Biden Says Obama Will Raise $1 Trillion in Taxes


For everyone who claims the Obama administration wants a $1 trillion tax hike, Joe Biden has a message: Yes, we do.

The vice president was referring Thursday to the Democrats’ pledge to let the Bush-era tax cuts on the country’s top 2 percent of earners expire at the end of the year, while maintaining current rates for other Americans. Republicans have called for maintaining the current rates for all Americans.

The call for a tax hike on top earners was hardly new, but Biden’s characteristic bluntness gave Republicans fresh fodder to criticize the Democratic ticket just days after the vice president said the middle class has been buried during the past four years.

“On top of the trillions of dollars in spending that we have already cut, we’re going to ask the wealthy to pay more. My heart breaks. Come on man,” Biden said, during a stop in the battleground state of Iowa.

Biden said Romney and other Republicans often say “‘Obama and Biden want to raise taxes by a trillion dollars.’ Guess what? Yes, we do in one regard: We want to let that trillion dollar tax cut expire so the middle class doesn’t have to bear the burden of all that money going to the super-wealthy. That’s not a tax raise. That’s called fairness where I come from.”

Mitt Romney’s running mate pounced on the quote at a campaign stop Thursday night in Virginia.

“What we don’t need is a trillion-dollar tax increase,” Ryan said. “What we don’t need is a tax increase on our successful job creators that will cost us 700,000 jobs in just two years.”

Ryan Williams, a spokesman for Romney, said Biden’s comment revealed an uncomfortable truth for Democrats.

“Fresh off admitting that America’s middle class has been `buried’ over the last four years, Vice President Biden went a step further today and fully embraced the president’s job-killing tax increases. The choice facing Americans in this election gets clearer every day,” Williams said.

Just Tuesday, Biden said that middle class has been “buried” during the past four years, a statement that Republicans immediately seized upon as an unwitting indictment of the Obama administration. It is all part of a pattern in which Republicans have characterized the former U.S. senator as a gaffe-prone liability for Obama on the campaign trail, trying to undermine his role as a vocal, effective surrogate.

But Biden is taking aim of his own, saying that Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney renounced his own tax cut during Wednesday’s presidential debate.

At a campaign stop in Iowa, where early voting has already begun, Biden said Romney and running mate Paul Ryan have proposed a $5 trillion tax cut that is the “centerpiece” of their campaign.

During the debate, Romney denied he plans to cut taxes, saying an across-the-board cut in tax rates will be offset by the elimination of unspecified deductions and exemptions.

“Last night we found out (Romney) doesn’t have a $5 trillion tax cut. I guess he outsourced that to China,” Biden quipped.

While reviewers generally said Romney scored more political points than Obama during the first presidential debate Wednesday night, Biden insisted the president had done well.

Obama “put forward a clear, specific plan” during the debate, Biden told about 650 people at the Mid-America Center in Council Bluffs. But he said Obama had trouble figuring out Romney’s positions on issues.

“It’s hard to keep up” with Romney and Ryan, Biden said. “You never know what game Gov. Romney is going to come with.”

While many of his attacks were delivered with a smile, Biden said Romney’s flip-flops on taxes and failure to offer specifics raised questions about his character.

“Ultimately, presidential races, unlike any other race, get down to character. They get down to the character of the man or woman and the character of their convictions: Do they mean what they say and will they do what they say,” Biden said. “What I find fascinating, though, is that on nearly every issue, they don’t tell you what they are for anymore, and they deliberately misrepresent what they say we are for. You saw it again last night in the debate.”

Biden’s visit to Iowa was his sixth this year. Obama won Iowa in 2008, and polls show him with a narrow lead this year.

<AP> <FOX> <ENQINET>

Romney Declared the Winner!


Mitt Romney won big tonight. President Obama got digs in on the former governor over the lack of detail of his proposals, but Romney clearly came out to play hard. The other big winner was the American people. This was a real debate with real differences, real clarity. Too bad voters have had to be assaulted by attack ads and hyper-emotion.

