It’s the Economy, Stupid: 23 Memorable Debate Moments

David Hume Kennerly / White House Photograph Courtesy Gerald R. Ford Library
David Hume Kennerly / White House Photograph Courtesy Gerald R. Ford Library

Running to be president of the United States of America is a tough job — one that requires candidates to articulate policies on a vast range of issues. Few of those issues are as important to most Americans as the economy — think taxes, jobs and wages, inflation, interest rates on loans, international trade, government spending priorities, deficits and regulation of the financial services sector. In these final weeks before the 2016 election, as you listen to the comments of this year’s presidential candidates, consider what some of their predecessors had to say about economic issues in the debates of years gone past.

Note that the modern, televised presidential debate tradition didn’t really begin until 1960 — when then-Vice President Richard M. Nixon squared off against the Democratic junior senator from Massachusetts, John F. Kennedy.

1960: John F. Kennedy

United Press International / Public domain via Wikimedia Commons
United Press International / Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

In the first Kennedy-Nixon Presidential Debate on Sept. 26, 1960, John F. Kennedy said this about the economy at the time: “I think the question before the American people is: Are we doing as much as we can do? Are we as strong as we should be? Are we as strong as we must be if we’re going to maintain our independence, and if we’re going to maintain and hold out the hand of friendship to those who look to us for assistance, to those who look to us for survival? I should make it very clear that I do not think we’re doing enough, that I am not satisfied as an American with the progress that we’re making. This is a great country, but I think it could be a greater country; and this is a powerful country, but I think it could be a more powerful country. I’m not satisfied to have fifty percent of our steel-mill capacity unused. I’m not satisfied when the United States had last year the lowest rate of economic growth of any major industrialized society in the world. Because economic growth means strength and vitality, it means we’re able to sustain our defenses; it means we’re able to meet our commitments abroad.”

1960: Richard M. Nixon

Public domain photo provided by The White House via Wikimedia Commons
Public domain photo provided by The White House via Wikimedia Commons

In the third debate between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon on Oct. 21, 1960, Nixon, then President Dwight Eisenhower’s vice president, put his comments about the U.S. economy in the context of the Cold War: “I am never satisfied with the economic growth of this country. I’m not satisfied with it even if there were no Communism in the world, but particularly when we’re in the kind of a race we’re in, we have got to see that America grows just as fast as we can, provided we grow soundly. Because even though we have maintained, as I pointed out in our first debate, the absolute gap over the Soviet Union; even though the growth in this administration has been twice as much as it was in the Truman administration; that isn’t good enough. Because America must be able to grow enough not only to take care of our needs at home for better education and housing and health — all these things we want.”

1976: Gerald R. Ford

David Hume Kennerly / White House Photograph Courtesy Gerald R. Ford Library
David Hume Kennerly / White House Photograph Courtesy Gerald R. Ford Library

There were no major, televised presidential debates in 1964, 1968 or 1972. When debates did return in 1976, they pitted Republican President Gerald Ford against former Georgia Gov. Jimmy Carter. Ford was unique in being the only president in modern history not elected to the White House. President Richard Nixon appointed him to the vice presidency to replace Spiro Agnew (who resigned under pressure of an investigation into bribery and fraud), and Ford stepped into the presidency in 1974 after Nixon himself resigned due to the Watergate scandal. Here’s what Ford had to say about his ideas for the economy, which had just emerged from a recession: “In my judgment the best way to get jobs is to expand the private sector, where five out of six jobs today exist in our economy. We can do that by reducing federal taxes as I proposed about a year ago when I called for a tax reduction of $28 billion — three-quarters of it to go to private taxpayers and one-quarter to the business sector. We could add to jobs in the major metropolitan areas by a proposal that I recommended that would give tax incentives to business to move into the inner city and to expand or to build new plants so that they would take a plant, or expand a plant where people are, and people are currently unemployed. We could also help our youths with some of the proposals that would give to young people an opportunity to work and learn at the same time just like we give money to young people who are going to college. Those are the kind of specifics that I think we have to discuss on these debates, and these are the kind of programs that I’ll talk about on my time.”

