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October 4, 2012

In stats-filled debate, who said what -- and was it true?

(Continued)

DENVER —

Obama often claims that his deficit-reduction plan has the "balanced approach" of the Simpson-Bowles deficit commission proposal; the Simpson-Bowles plan is actually quite different.

For instance, Simpson-Bowles envisioned $4 trillion in debt reduction over nine years; the president's plan would spread the cuts over 10 years. A good chunk of the savings from deficit reduction piles up in that last year. When the two plans are compared apples to apples, Simpson-Bowles yields about $6.6 trillion in deficit reduction — 50 percent more than Obama's plan.

By Obama's math, you have nearly $3.8 trillion in spending cuts, compared with $1.5 trillion in tax increases (letting the Bush tax cuts expire for high-income Americans). That's how he claims $1 of tax increases for every $2.50 of spending cuts.

But virtually no serious budget analyst agreed with this accounting. Obama's $4 trillion figure, for instance, includes counting some $1 trillion in cuts reached a year ago in budget negotiations with Congress. So no matter who is the president, the savings are already in the bank.

Moreover, the administration is also counting $848 billion in phantom savings from winding down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, even though the administration had long made clear those wars would end.

In other words, by projecting war spending far in the future, the administration is able to claim credit for saving money it never intended to spend. (Imagine someone borrowing $50,000 a year for college — and then declaring that they have an extra $500,000 to spend over the next decade once they graduate.)

- - -

"On Medicare, for current retirees, he's cutting $716 billion from the program. . . . The idea of cutting $716 billion from Medicare to be able to balance the additional cost of Obamacare is, in my opinion, a mistake."

— Romney

Romney accused Obama of taking $716 billion from Medicare. This $700 billion figure comes from the difference over 10 years (2013-2022) between anticipated Medicare spending (what is known as "the baseline") and the changes that the law makes to reduce spending.

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