Romney displayed a mastery of the economy, of small business, of health care, of taxes — of all issues. He was aggressive, something that was deemed risky beforehand, but he did not get personal or mean. He was respectful to the sitting President, but in no way awed by his presence.

While Obama took it to the GOP candidate (Where’s the beef? Where are details on tax cuts, on health care?), Romney handled it deftly — this debate was about principles and style. Romney reminded the President and voters that he was a bipartisan leader who sought and achieved consensus and legislation by working with the other side in Massachusetts.

Romney also showed his differences on Obamacare. This was a difficult task because this could have opened him up to charges of hypocrisy. He is a seasoned debater and this was the discussion on health care we should have had all along.

Obama scored a major point on pre-existing conditions. But Romney came right back to argue that no insurance company would deny service. We will have to see how that plays out but at least the discussion was held and it was civil.

Finally, I had said before the debate that Romney would have to show a command of the economy and put it in personal terms — a tough task. He did that tonight. The President was uncomfortable, stammering at times. Romney won.

<forbes> <ENQINET>

Education & Deficit; Presidential Debate Topics


Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney, discussed the importance of education in boosting the economy, mentioning the federal government is mismanaging job training programs. “We’ve got 47 of them housed in the federal government reporting to 8 different agencies,” he said. “Overhead is overwhelming.’’

Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney is correct about the 47 different programs, according to a Government Accounting Office report last year that identified areas to avoid duplication and overlap. The agencies spent about $18 billion in 2009.

Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney hits his core message: “But you’ve been president for four years, you’ve been president for four years.”

President Obama is correct that Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney indicated earlier at a Republican debate that he would reject a deficit-reduction plan that included $10 in spending cuts for every $1 of revenue increases.

At a debate in Ames, Iowa, in August 2011, Bret Baier, the Fox News moderator, asked all of the Republican candidates to raise their hands if they would refuse to sign on to a legislative package that included $10 of spending cuts for every $1 of revenue increases.

They all raised their hands; including Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney.

Romney’s strongest moment so far – direct challenge to Obama on deficits for “not getting job done”

Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney suggested that President Obama is doubling the deficit during his time in office, a broken promise from his last campaign. “The president said he’d cut the deficit in half. Unfortunately, he doubled it,” Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney said.

That led to a back-and-forth over taxes and the deficit, with both men offering the same arguments that have divided Washington for years.

President Obama said that he had proposed a $4 trillion deficit reduction plan, but said it would require a “balanced” plan that includes some new revenues from wealthy individuals.

“When Governor Romney stood on a stage with other Republican candidates, he was asked, ‘Would you take $10 of spending cuts for just $1 of revenue?’ And he said no,” President Obama said. “If you take such an unbalanced approach, that means you will be gutting our investments in schools and education.”

“If we are serious, we have to take a balanced, responsible approach,” President Obama said.

“When the economy is growing slow like this, you shouldn’t raise taxes on anyone,” Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney said.

Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney argued that Dodd-Frank, President Obama’s financial regulatory reform law, designated certain financial firms as “too big to fail,” giving them a “blank check” and implicit government backing.

The law does designate some financial institutions as “systemically important.” But it also puts them under significant additional regulatory scrutiny, and requires them to write “living wills,” telling the government how to unwind them.

That said, Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney’s criticism of the law is a common one, and many liberals and conservatives share his belief that it would not prevent future bailouts of systemically important firms.

For his part, Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney has promised to repeal the Dodd-Frank and to implement a smarter new system of rules and regulations. He has thus far been light on detail. But he has offered support for some of Dodd-Frank¹s main goals — like bolstering capital requirements.

Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney said repeatedly tonight that Massachusetts has the top-ranked schools in the country.

Using data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a large national standardized test, The Daily Beast ranked Massachusetts at the top. The American Legislative Exchange Council likewise gave Massachusetts the top spot. Not all rankings agree, however. Education Week ranked Massachusetts at No. 2, behind Maryland.

