Romney hits hard in first Presidential debate
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10/04/12 Samuel Johnson
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Nearly 60 faculty members and students gathered Wednesday night at the Saint Petersburg College campus in Clearwater to observe and reflect on the Presidential debate. The debate focused on domestic issues. It was a numbers and figures laden discussion about the economy, debt and entitlement reform.

Although Obama and Romney agreed cuts in spending are necessary, they differed on which ones and by how much. For instance, Romney would eliminate federal funding for public broadcasting.

“I'm sorry Jim, I'm going to stop the funding to PBS. I'm going to stop other things. I like PBS. I like Big Bird. I actually like you too. But I'm not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for it.”

Public broadcast funding represents less than .02 percent of the federal budget. While Romney wants to cut the federal budget the president called for more spending in the area of education.

“...hire another 100,000 new math and science teachers. And create 2 million more slots in our community colleges so that people can get trained for the jobs that are out there right now. And I want to make sure we keep tuition low for our young people.”

Richard Mercante, a teacher at Saint Petersburg College, says higher education has become the surprise topic of the campaign.

“It's interesting that President Obama focused or mentioned community colleges. He did that when he visited SPC too. I think it was very telling because, you know, education became a bigger part of the debate than they perhaps expected it be.”

Romney’s plan for education reform and stimulus is to tie funding to the student.

“My own view, by the way, is I've added to that. I happen to believe, I want the kids who are getting federal dollars from IDEA or Title One. These are disabled kids or poor kids; or lower income kids, rather. I want them to be able to go to the school of their choice. So all federal funds, instead of going to the state or the school district; I would have, if you will, follow the child. And let the parents and the child decide where to send the student.”

Romney Attacked Obama on the issue of medicare. He claims that Obama is encouraging a reckless cut of 716 billion dollars in Medicare in order to finance “Obamacare”, also known as the Affordable Care Act.

“15 percent of hospitals and nursing homes say won’t take any more medicare patients under that scenario. We also have50 percent of doctors who say they won’t take any more medicare patients. We have 4 million on medicare advantage that will loose medicare advantage because of those 716 million cuts.”

Does Romney’s claim that Obama wants to deeply cut medicare hold up to scrutiny? According to politifact.com the 716 billion refers to Obamacare’s reductions in future Medicare spending over 10 years. This is money slated to be paid to insurers and hospitals and not taken from the beneficiaries. The cuts are not from current budget.

The crowd of 60 people who watched the debate last night on a big screen at Saint Petersburg College snickered and laughed at some of the candidates answers. The audience, mostly students, seemed to lean toward Obama. But communications professor Shirley Oakley at SPC said there was no clear winner.

“who won or lost? I just don't think it's that simple. And I don't think it's that polarized.”

The next presidential debate will between Vice President Joe Biden and Republican Presidential running mate Paul Ryan. The debate is scheduled for October 11 at 9 p.m.

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