CHICAGO – Watching on TV the US presidential debates in the run-up to the presidential election is like following the playoff of team sports such as baseball or basketball.

US Presidential Debate 2012
Image source: news.bbc.co.uk/

An orderly debate is one essential feature that characterizes a mature democratic nation. This is not done in superpower China and other autocratic countries.

The presidential debates in the U.S. are mechanisms that focus on the characteristics and ideological philosophies of candidates. These determine their likability as leaders of the free world.

When President Barack Obama opened the 2012 Presidential Debate last October 3rd at University of Denver in Denver, Colorado, everybody expected him to perform aggressively. But he appeared flat and was struck out in some, if not most, of the innings.

Mr. Obama, the defending champion, became defensive as he absorbed attacks  dished out by the challenger, former Governor Mitt Romney.

President Obama, whom I supported in 2008, plans to lower taxes for 98 percent of families that make up the middle class and continue the tax rates, including the tax cuts that his government has put in place for small businesses and families.

But for those with incomes of over $250,000 annually, Obama said, their taxes “should be raised as when Bill Clinton was president, which created 23 million new jobs, went from deficit to surplus and created a whole lot of millionaires to boot.”

But Mr. Romney countered, “We’ve got 23 million people out of work or stopped looking for work in this country. When the President took office, 32 million people (were) on food stamps; 47 million are on food stamps today; economic growth this year is slower than last year, and last year’s growth is slower than the year before.”

Arguing that “you raise taxes and you kill jobs,” Mr. Romney said he is not going to raise taxes because by doing so, according to the National Federation of Independent Businesses, would kill 700,000 jobs.” He insisted that he would not raise taxes either on those earning $250,000 because ultimately, small businesses would be ones to suffer – to pay more taxes that would kill jobs.

If raising taxes on those earning $250,000 under the Clinton administration worked well, why not give Mr. Obama another chance to make it work on his second term?

On the claim of Mr. Romney that when Mr. Obama took office, there were 32 million people on food stamps and there are 47 million today, it appears to me that the observation is valid. I believe the program should be reviewed so that only those qualified receive the benefit.

There are some Filipino-Americans who are receiving food stamps with which they buy canned goods and ship these in balikbayan (homecoming) boxes to their relatives in the Philippines. This has got to stop.

Another program that is draining federal coffers is the grant of unemployment compensation that has been extended by Congress for 13 to 20 weeks.

Economists say that while the unemployed, whose number rose to 17.6 million in December 2011, need assistance, this dole-out program should not go on indefinitely because it has the effect of dissuading people from taking jobs. There should be a firm cut-off date, and the amount of the grants should diminish over a certain period.

Mr. Obama said his Affordable Health Care program, also called Obamacare, will be able to save $716 billion from the Medicare program by recipients, who would no longer overpay insurance providers. This savings will be used to lower prescription drug cost for seniors by an average of $600, and a pre-existing condition will be covered without the insurance company imposing arbitrary limit.

But Mr. Romney cited the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) as reporting that the Obamacare will cost $2,500 a year more than traditional insurance and hurt families, and that is why he does not want it. He said CBO estimates that up to 20 million people will lose their insurance as Obamacare goes into effect next year. Another study says 30 percent of those insured will be dropping from their coverage due to Obamacare.

But Mr. Obama said if Obamacare is repealed, 50 million would lose health insurance coverage.

If it is true that Obamacare will cost families $2,500 more, I would favor its repeal. But the federal government should spend money to conduct health prevention workshops in the community like those held in Chicago, Illinois by Alliance of Filipinos for Immigrant Rights & Empowerment, the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois and the Coalition of African, Arab, Asian, European and Latino Immigrants of Illinois on Healthy Heart, Healthy Family Training Workshops to address leading causes of death in America.

I scored the first of the three debates between Obama and Romney a draw as neither of them landed knockout blows.

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Joseph is a former reporter of the Manila Bulletin, former president of the Rizal-Metro Manila Reporters Association and former president of the Chicago chapter of the National Press Club of the Philippines. A prolific reporter, Lariosa writes a column and news stories for the Filipino Star News and other Filipino community newspapers in the US as well as for GMA News and the Manila Bulletin.

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