In Massachusetts, by the way, 83.3 percent of high school students graduate on time. Wisconsin, Vermont, North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, New Jersey and New Hampshire had better records on that front as of the 2008-2009 school year, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

The candidates traded a series of charges on education, including whether Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney’s tax cuts would lead to lower government support for public education. President Obama said the House budget authored by Mr. Romney’s running mate, Representative Paul D. Ryan, would cut “the education budget up to 20 percent.”

Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney rejected the charge. “I’m not going to cut education funding,” he said. “I don’t have a plan to cut education funding.”

But in the past Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney has said he would do just that.

In a speech to donors in Florida in the spring overheard by reporters, Mr. Romney said he would either merge the federal Education Department with another agency “or perhaps make it a heck of a lot smaller.”

The House budget that Vice President Candidate Ryan authored and Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney has said he largely supports includes large cuts to federal programs, but does not specify how they would be distributed across the federal government. The White House, which vehemently opposed the budget, calculated that if the cuts were distributed evenly across departments and programs, it would mean eliminating 38,000 teachers and aides for poor children in 2014 and 27,000 special education teachers and support staff. In addition, 200,000 children would be dropped from Head Start and other early education programs.

President Obama said of his opponent that “when he tells a student you should borrow money from your parents to go to college,” it calls into question whether Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney realizes that some people “don’t have that option.”

President Obama’s statement, to which Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney did not reply directly, is based on an interpretation of a less-than-clear statement by Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney last April. Mr. Romney exhorted students: “Take a risk. Get the education. Borrow money if you have to from your parents. Start a business.”

The syntax left his meaning unclear; the Romney campaign later said the governor’s reference to borrowing from parents referred to starting a business, not paying for college.

But an President Obama ad using video of that speech omitted the reference to starting a business, making it seem as if Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney was talking about college.

Romney & Obama Debate “Obamacare”


Mitt Romney offered a vigorous response to President Obama’s suggestion that his healthcare plan in Massachusetts was the model for Obamacare.

Having defended that charge repeatedly during the Republican primaries, Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney often stumbled. However last night, he appeared on point.

He praised the effort in Massachusetts, in which Democrats and Republicans came together to pass the plan, to the passage of Obamacare with only Democratic votes.

He said the Massachusetts plan did not raise taxes, did not cut Medicare, did not create an “unelected board” and did not cause people to lose their insurance.

Last night, Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney said “You pushed through a plan without a single Republican vote” to President Obama.

“The right answer is not to have the federal government take over health care and start mandating to the health care institutions across America,” Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney said.

President Obama pushed back against Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney’s remarks. But the Republican’s preparation was clearly evident in the answer.

President Obama insisted that Mr. Romney’s voucher plan for Medicare would end up leaving seniors at the mercy of private insurance companies, and would force additional costs on them as well.

Eventually, the president said, under Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney’s plan, “the traditional medicare system will collapse and then you have folks like my grandmother at the mercy of the private health insurance.”

Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney countered by saying that President Obama has cut $716 billion from Medicare. “I can’t understand how you can cut Medicare $716 billion for current recipients of Medicare.”

Not true, President Obama said. He insisted that his plan cut costs to insurance companies and redirected the $716 billion to other parts of the Medicare system.

“Using that money,” he said, the government could ensure “lower prescription drug costs for seniors” and make a “dent in providing the preventive care that will ultimately save money.”

Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney argued that government spending is equivalent to more than 40 percent of economic output. Is that right? It is true if you include state, local and federal spending. But government spending has spiked considerably due to the recession – an important piece of context.

Repealing President Obama’s health care law, which Mr. Romney said he would do, would actually increase the federal deficit.

