Live Blog: Romney and Obama Debate in Denver

Romney and Obama duke it out in Denver in the first presidential debate.

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U.S. News is live blogging the first presidential debate between President Barack Obama and GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney in Denver Wednesday night.

Follow along as we verify, dissect, and add context to the candidates' arguments.

11:32 p.m. | Romney: Dodd-Frank a "Kiss to New York Banks"

Dodd-Frank is still in the process of being implemented, so it's difficult to tell how all of its new rules and regulations will play out. However, some experts criticize the law for creating an unfairly two-tiered banking system.

"[Dodd-Frank's] goal is to end too big to fail, but it also says that certain institutions get special treatment," says Jim Angel, Associate professor at Georgetown's McDonough School of Business.

Doug Roberts, managing principal at Channel Capital Research, sees this as distinctly unfair. "Dodd-Frank creates two classes of banks: the small ones that are basically expendable versus the large ones that are too big to fail."

The law designates some large banks as "systemically important" and requires them to write "living wills." These wills are detailed plans explaining how the banks can be taken apart should they collapse. This summer, nine of the largest banks in the country released their wills.

As the New York Times reported in July, when those wills were released some analysts said the problem is that big banks are so interconnected that dismantling one failing bank in an orderly fashion could be difficult.

Romney also seems to link Dodd-Frank to the closures of community and small banks. Newt Gingrich made a similar, but more direct, link between the law and small bank closures last year, saying that Dodd-Frank was "destroying" these banks.

Politifact checked that claim and found it "false," pointing out that at the time, community banks had actually grown stronger since Dodd-Frank's passage.

As far as Dodd-Frank being a "kiss" to large banks, Jim Angel says that big banks may see that differently, given the plethora of new regulations that the law sets into motion.

"I don't think they would say so," he says.

— Danielle Kurtzleben



11:26 p.m. | Both Candidates Avoid Specifics on Education

Both Obama and Romney spoke at some length about education initiatives, but avoided specific plans for the future.

Elaine El-Khawas, Professor of Education Policy and George Washington University, called Romney's praise of Obama's Race to the Top program a "big surprise."

"This was the first time he praised Obama's Race to the Top," El-Khawas said in an E-mail to U.S. News. Does he realize that it had lots of coercive elements that many state officials found hard to swallow? I thought he was championing state initiatives."

Obama made a point of saying he would like to see 2 million more students enroll in community colleges. Maria Ferguson, the Executive Director of the Center on Education Policy at George Washington University, said this is beyond what America's community college system could handle.

"There is no way community colleges can handle 2 million more students unless there is a very large investment in community colleges," she says. "They are bursting at the seams."

Ferguson points out that Obama proposed $8 billion in funding for partnerships between community colleges and businesses last year, and also proposed a $10 billion American Graduation Initiative in 2008, "but in the end, it amounted to only $2 billion," she says.

— Greg Otto


11:07 p.m. | Romney: Obama Put $90 Billion in Green Energy, Solyndra, Fisker, and Tesla

In promoting an "all-the-above" energy policy, Obama has championed development of green energy technologies, promising "millions of green jobs" from the billions of dollars poured into clean-energy efforts.

The $90 billion Gov. Romney referenced refers to the amount earmarked in the recession-fighting federal stimulus package. Here’s a breakdown of the energy investments according to the White House:

  • $29 billion for Energy Efficiency, including $5 billion to pay for energy efficiency retrofits in low-income homes
  • $21 billion for Renewable Generation, such as the installation of wind turbines and solar panels
  • $10 billion for Grid Modernization to develop the so-called "smart grid" that will involve sophisticated electric meters, high-tech electricity distribution and transmission grid sensors, and energy storage
  • $6 billion to support domestic manufacturing of advanced batteries and other components of Advanced Vehicles and Fuels Technologies
  • $18 billion for Traditional Transit and High-Speed Rail; $3 billion to fund crucial research, development, and demonstration of Carbon Capture and Sequestration technologies
  • $3 billion for Green Innovation and Job Training to invest in the science, technology, and workforce needed for a clean energy economy
  • About $2 billion in Clean Energy Equipment Manufacturing tax credits that will partner with private investment to increase our capacity to manufacture wind turbines, solar panels, electric vehicles, and other clean energy components domestically
  • But while $90 billion has been earmarked, not all of that money has been spent, according to the New York Times. And not all the money was for projects launched during the Obama administration. According to the Times, some of those funds were allotted by the Bush administration and weren't spent until Obama took office.

    — Meg Handley


    10:58 p.m. | Obama: $4 Billion to Oil in Corporate Welfare Tax Loopholes

    Obama called for an end to corporate tax breaks, highlighting the $4 billion in "corporate welfare" the oil industry receives. But a large part of that $4 billion comes from a broadly available tax provision that's available to a wide variety of industries, experts say. Any domestic manufacturer—producers of anything from clothing, roads, water or electricity—is eligible to take advantage of the deduction.

    "The overwhelming majority of revenue from tax provisions [Obama] seeks to modify for oil and gas pertain to the section 199 domestic production activities deduction (for job creation) and the dual capacity tax credit (to offset taxes paid to foreign governments)," Pete Sepp, executive vice president of the National Taxpayers Union, wrote in an E-mail. "These two provisions are not 'special' to oil and gas—they are available to numerous industries."

    — Meg Handley


    10:54 p.m. | Romney: 50% of This Year's College Graduates Can't Find Work

    Romney claimed that half of this year's college grads wouldn't be able to find jobs. A much-cited Associated Press story from earlier this year estimated that roughly half of recent grads are either unemployed or underemployed—that is, working in jobs that are somehow insufficient.

