Heritage Foundation experts react to first Presidential debate


By Amy Payne

The Heritage Foundation

During last night’s debate between President Obama and former Governor Mitt Romney, Heritage’s domestic 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.
Competing Tax Plans 

Most of the time on taxes was spent on Romney’s tax plan. Romney’s plan, like most tax reform plans, would lower tax rates and make other changes to the tax code to encourage growth. The economy will not recover fully until we have tax reform.

Obama repeated the falsehood that Romney’s plan would raise taxes on the middle class. This incorrect assertion was spread by a biased report from the Tax Policy Center. Romney’s plan can make pro-growth changes to the tax code and doesn’t have to raise taxes on the middle class.

Some time was also spent on Obama’s plan to raise the top marginal tax rate over 40 percent. It is important to keep in mind that raising the top rate would fall heavily on job creators and hurt job creation.

Obama falsely claimed businesses can take a deduction for moving jobs overseas. No such deduction exists.

– Curtis Dubay

Education Spending as a Broad Answer on Jobs and Other Issues

Further increasing federal education spending will fail to improve academic outcomes. Policymakers need to trim federal spending—not increase it—and empower state education leaders with control over their share of education funding. And there is plenty of room to cut spending.

Since the 1970s, federal per-pupil expenditures have more than doubled (after adjusting for inflation). Those increases haven’t all gone to the classroom or toward teacher salaries. Much of that money has gone toward expanding bureaucracy and non-teaching administrative positions in our nation’s public schools.

A better prescription for improving educational outcomes is empowering states with control of education dollars and decision-making, giving them the ability to craft policies that allow parents to direct their children’s education.Here’s Heritage’s plan for how to do just that.

– Lindsey Burke

The Contrast on Medicare

Obama has already made significant changes to Medicare through his health care reform law. He depends on failed government price controls to cut Medicare by more than $716 billion over the next 10 years, not to help shore up Medicare for future generations, but instead to help pay for Obamacare. Moreover, he depends on a board of 15 unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats to enforce more cuts. [To read more, see Obamacare Ends Medicare As We Know It]

Similar to the Heritage plan, Romney’s plan restructures the Medicare program for future generations. His proposal, calledpremium support, would provide a government contribution toward the cost of a private plan or traditional Medicare. It also guarantees that seniors would have access to plans that cover the government contribution while ensuring plans meet the same level of Medicare benefits.

Premium support is not a “voucher” any more than is current law. It just says government will pick up a big part of the tab for your health insurance, and if you want to spend more, then you pay the difference. There’s nothing exceptional about this. It is exactly what happens today under Medicare Advantage.

– Alyene Senger and J.D. Foster

Obamacare Raises Taxes on the Poor and Middle Class

Obama proclaimed that he reduced taxes for the middle class. What he failed to mention is that he also increased taxes on the middle class. Let’s not forget that the President’s health care law will raise taxes on the middle class and the poor in four years as reported by the Congressional Budget Office. For instance, a family of four making about $24,600 per year, the projected federal poverty level in 2016, could be subject to Obamacare’s controversial individual mandate tax. This is only one of the 18 taxes and penalties imposed by Obamacare, some of which will hit Americans as early as January 2013.

– Romina Boccia

The Role of Government and the Ladder ofOpportunity

When asked about the role of the government, Obama brought up his favorite metaphor, “the ladder of opportunity.” And as usual, he incorrectly suggested that it’s government spending that creates these ladders of opportunity.

In reality, while government has an important role to play in upholding the rule of law, ensuring access to education, and providing a safety net, it cannot compete with the free market when it comes to creating opportunities. That’s why economic freedom—and not government spending—is one of the pillars of our American Dream.

Given the President’s statist and egalitarian impulses, perhaps the “escalator of results” might be a more fitting analogy next time: Everybody just hops on and we all get to the same place with little effort on our behalf.

– David Azerrad

What We Didn’t Hear Last Night

What wasn’t said at tonight’s debate spoke volumes. In an hour and a half focused largely on the economy, not a single mention was made about the importance that marriage plays in combating poverty. Not a single mention of how federal welfare programs can function as poverty traps, especially as the Obama Administration has gutted the work requirements that made welfare reform a success. As the debate turned to focus explicitly on health care reform and the role of government more generally, not a single mention of how the federal government under Obamacare, rather than protecting religious liberty, is actively coercing citizens to violate their consciences. The nuts and bolts of taxation, regulation, Medicare, Social Security, and other domestic policies are important, but so too are the ways that these and other government actions shape culture and interact with civil society. At the end of the day, culture and the institutions of civil society are what make America great. Our government shouldn’t be weakening them.

– Ryan Anderson

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.


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