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Money Blog

Oct 4, 2012
11:50 AM

Both Candidates Completely Ignored Reality During Wednesday’s Debate

It seems like math and politics simply can’t find a way to co-exist these days

Both Candidates Completely Ignored Reality During Wednesday’s Debate

AP Photo/Rick Wilking

It seems like math and politics simply can’t find a way to co-exist these days.

The most trifling abuse of mathematics and arithmetic in Wednesday's debate came when the two candidates tried to explain what their economic and tax policies would be.

First was President Obama who said, "I've proposed a specific $4 trillion deficit reduction plan. ...The way we do it is $2.50 for every cut, we ask for $1 in additional revenue."

The president also said he would cut $4 trillion from the deficit. For that to be true Obama has to be banking more than $2 trillion from laws passed last year that cut agency operating budgets and capped them for 10 years. You know, the ones that have us up against the so-called fiscal cliff. The president also claims more than $800 billion in war savings that would happen anyway and is just borrowed money from China.

Obama's February budget offered proposals that would cut deficits by $2 trillion over 10 years, not $4 trillion. Of that deficit reduction, tax increases accounted for $1.6 trillion.

That was inaccurate, but what has been even more than inaccurate (and some might even call completely imagined) is the tax policy that Romney has proposed.

The former Massachusetts governor has promised to balance the budget in eight to 10 years and has simultaneously pledged to shrink the government to 20 percent of the size of the economy – it’s more than 23 percent of gross domestic product now – by the end of his first term. Further he has proposed a tax plan that would lower everyone’s tax rates by 20 percent.

This all sounds good, but it is literally financially impossible without slashing or completely doing away with an entire branch of government.

Romney has offered only a few tiny examples of government programs he'd be willing to cut, like subsidies to PBS and Amtrak, which make up millions, not billions of the federal budget. He does want to repeal Obama's Affordable Care Act, but that law is actually forecast to reduce the deficit.

To realistically do everything he wants to, one calculation suggests Romney would have to cut multiple departments in the domestic budget by one-third within four years. Those cuts are so deep that they could never get through Congress and if they did would probably result in at least a doubling of unemployment and lead to rioting in the streets.

But we would have a balanced budget.

For more fact checking on last night’s debate, check out this great piece from the Associated Press.

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