This summer, after Republicans in the House of Representative passed a bill to repeal the law, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that doing so would increase the federal deficit by $109 billion over the next decade. That is because the parts of the law that would require more spending to expand coverage would be offset by the parts of the law that raise new revenues and curb spending — including provisions calling to curb the growth of Medicare costs and several new taxes and fees. Repealing the law would also mean that 30 million fewer people would have health insurance in 2022, it projected.

During the early part of the Republican primaries, Tim Pawlenty, the former governor of Minnesota, got into trouble when he declined to attack Mr. Romney by linking him to “Obamacare,” the president’s health care plan.

The hesitation during one of the debates was seen as timidity, and Mr. Pawlenty’s campaign for the Republican nomination did not last much longer.

But tonight, President Obama embraced the term “Obamacare,” saying he likes it.

“Obamacare… I have become fond of this term.” said President Obama.

What a difference a year or so makes.

After getting down to the guts of health care policy, Jim Lehrer, the moderator, took the candidates to 30,000 feet — asking about their broad views about the role of government in American life.

President Obama said the “genius” of America is that the government can do things to create “ladders of opportunity” for people.

“If all Americans are getting opportunity, were going to bet better off,” President Obama said.

Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney countered by saying that the role of government is to “promote and protect” the principles of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

He said that leads to not cutting the military, maintaining a commitment to religious tolerance, and opposing a “trickle-down government approach” that he said is not working.

“The proof of that is 23 million people out of work,” Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney said. He also said “The proof of that is 1 out of 6 people in poverty.”

The debate may have provided more direct back-and-forth between the two candidates than almost any other presidential face-off in modern history.

But — at least on CNN — it was hard to tell what kind of interaction there was. The network just showed a split screen of the two men from the chest up.

The cameras showed each of the two men looking to the side slightly. And when the other one was talking, each man grinned a bit or looked to the side.

But there were very few wide shots that would show the two men actually standing at the podiums and facing each other.

Iran Surrounded by U.S. Dollar


Demonstrations reached boiling point at the main bazaar in Tehran – the centre of trade and foreign exchange dealing.

Images from an unverified amateur video show protesters angry at the collapse of the rial, the Iranian currency.

Its value has plunged to record lows against the dollar.

Reports indicate tear gas was used and that there were arrests.

The central bazaar – whose merchants played a major role in Iran’s revolution of 1979 – was closed on Wednesday.

Western economic sanctions imposed over Iran’s disputed nuclear programme have hit the country’s earnings from oil hard.

With Iran’s official inflation rate at around 25 percent the currency weakness is hurting living standards.

There has been a run on trading in hard currencies pushing down the rial. The government has blamed speculators for the currency collapse and have reportedly ordered security forces to take action against them.

<enews> <ENQINET>

T-Mobile Merges With MetroPCS


T-Mobile USA and MetroPCS have announced they will merge in a move to combine two weaker wireless companies in an industry dominated by bigger players.

Under the terms of the agreement, MetroPCS shareholders will receive $1.5 billion in cash and 26% ownership in the company, which will have the T-Mobile name. Deutsche Telekom AG, the Germany company that owns T-Mobile, will receive a 74% stake.

In a teleconference call with media Wednesday, Rene Obermann, chief executive of Deutsche Telekom, said the merger “means we are here to compete, we are here to unlock value and we are here to win. This deal has the potential to be a game changer.”

The merger will establish “the leading value-focused wireless carrier” by combining customer and revenue scale, the companies said in a statement Wednesday. T-Mobile, with 33.2 million mobile customers, is the nation’s fourth-largest cellphone company; MetroPCS is the fifth with 9.3 million customers.

Based on analyst consensus estimates for 2012, the combined company is expected to have roughly 42.5 million subscribers, $24.8 billion of revenue, $6.3 billion of adjusted EBITDA, $4.2 billion of capital expenditures and $2.1 billion of free cash flow in 2012.

“The T-Mobile and MetroPCS brands are a great strategic fit — both operationally and culturally,” said René Obermann, chief executive officer of Deutsche Telekom. “We are committed to creating a sustainable and financially viable national challenger in the U.S., and we believe this combination helps us deliver on that commitment.”

