Romney’s “Snake Oil Medicine” Debate Performance

The first Presidential debate was remarkable not only for President Obama’s lackluster and almost detached performance, but also for the impressively dishonest performance by Mitt Romney.  Below I summarize lies told by Romney, mostly based on analysis from a number of fact checking sites.  I was expecting a long list but am surprised to see how long the below list was and just how thoroughly and completely Romney, while giving an impressive performance, lied his way to winning the first Presidential debate:

“I don’t have a $5 trillion tax cut.” Independent economists at the Tax Policy Center have shown that the price tag for those cuts is $360 billion in the first year, a cost that extrapolates to $5 trillion over a decade.

Six studies prove that Obama’s charge about him raising taxes is “completely wrong”.  The “studies” Romney cites include two Wall Street Journal editorials, an article in the same paper by one of his own economic advisers, and two analyses by conservative think tanks. And even those studies, says Glenn Kessler at The Washington Post, “do not provide much evidence that Romney’s proposal — as sketchy as it is — would be revenue neutral without making unrealistic assumptions.”

Obama “doubled the deficit”. When Obama took office in January 2009, the Congressional Budget Office had already estimated that the federal deficit in fiscal 2009 (ending in September) would be $1.2 trillion, says Jackie Calmes at The New York Times. It ended up being $1.4 trillion. For fiscal 2012, the deficit was $1.1 trillion lower than when he took office. And “measured as a share of the economy, as economists prefer, the deficit has declined more significantly — from 10.1 percent of the economy’s total output in 2009 to 7.3 percent for 2012.”

“I will not reduce the taxes paid by high-income Americans.” The Tax Policy Center report concludes that Romney’s proposal would create a “net tax cut for high-income tax payers and a net tax increase for lower- and or middle-income taxpayers.”

“We’ve got 23 million people out of work or [who have] stopped looking for work in this country.” The official figure is 12.5 million unemployed. An additional 2.6 million Americans have stopped looking for jobs.

Obamacare “puts in place an unelected board that’s going to tell people ultimately what kind of treatments they can have.” The Independent Payment Advisory Board has no authority to dictate the practices of the private insurance marketplace. And the law also makes explicit that this body is banned from rationing care or limiting medical benefits to seniors.

“Pre-existing conditions are covered under my plan.” Under Romney’s proposals, if you have a pre-existing condition and have been unable to obtain insurance coverage or if you have had to drop coverage for more than 90 days because you lost your job or couldn’t afford the premiums, you would be shit out of luck. Insurance companies could continue to discriminate and deny you coverage, as even Romney’s top adviser conceded after the debate was over.

A Bipartisan Record. Romney referred to his alleged “bipartisan” record in Massachusetts as governor during the debate. But what’s the real story on this? ABC News calls the claim “not quite factual.” Indeed: Romney’s health care plan was enacted with the help of a Democratic legislature. But in general, the body was “frustrated” with Romney “because he wanted to govern like a ‘CEO’ and ‘didn’t pay heed to the legislature and they resented that,’” according to the Massachusetts Taxpayer Foundation’s Michael Widmer.

Dodd-Frank Labels Banks as ‘Too Big to Fail’. One contrast between the candidates that emerged during the debate was over Dodd-Frank, the weak Wall Street reforms and regulations passed after the 2008 financial collapse. Romney wants to repeal Dodd-Frank, and part of the reason why is his claim that the bill designates banks as “too big to fail” and therefore gives them “a blank check.” But as ThinkProgress notes, this is far from the truth: “the law merely says that the biggest, systemically risky banks need to abide by more stringent regulations . If those banks fail, they will be unwound by a new process in the Dodd-Frank law that protects taxpayers from having to pony up for a bailout.”

Obamacare Leads to Loss of Healthcare. Governor Romney claimed that the passage of the Affordable Care Act will lead to 20 million people losing health insurance. He based this claim on a Congressional Budget Office report. But according to PolitiFact, Romney “cherry picked” the CBO report and mislead viewers on why people would “lose” coverage.