1976: Jimmy Carter

The White House / Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License
The White House / Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License

Former Georgia Gov. Jimmy Carter was really an unknown in national politics until the Democrat started running for president. But over the course of the debates with President Ford, Americans learned a little more about the former peanut farmer and decorated naval officer. Carter’s comments on the economy contributed to that understanding — and to his defeat of Ford in a tight race. Here’s what he said in his third and final debate with Ford: “The American people are ready to make sacrifices if they are part of the process. If they know that they will be helping to make decisions and won’t be excluded from being an involved party to the national purpose. The major effort we must put forward is to put our people back to work. And I think that this is one example where a lot of people have selfish, grasping ideas now. I remember 1973 in the depth of the energy crisis when President Nixon called on the American people to make a sacrifice, to cut down on the waste of gasoline, to cut down on the speed of automobiles. It was a — a tremendous surge of patriotism, that ‘I want to make a sacrifice for my country.’ I think we could call together, with strong leadership in the White House, business, industry and labor, and say let’s have voluntary price restraints. Let’s lay down some guidelines so we don’t have continuing inflation.”

1980: Ronald Reagan

The White House / Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License
The White House / Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License

Ronald Reagan was not only a charismatic former actor and broadcaster, but also a former governor of California who had nearly defeated Gerald Ford for the Republican nomination in 1976, even though Ford had the advantage of already being in the White House. By the time he won the Republican nomination for the 1980 election and ran against President Jimmy Carter, Reagan had been dubbed “The Great Communicator,” often telling folksy stories to explain his views on complex problems. Here’s what Reagan said on the economy. “I believe that inflation today is caused by government simply spending more than government takes in, at the same time that government has imposed upon business and industry, from the shopkeeper on the corner to the biggest industrial plant in America, countless harassing regulations and punitive taxes that have reduced productivity at the same time they have increased the cost of production. And when you are reducing productivity at the same time that you are turning out printing-press money in excessive amounts, you’re causing inflation. And it isn’t really higher prices, it’s just, you are reducing the value of the money. You are robbing the American people of their savings.”

1980: Jimmy Carter

Photographer: Marion S. Trikosko / Public domain via Wikimedia Commons
Photographer: Marion S. Trikosko / Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Democratic President Jimmy Carter had a difficult race in 1980. The economy was still in rough shape and Iran was holding Americans hostage. Carter’s style could hardly have been more different from his charming Republican opponent. Carter was a smart, earnest and a little wonky. (He later put his talents and energy into charitable ventures and become arguably the best “ex-president” of all time.) Here’s how he defended his administration’s economic record in 1980: “In 1974, we had the worst recession, the deepest and most penetrating recession since the Second World War. The recession that resulted this time was the briefest since the Second World War. In addition, we’ve brought down inflation. Earlier this year, in the first quarter, we did have a very severe inflation pressure brought about by the OPEC price increase. It averaged about 18 percent in the first quarter of this year. In the second quarter, we had dropped it down to about 13 percent. The most recent figures, the last three months, on the third quarter of this year, the inflation rate is 7 percent — still too high, but it illustrates very vividly that in addition to providing an enormous number of jobs — nine million new jobs in the last three and a half years — that the inflationary threat is still urgent on us. I notice that Governor Reagan recently mentioned the Reagan-Kemp-Roth proposal. which his own running mate, George Bush, described as voodoo economics, and said that it would result in a 30 percent inflation rate.”

1984: Walter Mondale

Provided by the U.S. Government / Public domain via Wikimedia Commons
Provided by the U.S. Government / Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

In this election, Jimmy Carter’s former vice president, Walter Mondale, faced Reagan in a bid to win the White House back for the Democrats. Here’s how he made his economic case: “One of the key tests of leadership is whether one sees clearly the nature of the problems confronted by our nation. And perhaps the dominant domestic issue of our times is what do we do about these enormous deficits. I respect the president; I respect the presidency, and I think he knows that. But the fact of it is, every estimate by this administration about the size of the deficit has been off by billions and billions of dollars. As a matter of fact, over four years, they’ve missed the mark by nearly $600 billion. We were told we would have a balanced budget in 1983. It was a $200 billion deficit instead. And now we have a major question facing the American people as to whether we’ll deal with this deficit and get it down for the sake of a healthy recovery. Virtually every economic analysis that I’ve heard of, including the distinguished Congressional Budget Office, which is respected by, I think, almost everyone, says that even with historically high levels of economic growth, we will suffer a $263 billion deficit. In other words, it doesn’t converge as the president suggests. It gets larger even with growth.”

