President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney argued fiercely over foreign policy during their final debate, with some discussion of tax policy, the budget and the economy also part of the mix.
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Moderator Bob Schieffer of CBS News asked Romney about his plans for increasing the military budget and where he was going to get the money without driving up the budget deficit. “We’re going to cut about 5 percent of the discretionary budget, excluding military. That’s number one,” Romney responded during Monday night’s debate at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla.
Obama responded by criticizing Romney’s tax plans. “Look, Governor Romney’s called for $5 trillion of tax cuts that he says he’s going to pay for by closing deductions,” he said. “Now, the math doesn’t work, but he continues to claim that he’s going to do it. He then wants to spend another $2 trillion on military spending that our military is not asking for.”
Romney pointed out that he managed to balance the budget when he was governor of Massachusetts. “I’m pleased that I’ve balanced budgets,” he said. “I was in the world of business for 25 years. If you didn’t balance your budget, you went out of business. I went into the Olympics that was out of balance, and we got it on balance, and made a success there. I had the chance to be governor of a state. Four years in a row, Democrats and Republicans came together to balance the budget. We cut taxes 19 times and balanced our budget. The President hasn’t balanced a budget yet. I expect to have the opportunity to do so myself.”
Obama criticized Romney for investing in companies that are shipping jobs overseas. However, he avoided mentioning specific examples, such as Sensata Technologies, which is owned by Bain Capital and is in the process of shutting down a plant in Freeport, Ohio, sending over 100 jobs to China. “Well, Governor Romney’s right. You are familiar with jobs being shipped overseas because you invested in companies that were shipping jobs overseas,” said Obama. “I mean that’s how our free market works. But I’ve made a different bet on American workers. If we had taken your advice, Governor Romney, about our auto industry, we’d be buying cars from China instead of selling cars to China. If we take your advice with respect to how we change our tax codes so that companies that earn profits overseas don’t pay U.S. taxes compared to companies here that are paying taxes. Now that’s estimated to create 800,000 jobs. The problem is they won’t be here. They’ll be in places like China.”
Romney defended his recommendations for the auto industry when General Motors and Chrysler were facing the prospect of bankruptcy in 2009. “The President mentioned the auto industry and that somehow I would be in favor of jobs being elsewhere. Nothing could be further from the truth,” he said. “I’m a son of Detroit. I was born in Detroit. My dad was head of a car company. I like American cars. And I would do nothing to hurt the U.S. auto industry. My plan to get the industry on its feet when it was in real trouble was not to start writing checks. It was President Bush that wrote the first checks. I disagree with that. I said these companies need to go through a managed bankruptcy. And in that process, they can get government help and government guarantees, but they need to go through bankruptcy to get rid of excess cost and the debt burden that they’d built up.”
Obama disputed Romney’s account of his recommendations for GM and Chrysler going bankrupt. In his closing statement, Obama referred to his plans for rewarding companies that keep jobs in the U.S. “I’ve got a different vision for America,” he said. “I want to build on our strengths. And I’ve put forward a plan to make sure that we’re bringing manufacturing jobs back to our shores by rewarding companies and small businesses that are investing here, not overseas.”
Romney contrasted his vision with Obama’s. “And there are two very different paths the country can take,” he said. “One is a path represented by the President, which at the end of four years would mean we’d have $20 trillion in debt heading towards Greece. I’ll get us on track to a balanced budget. The President’s path will mean continuing decline in take-home pay. I want to make sure our take-home pay turns around and starts to grow.”