The Denver Presidential Debate on Oct. 3 left us with some hangovers including Mitt Romney's proposed defunding of Big Bird.
You may smile, but that may have way more importance to the outcome of the campaign than the minuscule impact Public Broadcasting has on the debt. It symbolizes Romney's detail deficit, his insensitivity to women's interests, and accounting practices for the birds.
Passions are high in this campaign, but the reaction to defunding Big Bird was sheer outrage. I got heated calls from suburban moms, late-40-year-olds who grew up with Sesame Street, and even grandmothers. Romney is further cementing the gender gap he already created by his move to the right on women's health issues.
The Gallup Poll Monday showed Romney bumped up to a tie, but "the impact was not so strong that it changed the race to the point where Romney emerged as the leader among registered voters." In Colorado a Denver University poll showed Obama still ahead and a Gravis Poll showed the opposite. Three media run focus groups of undecided voters post-debate remained undecided, saying they wanted more details.
Romney's Big Bird moment was his opportunity to give us more details, but he limited his list to one yellow feathered beloved icon and left troubling questions on the table. Would deductions for home mortgages, education and charity, health care and education be reduced, too? The answer is "yes." Pre-debate Romney said deductions could be capped to total $17,000 or removed line by line.
Defunding Big Bird was Romney's tacit admission more cuts are needed. If we believe the unbelievable that closing loopholes funds his proposed $5 trillion tax cuts, to avoid exploding the deficit, who pays for the $1 trillion for extension of the Bush tax cuts plus $2 trillion more for the Pentagon? Still the 47 percent ...
Agreeing with His running mate, Paul Ryan, Romney had indicated earlier he had no plans to provide affordable health insurance for the 30 million currently uninsured. They proposed a 30 percent cut in Medicaid to pay for Grandma's nursing home and a less than sufficient cap on future senior's health care coverage. Other than coverage of pre-existing conditions for those who already have insurance, his debate performance changed nothing.
Incredibly, Romney denied he was even cutting taxes to the rich. Obama scrambled to counter this major flip-flop from Romney's earlier campaign promises to lower taxes on the "job creators." Oh no, Romney said. Now he proposes to cut taxes the same amount across the board and pay for it by closing loopholes. His logic and math are for the birds.
While fact-checkers criticized both candidates, they called Romney out for claiming the $5 trillion dollar figure was no tax cut when it was, and for providing no specifics to pay for them. Non-partisan, non-ideological respected observers concluded closing loopholes would not offset Romney's planned loss of tax income and it would result in either increasing middle class taxes or increasing the debt. Obama pointed it out, too. Bill Clinton would have said Romney had an "addition" problem. "Snake oil" describes the Romney plan best.
Disheartened Democrats cheered up two days later. Unemployment dropped to 7.8 percent, obsoleting the 8 percent number the GOP used to make their case that the president had failed. An incredulous GOP fumbled a response: "It doesn't look like a recovery" - yet other indicators were up, too, including stock markets and housing prices, or someone was cooking the books.
Romney cooked his books himself, claiming the "real" unemployment rate was 11 percent because job seekers decreased, but he counted retiring baby boomers as unemployed and economists said in September "a significant number" had rejoined the work force and the unemployment rate still dropped.