1984: Ronald Reagan

Provided by the U.S. Government / Public domain via Wikimedia Commons
Provided by the U.S. Government / Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

President Ronald Reagan come to the 1984 debates after a tumultuous first term — during which he survived an assassination attempt, faced questions about the deaths of 241 servicemen in Beirut (killed in a terrorist bombing attack on their barracks) and tensions with the Soviet Union. Ultimately, however, Reagan won in a landslide — and set a new record for the number of Electoral College votes (525 electoral votes, from a possible total of 538) won. He carried the Electoral College in every state, except Democrat Walter Mondale’s home state of Minnesota. Here’s what he said about the economy that year: “I don’t believe that Mr. Mondale has a plan for balancing the budget; he has a plan for raising taxes. And, as a matter of fact, the biggest single tax increase in our nation’s history took place 1977. And for the five years previous to our taking office, taxes doubled in the United States, and the budgets increased $318 billion. So, there is no ratio between taxing and balancing a budget. Whether you borrow the money or whether you simply tax it away from the people, you’re taking the same amount of money out of the private sector, unless and until you bring down government’s share of what it is taking. With regard to Social Security, I hope there’ll be more time than just this minute to mention that, but I will say this: A president should never say ‘never.’ But I’m going to violate that rule and say ‘never.’ I will never stand for a reduction of the Social Security benefits to the people that are now getting them.”

1988: George H.W. Bush

The White House / Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License
The White House / Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License

By the time that George H.W. Bush ran for president in 1988, he had been waiting in the wings for eight years as Ronald Reagan’s vice president — and could both take credit for some of the perceived successes of Reagan’s administrations and try to avoid total responsibility for its mistakes. Here’s how he tackled a question on battling the budget in one of his debates with his Democratic challenger, Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis: “I would like a balanced budget amendment. But the dynamics of the economy — we cut the taxes, and revenues are up by 25 percent in three years. So the problem is — it’s not that the working is being taxed too little or the person working out – the woman working in some factory being taxed too little. It is that we are continuing to spend too much. So, my formula says grow at the rate of inflation. Permit the president to set the priorities on where we do the spending. And remember the federal deficit has come down $70 billion in one year, in 1987. And if we — and the — actually this year Congress is doing a little better in controlling the growth of spending. Spending was only up something like 4 percent. So, it isn’t that we’re taking too little — from taxpayer — we’re spending too much still.”

1988: Michael Dukakis

Photo taken by Hal O'Brien / Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License
Photo taken by Hal O’Brien / Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License

Michael Dukakis had a real opportunity in 1988 to win back the White House for the Democrats, despite the huge popularity of outgoing President Ronald Reagan. The country was still running a huge deficit and digesting the aftermath of the Iran-Contra scandal, in which the administration had supported Nicaraguan contra rebels with money made from selling arms to Iran. But the economy was still front and center in the debate. Here’s what Dukakis had to say about it: “I think it’s unconscionable that we should be talking or thinking about imposing new taxes on average Americans when there are billions out there, over $100 billion, in taxes owed that aren’t being paid. Now, I think if we work together on it, and if you have a president that will work with the Congress and the American people, we can bring that deficit down steadily, $20, $25, $30 billion a year, build economic growth, build a good strong future for America, invest in those things which we must invest in economic development, good jobs, good schools for our kids, college opportunity for young people, decent health care and affordable housing, and a clean and safe environment. We can do all of those things, and at the same time build a future in which we are standing on a good strong fiscal foundation.”

1992: Ross Perot

 By Allan Warren (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Allan Warren (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

The first Clinton-Bush-Perot presidential debate was unique in a couple of ways. First, it featured three debaters — not the usual two representing the major parties. Second, the third-party candidate was a political outsider, billionaire businessman Ross Perot, founder and CEO of Dallas-based Electronic Data Systems. Here’s what Perot had to say about the economy in 1992 — and why his political inexperience was a good thing: “I don’t have any experience in running up a $4 trillion debt. (Laughter) I don’t have any experience in gridlock government where nobody takes responsibility for anything and everybody blames everybody else. I don’t have any experience in creating the worst public school system in the industrialized world, the most violent crime-ridden society in the industrialized world. But I do have a lot of experience in getting things done. So, if we’re at a point in history where we want to stop talking about it and do it, I’ve got a lot of experience in figuring out how to solve problems, making the solutions work, and then moving on to the next one. I’ve got a lot of experience in not taking 10 years to solve a 10-minute problem. So, if it’s time for action, I think I have experience that counts. If there’s more time for gridlock and talk and finger-pointing, I’m the wrong man.”

