The presidential debate Wednesday night highlighted just how fundamentally the two presidential candidates differ on how to relieve the nation’s debt crisis.
At one point in the debate, moderator Jim Lehrer posed the question: “What are the differences between the two of you as to how you would go about tackling the deficit problem in this country?”
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney responded that bringing down the deficit is both a moral and economic issue.
“It’s, frankly, not moral for my generation to keep spending massively more than we take in, knowing those burdens are going to be passed on to the next generation and they’re going to be paying the interest and the principal all their lives,” Romney said. “And the amount of debt we’re adding, at a trillion [dollars] a year, is simply not moral.”
Though Romney was well-spoken and poignant during the debate, conflicting statements about education and a vague economic plan indicate a critical lack of understanding and his inability to put forward a policy that will truly lessen future generations’ debt burden.
Romney’s five-point plan promises 12 million new jobs over the next four years. To fulfill this promise, Romney wants to cut taxes by $5 trillion. The tax cuts are mostly for the wealthiest Americans, leaving an ever-growing financial burden on the lower and middle classes. This is not a step forward for the millions of young Americans who will have to or are currently taking on student debt, but an additional financial burden that students and future generations will all have to face if Romney is elected president.
Though neither candidate touched on the issue of student debt much in the debate, it is key to understand the difference between their approaches to the topic as it directly impacts future generations. Romney plans to reverse two concrete, beneficial steps President Barack Obama took to relieve current and future students’ debt — lowering the loan payment cap to 10 percent of income and decreasing the required number of years for an unpaid student loan to be forgiven from 25 to 20.
Throughout the debate, Romney often dodged the question of student debt entirely. In the beginning of Obama’s second two-minute segment, Obama said that he “want[s] to make sure to keep tuition low for our young people.”
Romney’s following two minutes focused on anything but rising tuition costs — rather, he returned to taxes, middle-income families and energy policy. Granted, Obama didn’t delve any deeper into the issue, but at least he mentioned it.
And immediately after preaching that “education is key,” Romney advocated cutting federal training and education programs. But he later said he has no plan to cut education or student loan grants, although he had previously endorsed vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s budget plan, which includes $170 billion in Pell Grant cuts. Hypocritical logic such as this is far from presidential, and even farther from the solid economic reform that future generations need to lessen their debt burden.
David Axelrod, Obama’s senior advisor, told reporters after the debate that Romney “came to give a performance and gave a good performance and we give him credit for that. The problem is that none of it was rooted in fact.”
Unlike Romney, Obama has taken many clear-cut steps that directly alleviate younger generations’ debt burden, including a student loan package that prevented loans rates from doubling and a health care act that allows young adults to stay on their parents’ health care plans until they’re 26 years old.
Though polls show that Romney came out as the winner of the debate, his economic vision is not compatible with the needs of current and future students — the future generation that will have to live, study and work under this policy should he be elected president.
Elena Kadvany is a senior majoring in Spanish and is the Daily Trojan’s editorial director. Point/Counterpoint runs Fridays.
Whether you’re in your first semester at USC or graduating in May, think about this: Whichever candidate is elected on Nov. 6 will be president for the next four years, meaning he will be in office when most of us graduate.
And what do students hope to do when they graduate? Pay off student loans and find a career. This is why students should all be paying special attention to what was said by both candidates regarding the economy in Wednesday night’s presidential debate.
The candidate who wins the election will substantially determine the economic climate while we’re looking for jobs and future students are trying to pay for college — and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is the candidate whose policies best address these needs.
During the debate, Romney and Obama both outlined strategies to lessen the national debt and create jobs, with Obama’s emphasis on spending on government programs to boost the economy and Romney’s promotion of tax cuts. The two actually seem to agree on a number of issues — prioritizing relief for the middle class and emphasizing the importance and role of small businesses, to name a few — but Romney’s plan for the economy offers more specifics, focuses on sounder economic principles and will be more easily implemented.
To improve the economy, Romney will focus on five goals: energy independence, increased trade with Latin America, unparalleled level of education, a balanced budget and improved conditions for small businesses.
He emphasized that his plan is revenue-neutral, meaning none of his tax cuts will add to the deficit. In addition, he plans to decrease trade with China and eliminate unnecessary programs based on the criteria Romney outlined in the debate: “Is the program so critical that it’s worth borrowing money from China to pay for it?”
Romney’s policies focus on exactly what younger generations need to avoid having to pay off massive debt later in life. Rather than increasing taxes, which would initially slow the economy before anything improves, Romney wants to cut unnecessary spending and programs. The benefits of this will manifest quickly, and it is a more sustainable way to alleviate debt — instead of asking Americans to pay for programs that add to the deficit. Romney’s pledge to cut excess government will lead to a leaner and more efficient economy for future generations.
Many current and future students worry about paying off student loans not only during college but for years after graduating. Facing an enormous deficit on top of that would make their debt burden far worse. While the issue of student debt was largely ignored during the debate, both candidates considered improving America’s education system one of the top priorities for alleviating our economic situation. And while Romney’s opposition has criticized him for planning to cut education funding in the past, he made it clear in the debate that this is no longer the case.
“I don’t have any plan to cut education funding and grants that go to people going to college,” Romney said. “I’m not planning on making changes there.”
Since financial independence for many is just around the corner, students should focus on how each candidate will affect the economy over the coming years. While Obama’s plan has similar end goals to Romney’s, our nation cannot handle the kind of spending that he proposes. For students who don’t want to carry the burden of trillions of dollars of debt, for themselves and for future generations, they must vote Romney this November.
Burke Gibson is a sophomore majoring in economics and is the Daily Trojan’s chief copy editor.
Point/Counterpoint runs Fridays.