All right, Governor, tell the President directly why you think what he just said is wrong about Obamacare.
GOVERNOR ROMNEY: Well, I did with my first statement --
THE PRESIDENT: You did.
GOVERNOR ROMNEY: -- I’ll go on.
THE PRESIDENT: Please elaborate.
GOVERNOR ROMNEY: I’ll elaborate -- exactly right. (Laughter.)
First of all, I like the way we did it in Massachusetts. I like the fact that in my state we had Republicans and Democrats come together and work together. What you did instead was to push through a plan without a single Republican vote. As a matter of fact, when Massachusetts did something quite extraordinary -- elected a Republican senator -- to stop Obamacare, you pushed it through anyway. So entirely on a partisan basis, instead of bringing America together and having a discussion on this important topic, you pushed through something that you and Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid thought was the best answer, and drove it through.
What we did in a legislature 87 percent Democrat, we worked together. Two hundred legislators in my legislature -- only two voted against the plan by the time we were finished.
What were some differences? We didn’t raise taxes. You’ve raised them by a trillion dollars under Obamacare. We didn’t cut Medicare -- of course, we don't have Medicare -- but we didn’t cut Medicare by $716 billion. We didn’t put in place a board that can tell people ultimately what treatments they’re going to receive. We didn’t also do something that I think a number of people across this country recognize, which is put people in a position where they’re going to lose the insurance they had and they wanted.
Right now the CBO says up to 20 million people will lose their insurance as Obamacare goes into effect next year. And likewise, a study by McKinsey and Company, of American Businesses, said 30 percent of them are anticipating dropping people from coverage.
So for those reasons -- for the tax, for Medicare, for this board, and for people losing their insurance -- this is why the American people don't want Medicare -- don't want Obamacare. It’s why Republicans said, do not do this. And the Republicans had a plan. They put a plan out. They put a plan, a bipartisan plan. It was swept aside. I think something this big, this important, has to be done on a bipartisan basis. And we have to have a President who can reach across the aisle and fashion important legislation with the input from both parties.
THE PRESIDENT: Governor Romney said this has to be done on a bipartisan basis. This was a bipartisan idea. In fact, it was a Republican idea. And Governor Romney, at the beginning of this debate, wrote and said, what we did in Massachusetts could be a model for the nation.
And I agree that the Democratic legislators in Massachusetts might have given some advice to Republicans in Congress about how to cooperate, but the fact of the matter is we used the same advisors and they say it’s the same plan.
When Governor Romney talks about this board, for example -- unelected board that we’ve created -- what this is, is a group of health care experts, doctors, et cetera, to figure out how can we reduce the cost of care in the system overall. Because there are two ways of dealing with our health care crisis. One is to simply leave a whole bunch of people uninsured, and let them fend for themselves; to let businesses figure out how long they can continue to pay premiums until finally they just give up and their workers are no longer getting insured -- and that's been the trend line. Or alternatively, we can figure out how do we make the cost of care more effective. And there are ways of doing it.
So at Cleveland Clinic, one of the best health care systems in the world, they actually provide great care, cheaper than average. And the reason they do is because they do some smart things. They say if a patient is coming in, let’s get all the doctors together at once, do one test, instead of having the patient run around with 10 tests. Let’s make sure that we’re providing preventive care, so we’re catching the onset of something like diabetes. Let’s pay providers on the basis of performance, as opposed to on the basis of how many procedures they’ve engaged in.
Now, so what this board does is basically identifies best practices and says let’s use the purchasing power of Medicare and Medicaid to help to institutionalize all these good things that we do.
And the fact of the matter is that when Obamacare is fully implemented, we’re going to be in a position to show that costs are going down. And over the last two years, health care premiums have gone up, it’s true, but they’ve gone up slower than any time in the last 50 years. So we’re already beginning to see progress. In the meantime, folks out there with insurance, you’re already getting a rebate.
Let me make one last point. Governor Romney says we should replace it -- I’m just going to repeal it, but we can replace it with something. But the problem is he hasn’t described what exactly we’d replace it with, other than saying we’re going to leave it to the states. But the fact of the matter is that some of the prescriptions that he’s offered, like letting you buy insurance across state lines, there's no indication that that somehow is going to help somebody who has got a preexisting condition be able to finally buy insurance. In fact, it’s estimated that by repealing Obamacare, you’re looking at 50 million people losing health insurance at a time when it’s vitally important.
