The line of the last night’s debate for me was delivered by Governor Mitt Romney: “Mr. President, you’re entitled as the president to your own airplane and to your own house, but not to your own facts.” Admittedly, this one has a special place in my heart because I use it all the time in my day job. That being said, it also makes a larger point that became abundantly clear last night.
There will be much chatter about various aspects of last night’s debate for days to come. Pundits will talk about the “optics”, the policy differences between the two candidates, and so much more. But the most telling thing about last night’s debate was a simple, ever-lasting, stubborn truth. Facts are a hard thing to run from.
Now, both candidates admittedly spun facts to benefit their arguments. But the president’s spin flew in the face of the everyday reality most Americans can see with their own eyes and bordered on something much worse than mere spin. Here are a few examples in no particular order:
(1) The president repeated a mantra he has used since the start of the debate about Obama-care. Aside from the fact that he continues to use the word health care (which Romney did also) when the real topic of discussion is health insurance, he continues to say that “if you like your current plan and your current doctor you can keep them”. This is categorically false. Simply explained, most people don’t get to decide what health insurance plans they want. Their employers do. So when the employer drops a plan because of the rising costs created by Obama-care, the plan disappears. Moreover, as Romney stated many employers plan to drop all coverage and force people onto the government plan. Similarly, many doctors are being squeezed by cuts in Medicare reimbursement and other parts of the system. As a result, they won’t treat a person without private health insurance whether you want them to be your doctor or not. There is no real choice in this scenario.
(2) The president attempted to sell the idea that he wanted to eliminate tax breaks for companies that move off-shore. While this sounds great, Romney is right in saying it isn’t true. The tax deductions are the same business write-offs that all companies have access to in the normal course of business. There is nothing unique about it. While what Obama really means is the normal tax deductions should not be allowed for companies moving off-shore (which raises constitutional issues), he intentionally makes it sound as if they get special treatment now because it fits his narrative. Another half truth that Romney called him on last night.
(3) The president claimed more than once that Romney’s economic plan calls for a $5 trillion tax cut on top of the extension of the Bush tax cuts. He then added in $2 million for defense spending that the Department “is not even asking for”. The president claimed it is simple math . Funny thing though, Obama’s simple math is wrong. Romney’s goal would be to flatten out the tax rate and take away deductions and loopholes to make it revenue neutral. The only way Obama’s $5 trillion math works is if one accepts a projection of a possible $465 billion decrease in 2015 and adds it up over a 10 year period.
Here’s the central problem. This president has made a career on half truths that never get challenged by an adoring media and complicit Democrat party. Last night, he was faced with some very simple facts that he could not run away from. And Romney held his feet to the fire. The president was called on his half truths and the American people saw an adult across the stage from Obama reinforce this fact with one of the other memorable lines of the night: “Look, I’ve got five boys. I’m used to people saying something that’s not always true, but just keep on repeating it and ultimately hoping I’ll believe it. But that — that is not the case.”
In another simple math problem that the president has trouble telling the whole truth about, he recently reported a huge reduction in the unemployment numbers as proof his plan is working. What he didn’t mention was that the number went down because of the number of people who have stopped looking for work are no longer being counted as “unemployed”. When you add in the underemployed, which have never been included, the true number of people who can’t find adequate work is hovering around 20% of all Americans.
Here’s another number. Over 63 million people got to see the truth last night. There was no place to hide. Romney won the debate because he stuck to the facts. Facts are indeed stubborn things. Romney should continue to remind the public of these facts over and over again between now and election day. The truth will win him this race because the American people already know things are bad. They want someone who acknowledges that, understands why, and will make it better. On this account, the president is the one who is out of touch (queue “the private sector is doing fine” tape).