Still, the combined company will be in the No. 4 position behind Verizon, AT&T and Sprint.

The deal is expected to close in the first half of 2013 and is subject to MetroPCS shareholder approvals, regulatory approvals and other closing conditions.

The news comes a day after Deutsche Telekom AG, which owns Bellevue, Wash.-based T-Mobile, confirmed it was in talks with Dallas-based MetroPCS.

Analysts were initially wary of a possible deal because T-Mobile and MetroPCS use different network technologies, which prevents phones from one carrier from working on the other’s network.

But the companies are currently deploying the same 4G technology, which would make the networks compatible. They said Wednesday that they were working on a “path to at least 20X20 MHz of 4G LTE in many areas” and that existing MetroPCS customers will be migrated to a common LTE-based network as they upgrade their handsets.

“Our enhanced spectrum position will be the foundation for a faster and more reliable network, and will allow us to deploy a deeper and more robust LTE rollout, particularly in major metropolitan areas,” said John Legere, chief executive of T-Mobile.

Before the deal was announced, analysts speculated that a buyout or merger between the two companies would likely result in a more bifurcated U.S. wireless industry, with Verizon and AT&T competing for the post-paid customer segment, and T-Mobile focusing on the lower-end pre-paid segment.

Once the merger is completed, the combined company is expected to continue trading on the New York Stock Exchange. Legere will serve as president and CEO of the new company, and J. Braxton Carter, currently chief financial officer and vice chairman of MetroPCS, will be CFO.

The company’s headquarters will be in Bellevue, Wash., although it will retain a “significant presence” in Dallas.

Last year, AT&T announced it had agreed to buy T-Mobile USA for $39 billion. But the deal was called off after running into opposition from government agencies that said it would create a less competitive wireless industry and potentially lead to higher prices for consumers.

The deal between T-Mobile and MetroPCS is expected to go more smoothly as both
are smaller wireless companies.

<LATimes> <ENQINET>

Obama, Romney Face Off in Tonight’s Presidential Debate


Just 34 days out from the November election, there’s little argument that tonight’s presidential debate – in which President Obama and Mitt Romney will go head-to-head for the first time in this campaign – is a high-stakes affair for both men.

With polls increasingly showing Mr. Obama leading Romney by varying degrees, both nationally and in battleground states, the Colorado match-up offers each candidate a critical opportunity: For the president, it’s a chance to shore up his support and solidify what appears to be a recent advantage; Romney, meanwhile, has perhaps his best remaining shot at seizing a much-needed boost in momentum after a disappointing couple of months.

“The stakes are enormous for Mitt Romney,” said Steve Schmidt, a Republican strategist who served as a top adviser to 2008 Republican presidential nominee John McCain. “He goes into the debate behind, after a difficult summer, a failed convention, and a series of self-inflicted wounds in September. The hour is growing short to make up ground and come from behind in the swing states where he needs to win if he wants to become elected president.”

One debate may not be enough for Romney to take over the lead, analysts say, but a strong performance tonight could certainly put him on the right path – a fact both that will surely weigh deeply on the minds of both candidates.

“I don’t think Romney can change the entire trajectory of the campaign at the debate,” said Democratic strategist Jamal Simmons. “But he can jump-start that change.”

Despite ongoing efforts by both camps to tamp down debate expectations, there’s no question that the event will have bearing on the public consciousness. According to Nielsen estimates, 52.7 million people watched the first match-up between Mr. Obama and McCain in the 2008 presidential contest – and that was down 16 percent from the first presidential debate in 2004, when 62.5 million people tuned in.

Given the stakes, both candidates have been assiduously preparing.

Romney has spent several days over the last month prepping with senior advisers and Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, who is playing the president in preparatory sessions, and dedicated three days during the Democratic National Convention to mock debates with the senator.