MR. LEHRER: Let’s let the Governor explain what you would do if Obamacare is repealed. How would you replace it? What do you have in mind?
GOVERNOR ROMNEY: Well, actually, it’s a lengthy description, but number one, preexisting conditions are covered under my plan. Number two, young people are able to stay on their family plan. That's already offered in the private marketplace. You don't have the government mandate that for that to occur.
But let’s come back to something the President and I agree on, which is the key task we have in health care is to get the cost down so it’s more affordable for families. And then he has as a model for doing that a board of people at the government -- an unelected board, appointed board -- who are going to decide what kind of treatments you ought to have.
THE PRESIDENT: No --
GOVERNOR ROMNEY: In my opinion, the government is not effective in bringing down the cost of almost anything. As a matter of fact, free people and free enterprises trying to find ways to do things better are able to be more effective in bringing down the costs than the government will ever be.
Your example of the Cleveland Clinic is my case in point, along with several others I could describe. This is the private market. These are small -- these are enterprises competing with each other, learning how to do better and better jobs.
I used to consult to businesses -- excuse me, to hospitals and to health care providers. I was astonished at the creativity and innovation that exists in the American people. In order to bring the cost of health care down, we don't need to have a board of 15 people telling us what kinds of treatments we should have. We instead need to put insurance plans, providers, hospitals, doctors on target such that they have an incentive, as you say, performance pay, for doing an excellent job for keeping costs down. And that's happening -- Intermountain Health Care does it superbly well. Mayo Clinic is doing it superbly well; Cleveland clinic, others.
But the right answer is not to have the federal government take over health care and start mandating to the providers across America, telling a patient and a doctor what kind of treatment they can have. That's the wrong way to go. The private market and individual responsibility always work best.
THE PRESIDENT: Let me point out, first of all, this board that we're talking about can't make decisions about what treatments are given. That's explicitly prohibited in the law.
But let's go back to what Governor Romney indicated -- that under his plan, he would be able to cover people with preexisting conditions. Well actually, Governor, that isn't what your plan does. What your plan does is to duplicate what's already the law, which says if you are out of health insurance for three months, then you can end up getting continuous coverage and an insurance company can't deny you if it's been under 90 days.
But that's already the law. And that doesn't help the millions of people out there with preexisting conditions. There's a reason why Governor Romney set up the plan that he did in Massachusetts. It wasn't a government takeover of health care. It was the largest expansion of private insurance. But what it does say is that, insurers, you've got to take everybody. Now, that also means that you've got more customers.
But when Governor Romney says that he'll replace it with something, but can't detail how it will be, in fact, replaced -- and the reason he set up the system he did in Massachusetts was because there isn't a better way of dealing with the preexisting conditions problem -- it just reminds me of -- he says that he's going to close deductions and loopholes for his tax plan. That's how it's going to be paid for, but we don't know the details. He says that he's going to replace Dodd-Frank, Wall Street reform, but we don't know exactly which ones. He won't tell us. He now says he's going to replace Obamacare and assure that all the good things that are in it are going to be in there and you don't have to worry.
And at some point, I think the American people have to ask themselves, is the reason that Governor Romney is keeping all these plans to replace secret because they're too good? Is it because that somehow middle-class families are going to benefit too much from them? No. The reason is because when we reform Wall Street, when we tackle the problem of preexisting conditions -- these are tough problems and we've got to make choices -- and the choices we've made have been ones that ultimately are benefiting middle-class families all across the country.
MR. LEHRER: We're going to move to --
GOVERNOR ROMNEY: No, I have to respond to that -- which is my experience as a governor is if I come in and lay down a piece of legislation and say it's my way or the highway, I don't get a lot done. What I do is the same way that Tip O'Neill and Ronald Reagan worked together some years ago. When Ronald Reagan ran for office, he laid out the principles that he was going to foster. He said he was going to lower tax rates. He said he was going to broaden the base. You’ve said the same thing -- you’re going to simplify the tax code, broaden the base.
