in no small part to Washington’s overspending and its failure to propose real solutions to entitlement reform.

Congress and the President must curb the spending addiction to get deficits and debt under control, and avoid burying its youth and future generations in mountains of debt.

Emily Goff

Obama’s Questionable Embrace of Free Enterprise

In his closing argument, President Obama presented himself as a champion of free enterprise. Then came the ominous “but”: “But I also believe that everybody should have a fair shot and everybody should do their fair share and everybody should play by the same rules.”

Here’s the rub: free enterprise goes hand in hand with the rule of law and equal opportunity—what the President refers to as everyone playing by the same rules and getting a fair shot. A true champion of free enterprise does not need to specify that he also believes in these, since they are part and parcel of free-market economics. To specify that the free enterprise system needs to be supplemented by the rule of law and equal opportunity suggests instead that one has embraced the Left’s straw man depiction of capitalism as a ruthless system that allows the rich to rig the game and fleece the poor.

That the President’s embrace of free enterprise is less than sincere is confirmed by the “fair share” comment. This is a thinly veiled jab at the rich (which he defined during the debate as either the top 1 percent or 2 percent of earners). A true champion of free markets would not be attacking the rich by implying they are somehow taking advantage of the rest of us.

President Obama can either embrace the free enterprise system or he can play the class warfare card. But—and in this case there must be a “but”—he can’t wear both hats at the same time.

– David Azerrad

For more analysis of the debate, video, a slideshow of photos, and a word cloud of Obama’s and Romney’s answers, visit our Debate 2012 page.

Quick Hits:

  • President Obama had more than three extra minutesof speaking time last night compared to Governor Romney.
  • The number of people on food stampscontinues to top record highs.
  • Despite high demand for a smartphone app that allows customers to hail a cab, New York City’s taxi regulators are trying to shut down the app.
  • Russia has been helping Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, who has presided over the massacre of Syrians. At noon ET today, Heritage will host a discussion of what the U.S. should do about the Russia-Syria relationship. Watch online here.

 

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