And even while the Obama campaign said the president had to cancel several sessions due to events in the Middle East, he headed to Nevada earlier this week to log some serious prep time with 2004 Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry, who is standing in for Romney in practice debates.

Eager though each campaign may be to claim underdog status — and both have proven exceptionally eager to do just that in recent weeks — by many accounts it’s Romney who has the most ground to make up going into the event.

“Romney doesn’t need to try to win the election [tonight],” said Dan Schnur, a former Republican strategist now at the University of Southern California. “There are never magical transformational moments in a presidential debate that’s going to fundamentally remake the race. But for a challenger, being on the stage toe-to-toe with an incumbent is an important opportunity to prove that you can be trusted with the responsibilities of the presidency.”

Schmidt argues that, thanks to missed opportunities at the Republican convention, Romney still faces the task of defining himself and his vision to the American people. Moreover, some analysts argue he must also use the platform as an opportunity to woo new voters – including some of Mr. Obama’s – if he wants to make a play for swing states like Ohio, where some recent polls show him outside the margin of victory.

“Not only does he have to stand side by side with the president and just get through it, so to speak, he’s also going to have to change some minds,” said Democratic strategist Michael Feldman, who advised Al Gore in his 2000 presidential bid.

According to Feldman, it’s critical that Romney present his own policy ideas while effectively challenging the president’s record – all without sacrificing his gravitas. Given his past struggles relating to everyday Americans, that’s something he isn’t sure will come easily to the candidate.

“He hasn’t quite connected to voters yet on a variety of levels,” Feldman said. “And it’s hard when you’re delivering a hard hit on your opponent to come across as being likeable at the same time. But that’s what he has to do.”

“The problem Romney has is, you never want the words ‘make-or-break’ associated with your name. So here he is under so much pressure from the media and his supporters and his donors to really deliver something, and yet it’s really hard to do that,” said Alan Schroeder, a professor at Northeastern University and the author of “Presidential Debates: 50 Years of High-Risk TV.” “He has expectations that are in some ways lower, because he’s the underdog, but in some ways they’re higher – because there’s so much pressure on him to succeed.”

Romney, of course, is not alone in facing challenges. The president’s backers have noted repeatedly that his rhetorical style doesn’t mesh with the traditional debate format, and efforts to lower expectations on his behalf went unrewarded: According to a recent Pew Research study, a majority of voters – 51 percent – think the president will win the debate, while only 29 percent said the same of Romney.

To boot, debate moderator Jim Lehrer is also playing with a looser format — which may not be the ideal set-up for a president known for speaking in long, complex sentences.

“The fact is, the president is a smart guy and his rhetorical style is that he likes to explain things,” said Feldman. “If his challenge is to be brief then maybe some structure is helpful for that.”

“The double-edge of the expectations sword for President Obama right now is that people are expecting him to do better … which makes his job tougher,” Feldman said. A function of those expectations, he says, is that the bar is higher for the president than it is for his rival.

When it comes to preparedness, however, Romney is expected to have the edge.

“Romney’s strengths are experience and preparedness. He has spent a lot of time preparing for these debates, by all accounts, over the course of the summer. And he’s had a lot of experience over the last four years participating in these debates,” said Schmidt. “When you watch the arc of his progress – from 2008 to 2012 – it’s clear he has the capacity for improvement and he gets better. Obama simply hasn’t participated in the number of debates that Romney has, and he hasn’t, by all accounts, spent the time preparing that Mitt Romney has.”

Nevertheless, Simmons argues that despite expectations and his proclivity for long-winded answers, the president’s biggest responsibility tonight is “to not drop the ball in any significant way.”

“A tie is perfectly fine for the president,” he said. “The pressure is clearly on Governor Romney to change the dynamic. The president needs to do no harm.”

At this point, there’s only so much either candidate can do to prepare. But according to Simmons, there are a few last-minute nuggets of advice that apply to all debaters – Republican or Democrat.

“Wear good makeup. Don’t sigh. Don’t look at your watch,” he said. “Those things are probably point number one.”