Those are my principles. I want to bring down the tax burden on middle-income families, and I’m going to work together with Congress to say, okay, what are the various ways we can bring down deductions, for instance. One way, for instance, would be to have a single number -- make up a number -- $25,000, $50,000 -- anybody could have deductions up to that amount. And then that number disappears for high-income people. That’s one way one could do it.
One could follow Bowles-Simpson as a model, and tax deduction by deduction and make differences that way. There are alternatives to accomplish the objective I have, which is to bring down rates, broaden the base, simplify the code, and create incentives for growth.
And with regards to health care, you had remarkable details with regards to my preexisting condition plan. You obviously studied up on my plan. In fact, I do have a plan that deals with people with preexisting conditions; that’s part of my health care plan. And what we did in Massachusetts is a model for the nation, state by state. And I said that at that time. The federal government taking over health care for the entire nation and whisking aside the 10th Amendment, which gives states the rights for these kinds of things, is not the course for America to have a stronger, more vibrant economy.
MR. LEHRER: That is a terrific segue to our next segment, and it's the role of government. And let’s see, role of government, and it is -- you are first on this, Mr. President.
And the question is this: Do you believe -- both of you, but you have the first two minutes on this, Mr. President -- do you believe there’s a fundamental difference between the two of you as to how you view the mission of the federal government?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I definitely think there are differences. The first role of the federal government is to keep the American people safe. That’s its most basic function. And as Commander-in-Chief, that is something that I have worked on and thought about every single day that I’ve been in the Oval Office.
But I also believe that government has the capacity -- the federal government has the capacity to help open up opportunity and create ladders of opportunity and to create frameworks where the American people can succeed. Look, the genius of America is the free enterprise system and freedom, and the fact that people can go out there and start a business, work on an idea, make their own decisions. But as Abraham Lincoln understood, there are also some things we do better together.
So in the middle of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln said, let’s help to finance the Trans-Continental Railroad. Let’s start the National Academy of Sciences. Let’s start land grant colleges -- because we want to give these gateways of opportunity for all Americans -- because if all Americans are getting opportunity, we’re all going to be better off. That doesn’t restrict people’s freedom; that enhances it.
And so what I’ve tried to do as President is to apply those same principles. When it comes to education, what I’ve said is we’ve got to reform schools that are not working. We use something called Race to the Top. It wasn’t a top-down approach, Governor. What we said is to states, we’ll give you more money if you initiate reforms. And as a consequence you have 46 states around the country who have made a real difference.
But what I’ve also said is let’s hire another 100,000 math and science teachers to make sure we maintain our technological lead and our people are skilled and able to succeed. And hard-pressed states right now can't all do that. In fact, we’ve seen layoffs of hundreds of thousands of teachers over the last several years, and Governor Romney doesn't think we need more teachers.
I do, because I think that that is the kind of investment where the federal government can help. It can't do it all, but it can make a difference. And as a consequence, we’ll have a better-trained workforce, and that will create jobs because companies want to locate in places where we’ve got a skilled workforce.
MR. LEHRER: Two minutes, Governor, on the role of government. Your view?
GOVERNOR ROMNEY: Well, first, I love great schools. Massachusetts, our schools are ranked number one of all 50 states. And the key to great schools -- great teachers. So I reject the idea that I don't believe in great teachers or more teachers. Every school district, every state should make that decision on their own.
The role of government: Look behind us -- the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. The role of government is to promote and protect the principles of those documents. First, life and liberty: We have a responsibility to protect the lives and liberties of our people, and that means a military second to none. I do not believe in cutting our military. I believe in maintaining the strength of America’s military.
Second, in that line that says, "We are endowed by our Creator with our rights," I believe we must maintain our commitment to religious tolerance and freedom in this country. That statement also says that we are endowed by our Creator with the right to pursue happiness as we choose. I interpret that as, one, making sure that those people who are less fortunate and can't care for themselves are cared by -- by one another. We’re a nation that believes that we are all children of the same God, and we care for those that have difficulties. Those that are elderly and have problems and challenges, those that are disabled, we care for them. And we look for discovery and innovation, all these things desired out of the American heart to provide the pursuit of happiness for our citizens.
But we also believe in maintaining for individuals the right to pursue their dreams and not to have the government substitute itself for the rights of free individuals. And what we’re seeing right now is, in my view, a trickle-down government approach which has government thinking it can do a better job than free people pursuing their dreams, and it’s not working.
