Who won the first 2012 presidential debate between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama? If you ask the Twitterverse, Big Bird nailed an easy victory.
Huh? In case you missed it, the sole quasi-joke either candidate cracked came when Mitt Romney vowed to choke off the government funding that pays some of Sesame Street's bills. But really, there were no winners tonight.
Moderator Jim Lehrer blew it too, although he seemed to be off to a decent start when he opened the debate with the night's most pressing question of the night: What are you gonna do about jobs?
Obama answered that he loved his sweetie. Romney tried to sound populist but just sounded weird. Things just got worse from there. More lies and insincere etch-a-sketch moments from Romney. More strangely absent and disconnected reactions from Obama.
Lehrer proceeded to let the candidates run roughshod over him, then lost us all when he said "we've lost a pod" as he reprimanded the candidates for taking too long. In an evening devoted to domestic issues, none of the three men ever mentioned women's rights, civil rights, immigration, poverty, climate change, or any other environmental issue.
Most importantly, nobody dared to breathe the truth, lest it actually get out -- America Is Not Broke.
That's right, the debate was an exercise in ridiculousness that produced no insight, no plan, no inspiration, no leadership, no truth. We are rich. We have enough money to put nutritious food on the tables of the one in five U.S. kids who are hungry and undernourished. We have enough money to help the laid-off moms and dads make ends meet until they get another job.
We have enough money to keep grandma, sister, and even every child ("future people," as I believe Romney put it) taken care of through their hard-earned benefits of Social Security and Medicare. We have enough money to help the down-and-out in times of sickness and emergency through Medicaid and help low-income families through refundable tax credits and the last shreds of welfare available to some.
We do. We're a rich country. We're not broke. Not only are we not in an economic position, recovering from the Wall Street-induced Great Recession to be able to tolerate the austerity trumpeted by Romney and half-conceded to by Obama, but we don't need to resort to it.
Here's what someone should have said tonight. Here is the truth denied to the American People...and to Big Bird:
1. We can bring in over $325 billion per year if we simply put a tiny tax on risky stock and derivative transactions; tax corporations and stop tax have abuse; and, tax the wealthy fairly, such as Warren Buffet suggested by taxing CEOs at the same rate as their secretaries
2. We can bring in almost $90 billion per year by actually making our environment more green and sustainable through: taxing the polluting carbon content of fossil fuels; and, ending fossil fuel subsidies.
3. We can save about $130 billion by making our country and globe safer through: closing out our war operations completely in Iraq, closing a third of our global military bases and ending drone attacks; and by ending military waste
These commonsense approaches would garner savings of over half a trillion a year -- far more than either candidate or any Bowles-Simpson scheme would save and would allow us to preserve our earned benefits, safeguard our safety net, keep our nation secure and create millions of good-paying green jobs.
America Is Not Broke. That is the missing story. Until we admit this, we all lose... and, you can definitely kiss Jim Lehrer and that big ole' yellow bird goodbye.
Karen Dolan is an Institute for Policy Studies fellow. For more details, please see the IPS report, America Is Not Broke. IPS-dc.org