Vice presidential debate: Seven key numbers for Biden, Ryan

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden addresses the final session of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina in this file photo taken September 6, 2012. REUTERS/Eric Thayer/Files

Vice president debate: Seven key numbers for Biden, Ryan

Storified by Digital First Media · Tue, Oct 09 2012 06:51:21

The first and only debate between Vice President Joe Biden and challenger Congressman Paul Ryan, R-WI, will cover both foreign and domestic topics and be divided into segments lasting approximately 10 minutes each. It airs 9 p.m. Eastern Time Thursday from Centre College in Danville, Kentucky. Here are some figures Biden and Ryan are likely to spar over.

$700 billion in Medicare cuts

(Getty Images/Patrick Landmann)
Democrats and Republicans fundamentally agree that Medicare and Medicaid costs are growing and need to be curbed. But expect Biden and Ryan to dual over how spending reductions are handled under the health care law (which reduces outlays to private insurers and hospitals with too many re-admissions by an estimated $716 billion between 2013 and 2022), compared with Ryan’s budget proposals.

Ryan heads the House budget committee and his plan is a congressional resolution that includes the future spending reductions that are built into the health care law. Reaction to his plan is mixed, with stiffer opposition from older Americans.

$1 trillion deficit

That’s a lot of zeroes. 

But will it mean a lot to the average voter?
Biden hopes so and repeatedly blames the Bush administration for the nation’s ballooning arrears. Ryan hopes so as well, but is trying to convince voters that the Obama-Biden team failed to keep a promise to cut the deficit in half by this year and burdened Americans with “reckless spending habits.”

Under former President George W. Bush, there was not enough tax revenue to pay for tax cuts, the Iraq war and Medicare prescription drug coverage. The so-called “Great Recession” which started in December 2007 further depleted tax revenue, while Obama administration policies such as the Wall Street bailout and stimulus package have added to the deficit.

7.8 percent unemployment rate

(AP Photo/Nick Ut)
The nation’s unemployment rate fell to 7.8 percent in September from 8.1 percent in August, with employers adding only 114,000 jobs. There also were slight increases to average workweek hours and average hourly earnings.

The September numbers gave President Obama a boost as he came off a lackluster debate performance. Romney said fewer jobs were created in September than August and the improved numbers still do not look like a recovery.

Expect both Biden and Ryan to try to use the number to their advantage.

44 months of unemployment above 8 percent

 (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
September was the first time the unemployment rate fell below 8 percent since Obama took office in January 2009.

The psychological milestone could weaken the Romney-Ryan ticket’s argument that the Obama-Biden team has failed to get Americans back to work and should be replaced. The incumbents are making the case that the country is heading in the right direction and voters should give their policies more time to work.

$787 billion stimulus plan

(AP Photo)
Biden was the Obama administration’s point man for the package, which included tax relief, funds for roads, bridges and other infrastructure projects, initiatives to boost energy efficiency and many other strategies to boost jobs and jump-start the economy. Obama’s economic team said the spending plan was too small to have a robust impact, while the Romney-Ryan team and other detractors say it was a failed approach that only compounded fiscal problems, including the deficit.

Ryan voted against it in Congress and has said the stimulus package did little or nothing to stimulate the economy, although he did send letters on behalf of Wisconsin businesses requesting funds.

$500 billion in defense cuts

(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

After Republicans refused to raise the nation’s debt ceiling in 2011, Congress and President Obama set up a supercommittee to find a compromise. When it couldn’t come to an agreement either, a series of automatic spending reductions that were designed as a fail-safe were set to kick in.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told Congress during the summer that it would be a “disaster” for the $500 billion in automatic defense cuts — known as sequestration — were to go into effect Jan. 2.

The spending reductions would take place over 10 years in addition to almost the same amount in cuts that Obama and Congress already have negotiated. Panetta appeared before Congress along with Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who told lawmakers such steep funding cuts would result in fewer troops and disrupt operations.

11-year war in Afghanistan

 (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus)
U.S. and coalition forces struck targets in Kandahar, Afghanistan and other parts of the country on Oct. 7, 2001 setting off Operation Enduring Freedom. The Defense department estimates total U.S. casualties at 2,005 in Afghanistan as of Oct. 5, but at 2,126 when factoring in other locations included in Operation Enduring Freedom.
The Romney-Ryan campaign has been critical of Obama’s handling of the war, but it supports a 2014 end to combat as well, depending on conditions at the time.