Romney debate makeover leaves questions unanswered, positions unclear


by Félix Pérez

Last night’s presidential debate offered both good news and bad news for Mitt Romney. The good news: Voters who are just beginning to pay attention to the presidential election saw the semblance of a moderate candidate. The bad news: Romney’s outrageous statements about the “47 percent,” “all the education you can afford” and his support of high-income earners at the expense of the middle class can’t simply be Etch-A-Sketched away.

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Leading off the second debate was a college student who wanted to know what Romney would say to reassure him that a job would await him after he graduates.

Romney responded in three parts: “Make it easier for kids to afford college,” “make sure there’s a job,” and “keep our Pell Grant program growing.”

A reasonable answer, for sure, except that some recent statements Romney has made on the campaign trail stand in stark contrast. Take, for example, Romney’s advice to students looking to go to college. “Borrow money, if you have to, from your parents.” Then there was his response to another student who wanted to know what Romney would do to help make college affordable: “The best thing I can do for you is tell you to shop around.”

Contrary to Romney’s pledge to keep the Pell Grant program growing, the budget plan written by Romney running mate Paul Ryan and praised by Romney would cut Pell Grants for more than 9 million students by $1,000.

Another participant at the town hall debate asked Romney how he would pay for his 20 percent across-the-board tax cuts — including for individuals with incomes above a million dollars — without cutting or eliminating programs and deductions geared to the middle class and the working poor.

Romney answered, “I want to bring the rates down, I want to simplify the tax code, and I want to get middle-income taxpayers to have lower taxes.”

Problem is, the math just doesn’t add up.

According to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, which Romney has praised in the past for its rigorous analyses, Romney’s tax proposal would result in a $2,000 tax hike on average middle-class families with children, while the wealthiest 5 percent of Americans would get a tax cut of $87,000.

In response to a questioner who asked what the candidates would do to address pay inequities between women and men doing the same job with the same qualifications and experience, Romney talked about the “binders full of women” he used to fill vacancies in his cabinet while he was governor of Massachusetts. He added, “What we can do to help young women and women of all ages is to have a strong economy.”

When given the opportunity to express its support for the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act earlier this year, however, a senior member of the Romney campaign said, “We’ll get back to you on that.” The campaign reversed course after it received widespread criticism.

For his part, Ryan, a member of Congress, voted against the Fair Pay Act, which makes it easier for women to fight back when they don’t receive equal pay for equal work.

The Lilly Ledbetter Act was the first legislation signed into law by President Barack Obama.

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