And the proof of that is 23 million people out of work. The proof of that is one out of six people in poverty. The proof of that is we’ve gone from 32 million on food stamps to 47 million on food stamps. The proof of that is that 50 percent of college graduates this year can't find work. We know that the path we’re taking is not working. It’s time for a new path.
MR. LEHRER: All right, let’s go through some specifics in terms of what -- how each of you views the role of government. Education -- does the federal government have a responsibility to improve the quality of public education in America?
GOVERNOR ROMNEY: Well, the primary responsibility for education is, of course, at the state and local level. But the federal government also can play a very important role. And I agree with Secretary Arne Duncan, some ideas he’s put forward on Race to the Top -- not all of them, but some of them I agree with, and congratulate him for pursuing that. The federal government can get local and state schools to do a better job.
My own view, by the way, is I’ve added to that. I happen to believe -- I want the kids that are getting federal dollars from IDEA or Title I -- these are disabled kids or poor kids -- or lower-income kids, rather -- I want them to be able to go to the school of their choice. So all federal funds, instead of going to the state or to the school district, I’d have go, if you will, follow the child and let the parent and the child decide where to send their student.
MR. LEHRER: How do you see the federal government’s responsibility to, as I say, to improve the quality of public education in this country?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, as I’ve indicated, I think that it has a significant role to play. Through our Race to the Top program, we’ve worked with Republican and Democratic governors to initiate major reforms, and they’re having an impact right now.
MR. LEHRER: Do you think you have a difference with your views and those of Governor Romney about education and the federal government?
THE PRESIDENT: This is where budgets matter, because budgets reflect choices. So when Governor Romney indicates that he wants to cut taxes and potentially benefit folks like me and him, and to pay for it we’re having to initiate significant cuts in federal support for education, that makes a difference.
His running mate, Congressman Ryan, put forward a budget that reflects many of the principles that Governor Romney has talked about. And it wasn’t very detailed -- this seems to be a trend -- but what it did do is to, if you extrapolated how much money we’re talking about, you’d look at cutting the education budget by up to 20 percent.
When it comes to community colleges, we are seeing great work done out there all over the country because we have the opportunity to train people for jobs that exist right now. And one of the things I suspect Governor Romney and I probably agree on is getting businesses to work with community colleges so that they’re setting up their training programs --
MR. LEHRER: Do you agree, Governor?
THE PRESIDENT: Let me just finish the point.
GOVERNOR ROMNEY: Oh, sure. Oh, yes. It’s, by the way, going very well in my state, by the way. Yes.
THE PRESIDENT: I suspect it will be a small agreement -- where they’re partnering so that they’re designing training programs and people who are going through them know that there’s a job waiting for them if they complete it. That makes a big difference, but that requires some federal support.
Let me just say one final example. When it comes to making college affordable, whether it’s two-year or four-year, one of the things that I did as President was we were sending $60 billion to banks and lenders as middlemen for the student loan program, even though the loans were guaranteed so there was no risk for the banks or the lenders. But they were taking billions out of the system. And we said why not cut out the middleman? And as a consequence, what we’ve been able to do is to provide millions more students assistance, lower or keep low interest rates on student loans.
And this is an example of where our priorities make a difference. Governor Romney, I genuinely believe cares about education, but when he tells a student that you should borrow money from your parents to go to college, that indicates the degree to which there may not be as much of a focus on the fact that folks like myself, folks like Michelle, kids probably who attend the University of Denver just don’t have that option. And for us to be able to make sure that they’ve got that opportunity and they can walk through that door -- that is vitally important -- not just to those kids; it’s how we’re going to grow this economy over the long term.
MR. LEHRER: We’re running out of time, gentlemen, so I think you have a chance to respond to that. Yes, Mr. Governor.
THE PRESIDENT: He has a chance.
GOVERNOR ROMNEY: Mr. President, you’re entitled, as the President, to your own airplane and to your own house, but not to your own facts, all right? I’m not going to cut education funding. I don’t have any plan to cut education funding and grants that go to people going to college. I’m planning on continuing to grow, so I’m not planning on making changes there.