1992: Bill Clinton

The White House / Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License
The White House / Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License

In a bid to win back the White House after 12 years of Republican control, the Democratic governor of Arkansas showed an easy facility dealing with facts when discussing complex issues that later earned him the unofficial title of “Explainer in Chief.” In this debate, he laid out his assessment of the country’s economic ills like this: “You know, my wife, Hillary, gave me a book about a year ago in which the author defined insanity as just doing the same old thing over and over again and expecting a different result. We have got to have the courage to change. … I have seen what’s happened in this last four years when — in my state, when people lose their jobs there’s a good chance I’ll know them by their names. When a factory closes, I know the people who ran it. When the businesses go bankrupt, I know them. And I’ve been out here for 13 months meeting in meetings just like this ever since October, with people like you all over America, people that have lost their jobs, lost their livelihood, lost their health insurance. What I want you to understand is the national debt is not the only cause of that. It is because America has not invested in its people. It is because we have not grown. It is because we’ve had 12 years of trickle-down economics. We’ve gone from first to twelfth in the world in wages. We’ve had four years where we’ve produced no private sector jobs. Most people are working harder for less money than they were making 10 years ago. It is because we are in the grip of a failed economic theory. And this decision you’re about to make better be about what kind of economic theory you want, not just people saying I’m going to go fix it, but what are we going to do? I think we have to do is invest in American jobs, American education, control American health care costs and bring the American people together again.”

1992: George H.W. Bush

 Provided by the Executive Office of the President of the United States / Public domain via Wikimedia Commons
Provided by the Executive Office of the President of the United States / Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

When President George H.W. Bush faced off with Bill Clinton and Ross Perot in 1992, it was at the end of a tough four years in the White House. His presidency started with a lot of hope — particularly in the first year as Warsaw Pact countries broke away from the Soviet Union and Bush worked with Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev on nuclear disarmament. But by 1992, Gorbachev was gone from power, Russia was looking shaky, the United States had been through a tough war in the Persian Gulf and the economy was strained. Here’s how Bush responded to the calls for change in economic policy: “One thing I’ve called for that has been stymied, and I’ll keep on working for it, is a whole financial reform legislation. It is absolutely essential in terms of bringing our banking system and credit system into the new age instead of having it living back in the dark ages. And it’s a big fight. And I don’t want to give my friend Ross another shot at me here, but I am fighting with the Congress to get this through. And you can’t just go up and say I’m going to fix it. You’ve got some pretty strong-willed guys up there that argue with you. But that’s what the election’s about. I agree with the governor. That’s what the election’s about. And sound fiscal policy is the best answer.”

1996: Bob Dole

Public domain / via Wikimedia Commons
Public domain / via Wikimedia Commons

When Kansas Sen. Bob Dole, who had been on a presidential ticket before as President Gerald Ford’s running mate in 1976, took to the debate stage in 1996 to challenge President Bill Clinton he was talking to a country that was experiencing a strong economic recovery — and was in the midst of a technological revolution. This was the first election in which candidates had websites — and Dole was the first Republican candidate to encourage voters to visit his website. His pitch on the economy had a “yes, but” flavor to it. Here’s a sample: “We ask the people that are viewing tonight, are you better off than you were four years ago? It’s not whether we’re better off, it’s whether they’re better off. Are you working harder to put food on the table, feed your children. Are your children getting a better education. Drug use has doubled the past 44 months all across America. Crime has gone down, but it’s because the mayors like Rudy Giuliani where one-third of the drop happened in one city, New York City. So, yes, some may be better off. But of the people listening tonight, the working families who will benefit from economic packages, they’ll be better off when Bob Dole is president and Jack Kemp is vice president.”