PolitiFact’s final verdict on the claim is: “That number is cherry-picked, and he’s wrong to describe it as only including people who ‘like’ their coverage, since many of those 20 million will be leaving employer coverage voluntarily for better options. Romney also ignores that under the status quo, many more people today ‘lose’ coverage than even the highest, cherry-picked CBO estimate. We rate his statement False.”

50 Percent of College Graduates Can’t Find Work. Romeny claimed that “50 percent of college graduates this year can’t find work.”  According to the AP: “A Northeastern University analysis for The Associated Press found that a quarter of graduates were probably unemployed and another quarter were underemployed, which means working in jobs that didn’t make full use of their skills or experience.”

Obamacare Cuts Billions From Medicare. This was one of Romney’s favorite attack lines last night: the notion that the Affordable Care Act is siphoning off funds from Medicare. The specific claim is that $716 billion was cut from Medicare because of the Affordable Care Act. In reality, this claim is highly misleading. What the number refers to is money that is saved “primarily through reducing over-payments to insurance companies under Medicare Advantage, not payments to beneficiaries. Paul Ryan’s budget plan keeps those same cuts , but directs them toward tax cuts for the rich and deficit reduction,” ThinkProgress notes.

Gas Prices Increase. Romney said that “gasoline prices have doubled under the president. Electric rates are up.” This is true–but to blame it on the president is highly misleading. Gasoline prices have little to do with individual policies carried out by a president. Instead, as the Associated Press states, “Gasoline prices are set on financial exchanges around the world and are based on a host of factors, most importantly the price of crude oil used to make gasoline, the amount of finished gasoline ready to be shipped and the capacity of refiners to make enough to meet market demand.”

The AP also skewers Romney’s claim on electric rates going up: “Retail electricity prices have risen since Obama took office — barely. They’ve grown by an average of less than 1 percent per year, less than the rate of inflation and slower than the historical growth in electricity prices. The unexpectedly modest rise in electricity prices is because of the plummeting cost of natural gas, which is used to generate electricity.”

$90 Billion to Clean Energy. Romney said Obama spent $90 billion on clean energy which is equal to 50 years of oil/gas subsidies. Firsts off, a minority of that money went to “clean energy” like wind and solar vs. smart grid, energy efficiency, and job training, all of which created jobs. Secondly, average annual support for the mature oil and gas industry has been $4.86 billion (1918-2009), compared to $3.50 billion for nuclear (1947-1999) and $0.37 billion (1994-2009) for renewable energy.  In aggregate, the US has given nearly half a trillion dollars to oil and gas in direct subsidies.  Also, as described in my post here, society subsidizes coal electricity to the tune of 3.4 cents/kWh in addition to the price on our electric bills.  This is compared to the 2.0 cents/kWh tax credit for wind energy that Romney opposes.

Solyndra as Corporate Cronyism. Romney implied yet again that campaign contributions to President Obama had influenced green energy investments by the Department of Energy.  This lie has been exposed by a number of fact checkers.  In fact, two Solyndra Board members contributed to Romney’s campaign, and Romney has invested in funds that invest in companies funded by similar DOE loan guarantees   Further, the history of the DOE loan guarantee program often escapes discussion.  This is a wildly successful program.  The fact is that 87% of the DOE loan guarantee program went to guaranteeing loans for power projects which are backed by private power purchase agreements and thus low risk. Only 13% went to the kinds of manufacturing and other investments that included Solyndra. In fact, DOE’s loan guarantee program has a higher success rate than similar private equity investments.

Sources not already linked above:


About Cyrus

Cyrus Tashakkori is Vice President at Pioneer Green Energy, a wind and solar power developer based in Austin, TX. He has an MBA and a Masters in Public Policy from the University of Texas in Austin and a Bachelor's in Science & Economics from the University of North Carolina, Asheville.
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