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Second Presidential Debate: Obama, Romney Cover Jobs, Taxes

With only three weeks left until Election Day, President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney went head-to-head Tuesday night in the second of three planned presidential debates.

Held at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., the 90-minute debate was moderated by CNN’s Candy Crowley using a town hall-style format. The audience, which was made up of 82 uncommitted New York voters chosen by the Gallup Organization, directed the topics for the night.

Questions during the heated debate centered on issues close to the heart of many Americans like ways to fix the economy, the future of energy programs, foreign policy, immigration reform, pay equity for women and unemployment rates. The opponents clashed on many points.

Here are a few highlights from the debate, centered on economic issues:

Job Future for Young Americans

Romney and Obama both sympathized with young Americans who have spent thousands of dollars and many years working toward a college degree only face the challenge of finding full-time employment upon graduation.

Romney promised to create jobs if elected president and give young people more opportunities. “It’s not going to be like the last four years. The middle class has been crushed over the last four years, and jobs have been too scarce. I know what it takes to bring them back, and I’m going to do that,” he said.

Obama reassured young people the future is bright and that making the investment in higher education is critical to both students and the entire nation. “Now, the most important thing we can do is to make sure that we are creating jobs in this country, but not just jobs, good-paying jobs, ones that can support a family,” Obama said.

Obama added he plans to build manufacturing jobs, ensure Americans have the best education in the world, and control and build the country’s energy sources.

“We’ve got to reduce our deficit, but we’ve got to do it in a balanced way — asking the wealthy to pay a little bit more, along with cuts, so that we can invest in education like yours. And let’s take the money that we’ve been spending on war over the last decade to rebuild America: roads, bridges, schools,” Obama told the audience.

Long-Term Unemployed

Romney voiced his concern during the debate about the 23 million Americans who are struggling to find employment, many of them being out of work for an extended time. “The president’s policies have been exercised over the last four years, and they haven’t put Americans back to work,” he said. “We have fewer people working today than we had when the president took office.”

Romney pointed out that when Obama took office, the unemployment rate was 7.8 percent – the same number it is 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.”

Romney offered a five-point plan to give America 12 million new jobs in four years while increasing take-home pay. The plan, he said, will help recent college graduates as well as people all over the country who are currently unemployed.

Taxes and the Middle Class

Romney said he wants middle-income taxpayers to pay lower taxes because they have suffered financially for the past four years and need relief. He pointed out that middle-class families have suffered income decreases of about $4,300 over the last four years, while prices for gasoline, health insurance and food have continued to rise.

Romney said he’ll bring relief for middle-income families by bringing down tax rates across the board. His plan includes limiting deductions, exemptions and credits, especially for people at the wealthy end of the spectrum. “The top 5 percent of taxpayers will continue to pay 60 percent of the income tax the nation collects. So that’ll stay the same. Middle-income people are going to get a tax break,” Romney said.

Under Romney’s plan, Americans will have a limited deduction, yet still have a chance to choose which deductions they will use, from home mortgage interest deduction, charity and/or the child tax credit. In addition, those making $200,000 a year or less will not be obligated to pay tax on interest, dividends, capital gains or savings, he said.

Romney promised not to reduce the share of taxes currently paid by the highest-income taxpayers or increase taxes on the middle class. “The president’s spending, the president’s borrowing will cost this nation to have to raise taxes on the American people, not just at the high end,” Romney added.

Obama said his own philosophy on taxes has been simple. Like Romney, he wants to give the middle class relief. He stated he’s cut taxes on middle-class families by $3,600 and has cut taxes on small businesses 18 separate times over the last four years. If reelected, he said he would continue providing tax cuts for the middle class and for small businesses.

In addition to tough spending cuts, Obama said the country has to make sure the wealthy do a little bit more. “So what I’ve said is your first $250,000 worth of income, no change. And that means 98 percent of American families, 97 percent of small businesses, they will not see a tax increase. I’m ready to sign that bill right now. The only reason it’s not happening is because Governor Romney’s allies in Congress have held the 98 percent hostage because they want tax breaks for the top 2 percent,” Obama said.

For those Americans who make more than $250,000 per year, Obama said he would like to return to the tax rates used during Bill Clinton’s presidency when 23 million new jobs were created.

“That’s part of what took us from deficits to surplus. It will be good for our economy, and it will be good for job creation,” Obama said.

Bill “No Pay” Fay has lived a meager financial existence his entire life. He started writing/bragging about it in 2012, helping birth into existence as the site’s original “Frugal Man.” Prior to that, he spent more than 30 years covering the high finance world of college and professional sports for major publications, including the Associated Press, New York Times and Sports Illustrated. His interest in sports has waned some, but he is as passionate as ever about not reaching for his wallet. Bill can be reached at [email protected].

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    1. Transcript of the Second Presidential Debate. (2012, October 16). New York Times. Retrieved from