But you make a very good point, which is that the place you put your money makes a pretty clear indication of where your heart is. You put $90 billion into green jobs. And, look, I’m all in favor of green energy. Ninety billion -- that would have hired two million teachers. Ninety billion dollars. And these businesses, many of them have gone out of business. I think about half of them -- of the ones that have been invested in have gone out of business. A number of them happen to be owned by people who were contributors to your campaigns.
Look, the right course for America’s government -- we’re talking about the role of government -- is not to become the economic player picking winners and losers, telling people what kind of health treatment they can receive, taking over the health care system that has existed in this country for a long, long time and has produced the best health records in the world. The right answer for government is to say, how do we make the private sector become more efficient and more effective? How do we get schools to be more competitive?
Let’s grade them. I propose we grade our schools, so parents know which schools are succeeding and failing, so they can take their child to a school that’s being more successful. I don’t want to cut our commitment to education. I want to make it more effective and efficient.
And by the way, I’ve had that experience. I don’t just talk about it. I’ve been there. Massachusetts schools are ranked number one in the nation. This is not because I didn’t have commitment to education. It’s because I care about education for all of our kids.
MR. LEHRER: All right, gentlemen --
THE PRESIDENT: Jim, I --
MR. LEHRER: Excuse me, one -- excuse me, sir. We’ve got -- we barely have three minutes left. I’m not going to grade the two of you and say your answers have been too long or I’ve done a poor job --
THE PRESIDENT: You’ve done a great job, Jim.
MR. LEHRER: Oh, well, no. But the fact is government -- the role of government and governing -- we’ve lost a pod, in other words. So we only have three minutes left in the debate before we go to your closing statements. And so I want to ask, finally here -- and remember, we’ve got three minutes total time here. And the question is this: Many of the legislative functions of the federal government right now are in a state of paralysis as a result of partisan gridlock. If elected, in your case -- if reelected, in your case -- what would you do about that? Governor?
GOVERNOR ROMNEY: Jim, I had the great experience -- it didn’t seem like it at the time -- of being elected in a state where my legislature was 87 percent Democrat. And that meant I figured out -- from day one I had to get along and I had to work across the aisle to get anything done. We drove our schools to be number one in the nation. We cut taxes 19 times.
MR. LEHRER: Well, what would you do as President?
GOVERNOR ROMNEY: As President, I will sit down on day one
-- actually, the day after I get elected, I'll sit down with leaders, the Democrat leaders as well as Republican leaders, as we did in my state -- we met every Monday for a couple of hours, talked about the issues and the challenges in our state, in that case. We have to work on a collaborative basis, not because we're going to compromise our principles, but because there's common ground.
And the challenges America faces right now -- look, the reason I'm in this race is there are people that are really hurting today in this country. We face -- this deficit could crush the future generations. What's happening in the Middle East -- there are developments around the world that are of real concern. And Republicans and Democrats both love America, but we need to have leadership -- leadership in Washington that will actually bring people together and get the job done, and could not care less if it's a Republican or a Democrat. I've done it before. I'll do it again.
MR. LEHRER: Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, I think Governor Romney is going to have a busy first day, because he's also going to repeal Obamacare, which will not be very popular among Democrats as you're sitting down with them.
But, look, my philosophy has been I will take ideas from everybody -- Democrat or Republican -- as long as they're advancing the cause of making middle-class families stronger and giving ladders of opportunity to the middle class. That's how we cut taxes for middle-class families and small businesses. That's how we cut a trillion dollars of spending that wasn't advancing that cause. That's how we signed three trade deals into law that are helping us to double our exports and sell more American products around the world.
That's how we repealed "don't ask, don't tell." That's how we ended the war in Iraq, as I promised. And that's how we're going to wind down the war in Afghanistan. That's how we went after al Qaeda and bin Laden.
So we've seen progress even under Republican control of the House of Representatives. But, ultimately, part of being principled, part of being a leader is, A, being able to describe exactly what it is that you intend to do -- not just saying I'll sit down, you have to have a plan. Number two, what's important is occasionally you've got to say no to folks both in your own party and in the other party.
And, yes, we had some fights between me and the Republicans when they fought back against us reining in the excesses of Wall Street -- absolutely -- because that was a fight that needed to be had. When we were fighting about whether or not we were going to make sure that Americans had more security with their health insurance and they said no -- yes, that was a fight that we needed to have.