    That can mean that the jobs are not using young grads' skills and education or that these graduates are working in part-time jobs when they would prefer full-time work. As the AP reported:

    "About 1.5 million, or 53.6 percent, of bachelor's degree-holders under the age of 25 last year were jobless or underemployed, the highest share in at least 11 years," said the AP.

    In other words, there are some of those roughly 50 percent of grads who have found jobs, albeit unsatisfactory ones. Either way, it is certainly true that young Americans face a grim employment situation.

    Danielle Kurtzleben


    10:37 p.m. | Obama: Romney Wants to Turn Medicare to Voucher Program for Future Retirees, This Will Collapse Program Eventually

    The president accused the plan for a Medicare voucher program, conceptualized by Romney's running mate Paul Ryan, of not being viable over the long term. According to two experts, that may in fact be the case as it steers healthy Medicare patients into different options than their less-healthy peers.

    "The details of a proposal matter a lot, but the danger in a voucher proposal is that traditional Medicare will deteriorate over time as younger and healthier beneficiaries are attracted into the cheapest private plans," writes Jack Hoadley, health policy analyst at Georgetown University's Health Policy Institute, in an E-mail to U.S. News. "The older and sicker beneficiaries would be left in the traditional program, which would then become non-viable."

    His colleague at Georgetown, Mila Kofman, a Research Professor and Project Director at the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute, is more forceful, saying that this plan is headed for collapse.

    "Insurance companies are great at insuring the healthiest of the healthy," she writes in an E-mail. "Under the Romney/Ryan approach, with a voucher program insurers can insure healthy Medicare people while the traditional Medicare insures sicker people. Over time this will collapse traditional Medicare."

    Danielle Kurtzleben



    10:11 p.m. | Romney: I Will Not Cut Taxes for the Rich

    "No tax cut that adds to the deficit." Romney said that twice. The former Massachusetts governor also reiterated that he would not cut taxes for the rich.

    On his campaign site, Romney cites as specific tax cuts in his tax plan: To cut marginal tax rates by 20 percent across the board, to eliminate capital gains rate for taxpayers who make less than $200,000 and to cut the corporate tax rate to 25 percent. Some experts agree that Romney's tax cuts also include the very wealthy.

    Politifact, citing an independent study by the Tax Policy Center (a joint venture of the Urban Institute and Brookings Institution), says that Romney’s tax plan would raise taxes on the middle class:

    "To make Romney's plan revenue neutral, deductions would also have to be removed for people with incomes below $200,000, and the effects of that would be significant, the study found. In fact, the elimination of the deductions would mean outright tax increases for everyone with incomes below $200,000. People with taxable income between $50,000 and $75,000, for example, would see an average net tax increase of $641. They’d save $984 from Romney's rate cut, but lose $2,672 in write-offs."

    — Elizabeth Flock



    10:02 p.m. | Romney: Get Us Energy Independent, That Creates About 4 Million Jobs

    One of the central tenets of Mitt Romney's campaign has been energy independence through greater development of the nation's oil and gas resources, a focus the former governor claims will create millions of jobs.

    "There is no question that greater development of domestic resources will create tens of thousands of good-paying jobs," Thomas Pyle, president of the Institute for Energy Research, wrote in an E-mail, adding that approval of the Keystone XL pipeline—a project President Obama halted earlier this year—was projected to create 20,000 jobs alone.

    Whether the figure is as high as 4 million, most experts are unsure. While it's "not out of the question," according to Heritage Foundation fellow Nick Loris, it does invite plenty of quibbling over where exactly those jobs will come from.

    According to Loris, opening federal lands and waters as Romney has proposed would create 1.4 million jobs by 2030 and removing the red tape that's shuttering progress in energy projects—conventional and renewable, Loris notes—would create another 2 million jobs.

    — Meg Handley


    9:54 p.m. | Romney: 32 Million on Food Stamps When Term Started, Over 40 Million on Food Stamps Now

    When President Barack Obama took office in 2009, there were nearly 32 million people on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps.

    In June 2012, 46.7 million people were using some form of government money to buy their groceries, the highest number ever, according to several reports.

    — Lauren Fox


    9:45 p.m. | Romney: Gasoline Prices Have Doubled Under President

    Mitt Romney claims gas prices have doubled since President Obama took office in 2008. Back then gas prices were $1.61 per gallon, according to GasBuddy.com, a website that tracks retail gas prices across the United States and Canada.

    Today the price at the pump hovers around $3.78 per gallon, almost $.37 higher than a year ago, according to AAA's Fuel Gauge.

    But, according to GasBuddy senior petroleum analyst Gregg Laskoski, nothing that any politician has done is responsible for the steep increase in gas prices.

    "It was because of a plummeting economy, deep speculation on crude oil and an extremely weak U.S. dollar," Laskoski wrote in an E-mail.

    — Meg Handley



    9:30 p.m. | Obama: Over 5 Million Jobs in Private Sector Created

    The president claimed that he has created 5 million private-sector jobs in the last 30 months. That's roughly true, albeit with a little rounding. According to the Labor Department, private-sector jobs hit a low of around 106.8 million in February 2010, and have since then climbed by over 4.6 million, to 111.4 million last month.

    However, if you count from January 2009 to August 2012, the economy has only added around 415,000 private-sector jobs. In January 2009, there were nearly 111 million private-sector jobs in the economy. At that time, the job market was tanking, losing nearly 800,000 jobs per month. So it was only after the job market bottomed out that it added those nearly 5 million jobs.

    It's also worth pointing out that the President is only talking about private-sector jobs here. The public sector has lost roughly 676,000 jobs since the start of his presidency due to squeezed budgets at all levels of government—but especially at the state and local levels.

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    Danielle Kurtzleben

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