1996: Bill Clinton

White House Television / via Wikimedia Commons
White House Television / via Wikimedia Commons

For President Bill Clinton, the job was somewhat easier. Although he had (and would continue to have) a rough ride from Republicans who controlled both the House and the Senate, Clinton had a recovering economy to leverage in the 1996 presidential debates: Here’s some of what he said: “Four years ago I ran for president at a time of high unemployment and rising frustration. I wanted to turn this country around with a program of opportunity for all, responsibility from all, and an American community where everybody has a role to play. I wanted a government that was smaller and less bureaucratic to help people make the most of their own lives. Four years ago you took me on faith. Now there’s a record: Ten and a half million more jobs, rising incomes, falling crime rates and welfare rolls, a strong America at peace. We are better off than we were four years ago. Let’s keep it going. We cut the deficit by 60 percent. Now, let’s balance the budget and protect Medicare, Medicaid, education and the environment. We cut taxes for 15 million working Americans. Now let’s pass the tax cuts for education and child rearing, help with medical emergencies, and buying a home.”

2000: Al Gore

 Public domain / via Wikimedia Commons
Public domain / via Wikimedia Commons

Clinton’s vice president, Al Gore, was able to address a rare topic in his debate with Texas Gov. George W. Bush — how to spend a government surplus. His pitch to the American people was to use it responsibly: “I think this is a very important moment for our country. We have achieved extraordinary prosperity. And in this election, America has to make an important choice. Will we use our prosperity to enrich not just the few, but all of our families? I believe we have to make the right and responsible choices. If I’m entrusted with the presidency, here are the choices that I will make. I will balance the budget every year. I will pay down the national debt. I will put Medicare and Social Security in a lockbox and protect them. And I will cut taxes for middle-class families. I believe it’s important to resist the temptation to squander our surplus.”

2000: George W. Bush

The White House / Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License
The White House / Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License

George W. Bush, who would ultimately win the presidency after the closest election in modern history, had a different idea: Give some of the budget surplus back directly to taxpayers. Here’s how he articulated that: “I want to take one-half of the surplus and dedicate it to Social Security. One-quarter of the surplus for important projects, and I want to send one-quarter of the surplus back to the people who pay the bills. I want everybody who pays taxes to have their tax rates cut. And that stands in contrast to my worthy opponent’s plan, which will increase the size of government dramatically. His plan is three times larger than President Clinton’s proposed plan eight years ago. It is a plan that will have 200 new programs — expanded programs and creates 20,000 new bureaucrats. It empowers Washington. Tonight you’re going to hear that my passion and my vision is to empower Americans to be able to make decisions for themselves in their own lives.”

2004: John Kerry

Provided by the U.S. Government / Public domain via Wikimedia Commons
Provided by the U.S. Government / Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

By the time President George W. Bush faced Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry in 2004, the world had changed. The United States had become involved in wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq — after suffering the devastating terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Yet the debates were not focused entirely on national security. Here Kerry speaks about the economic issues of the day: “The president has presided over an economy where we’ve lost 1.6 million jobs. The first president in 72 years to lose jobs. I have a plan to put people back to work. … I’m going to close the loopholes that actually encourage companies to go overseas. The president wants to keep them open. I think I’m right. I think he’s wrong. I’m going to give you a tax cut. The president gave the top 1 percent of income-earners in America, got $89 billion last year, more than the 80 percent of people who earn $100,000 or less all put together. I think that’s wrong. That’s not wishy-washy, and that’s what I’m fighting for — you.

2004: George W. Bush

Provided by the Executive Office of the President of the United States / Public domain via Wikimedia Commons
Provided by the Executive Office of the President of the United States / Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

President Bush’s successful pitch to Americans for his re-election in 2004 was focused largely on keeping the country safe. Here’s how he summed up his approach to economic issues: “Tonight I had a chance to discuss with you what to do to keep this economy going: keep the taxes low, don’t increase the scope of the federal government, keep regulations down, legal reform, a health care policy that does not empower the federal government but empowers individuals, and an energy plan that will help us become less dependent on foreign sources of energy.”

2008: Barack Obama

The White House / Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License
The White House / Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License

When Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, who ultimately won this “change election,” took the stage for his second debate against Arizona Sen. John McCain, the nation was in the midst of a massive economic crisis. Banks, insurance companies, the stock market and the real estate market were failing — and both candidates were being consulted by outgoing President Bush about the difficult economic problems that one of them was going to inherit. Here’s what Obama said to the country about what was required: “Step one was a rescue package that was passed last week. We’ve got to make sure that works properly. And that means strong oversight, making sure that investors, taxpayers are getting their money back and treated as investors. It means that we are cracking down on CEOs and making sure that they’re not getting bonuses or golden parachutes as a consequence of this package. And, in fact, we just found out that AIG, a company that got a bailout, just a week after they got help, went on a $400,000 junket. And I’ll tell you what, the Treasury should demand that money back and those executives should be fired. But that’s only step one. The middle class need a rescue package. And that means tax cuts for the middle class. It means help for homeowners so that they can stay in their homes. It means that we are helping state and local governments set up road projects and bridge projects that keep people in their jobs. And then long term we’ve got to fix our health care system, we’ve got to fix our energy system that is putting such an enormous burden on families. You need somebody working for you, and you’ve got to have somebody in Washington who is thinking about the middle class and not just those who can afford to hire lobbyists.”