And so part of leadership and governing is both saying what it is that you are for, but also being willing to say no to some things. And I've got to tell you, Governor Romney, when it comes to his own party during the course of this campaign, has not displayed that willingness to say no to some of the more extreme parts of his party.
MR. LEHRER: That brings us to closing statements. There was a coin toss. Governor Romney, you won the toss and you elected to go last. So you have a closing two minutes, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, Jim, I want to thank you. And I want to thank Governor Romney, because I think this was a terrific debate and I very much appreciate it. And I want to thank the University of Denver.
Four years ago, we were going through a major crisis. And, yet, my faith and confidence in the American future is undiminished. And the reason is because of its people. Because of the woman I met in North Carolina who decided at 55 to go back to school because she wanted to inspire her daughter, and now has a job from that new training that she's gotten. Because of a company in Minnesota who was willing to give up salaries and perks for their executives to make sure that they didn’t lay off workers during a recession. The auto workers that you meet in Toledo or Detroit take such pride in building the best cars in the world, not just because of a paycheck, but because it gives them that sense of pride that they’re helping to build America.
And so the question now is, how do we build on those strengths? And everything that I’ve tried to do, and everything that I’m now proposing for the next four years in terms of improving our education system or developing American energy, or making sure that we’re closing loopholes for companies that are shipping jobs overseas and focusing on small businesses and companies that are creating jobs here in the United States, or closing our deficit in a responsible, balanced way that allow us to invest in our future -- all those things are designed to make sure that the American people -- their genius, their grit, their determination is channeled and they have an opportunity to succeed, and everybody is getting a fair shot and everybody is getting a fair share -- everybody is doing a fair share and everybody is playing by the same rules.
Four years ago, I said that I’m not a perfect man and I wouldn’t be a perfect President. And that’s probably a promise that Governor Romney thinks I’ve kept. But I also promised that I’d fight every single day on behalf of the American people and the middle class, and all those who are striving to get into the middle class. I’ve kept that promise. And if you’ll vote for me, then I promise I’ll fight just as hard in a second term.
MR. LEHRER: Governor Romney, your two-minute closing.
GOVERNOR ROMNEY: Thank you, Jim, and Mr. President. And thank you for tuning in this evening.
This is an important election, and I’m concerned about America. I’m concerned about the direction America has been taking over the last four years. I know this is bigger than an election about the two of us as individuals. It’s bigger than our respective parties. It’s an election about the course of America -- what kind of America do you want to have for yourself and for your children.
And there really are two very different paths that we began speaking about this evening. And over the course of this month we’re going to have two more presidential debates and a vice-presidential debate -- we’ll talk about those paths. But they lead in very different directions. And it’s not just looking to our words that you have to take into evidence of where they go; you can look at the record.
There’s no question in my mind that if the President were to be reelected you’ll continue to a see a middle-class squeeze, with incomes going down and prices going up. I’ll get incomes up again. You’ll see chronic unemployment. We’ve had 43 straight months with unemployment above 8 percent. If I’m President, I will create -- help create 12 million new jobs in this country with rising incomes.
If the President is reelected, Obamacare will be fully installed. In my view, that’s going to mean a whole different way of life for people who counted on the insurance plan they had in the past. Many will lose it. You’re going to see health premiums go up by some $2,500 per family. If I’m elected, we won’t have Obamacare. We’ll put in place the kind of principles that I put in my place in my own state, and allow each state to craft their own programs to get people insured, and we’ll focus on getting the cost of health care down.
If the President were to be reelected, you’re going to see a $716 billion cut to Medicare. You’ll have 4 million people who will lose Medicare advantage. You’ll have hospitals and providers that will no longer accept Medicare patients. I’ll restore that $716 billion to Medicare.
And finally, military. If the President is reelected, you’ll see dramatic cuts to our military. The Secretary of Defense has said these would be even devastating. I will not cut our commitment to our military. I will keep America strong and get America’s middle class working again.
Thank you, Jim.
MR. LEHRER: Thank you, Governor. Thank you, Mr. President.
The next debate will be the vice-presidential event on Thursday, October 11th, at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky. For now, from the University of Denver, I’m Jim Lehrer. Thank you and good night.