2008: John McCain

United States Congress (United States Senator John McCain Facebook page)/ Public domain via Wikimedia Commons
United States Congress (United States Senator John McCain Facebook page)/ Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Sen. John McCain was equally clear on the pressing issue of the day when he met Barack Obama at their second debate: the economy. Here’s what he said about it: “Americans are angry, they’re upset, and they’re a little fearful. It’s our job to fix the problem. Now, I have a plan to fix this problem, and it has got to do with energy independence. We’ve got to stop sending $700 billion a year to countries that don’t want us very — like us very much. We have to keep Americans’ taxes low. All Americans’ taxes low. Let’s not raise taxes on anybody today. We obviously have to stop this spending spree that’s going on in Washington. Do you know that we’ve laid a $10 trillion debt on these young Americans who are here with us tonight, $500 billion of it we owe to China? We’ve got to have a package of reforms, and it has got to lead to reform prosperity and peace in the world. And I think that this problem has become so severe, as you know, that we’re going to have to do something about home values. You know that home values of retirees continues to decline and people are no longer able to afford their mortgage payments. As president of the United States, Alan, I would order the secretary of the Treasury to immediately buy up the bad home loan mortgages in America and renegotiate at the new value of those homes — at the diminished value of those homes and let people be able to make those — be able to make those payments and stay in their homes. Is it expensive? Yes. But we all know, my friends, until we stabilize home values in America, we’re never going to start turning around and creating jobs and fixing our economy. And we’ve got to give some trust and confidence back to America.”

2012: Barack Obama

By Pete Souza (White House (P100212PS-0320)) Public domain via Wikimedia Commons
By Pete Souza (White House (P100212PS-0320)) Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

By 2012, President Barack Obama (seen here preparing for the debate) had taken the country through the worst of a major recession and was now debating with his opponent — former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney — on the merits of their competing plans to finish the task of getting the economy back on track. Obama’s argument, and ultimately his re-election, rested in part on casting Romney as a man who would cater to the wealthiest Americans, at the expense of the middle class and poor: “Governor Romney says he’s got a five-point plan? Governor Romney doesn’t have a five-point plan. He has a one-point plan. And that plan is to make sure that folks at the top play by a different set of rules. That’s been his philosophy in the private sector, that’s been his philosophy as governor, that’s been his philosophy as a presidential candidate. You can make a lot of money and pay lower tax rates than somebody who makes a lot less. You can ship jobs overseas and get tax breaks for it. You can invest in a company, bankrupt it, lay off the workers, strip away their pensions, and you still make money. That’s exactly the philosophy that we’ve seen in place for the last decade. That’s what’s been squeezing middle-class families. And we have fought back for four years to get out of that mess. The last thing we need to do is to go back to the very same policies that got us there.”

2012: Mitt Romney

By Gage Skidmore [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)] via Wikimedia Commons
By Gage Skidmore [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)] via Wikimedia Commons
For his part, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney worked to connect with those who had been hardest hit by the “Great Recession,” many of whom had not yet found work. Here’s what he said: “Well what you’re seeing in this country is 23 million people struggling to find a job. And a lot of them … have been out of work for a long, long, long time. The president’s policies have been exercised over the last four years, and they haven’t put Americans back to work. We have fewer people working today than we had when the president took office. If the — the unemployment rate was 7.8 percent when he took office, it’s 7.8 percent now. But if you calculated that unemployment rate, taking back the people who dropped out of the workforce, it would be 10.7 percent. We have not made the progress we need to make to put people back to work. That’s why I put out a five-point plan that gets America 12 million new jobs in four years and rising take-home pay.”

Looking back at these debate arguments, what are your thoughts about the candidates of the past? Are you following the ongoing presidential debates? Share your thoughts with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.

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