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Election Issues: A Cheat Sheet

As you’ve probably figured out by now, there’s a presidential election this November. You may
be an avid follower of politics or totally indifferent to them – in any case, we could all use
a little refresher on some of the issues.

To many Americans, the current economic situation may be the most important issue in the upcoming election. The rate of unemployment remains uncomfortably high, and our country remains trillions of dollars in debt. Some consider President Obama’s time in office to have been defined by the state of the economy, as our country continues to struggle through one of the worst recessions in American history.

  • Obama: Concerned with small-business owners and consumers, Obama made reforms to Wall Street business practices and implemented programs aimed at helping the middle class. His stimulus plan helped boost the economy temporarily, but has not brought down the unemployment rate. Obama urges the public to re-elect him on the premise that fiscal policies never work as quickly as we need them to.
  • Romney: Romney has a great deal of experience in both the public and private sectors. In terms of controlling federal deficit spending, he supports the “cut, cap, and balance” approach utilized by Tea Party activists and conservative lawmakers in Congress.

Republicans are pushing for a repeal of “Obamacare”, which was signed into law in Spring 2010. After much upheaval over the individual mandate in Obama’s health care reform law, the Court finally ruled in June that the mandate may remain as a tax. Controversy remains – should health care reform be a tax or a penalty?

  • Obama: Obamacare is a major accomplishment in terms of making health care more affordable by insuring more Americans. Now that the Supreme Court has ruled that the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate is constitutional, not as a penalty, but a tax, Obama faces staunch opposition from Republicans.
  • Romney: Romney has said if elected, he will work to repeal “Obamacare.” As Massachusetts governor, however, Romney signed a health care bill into law that penalized Massachusetts citizens for not having health insurance – similar to the federal reform, but implemented at the state level. Romney argues that his plan was tailored to the people of Massachusettes, and mandating that 100% of Americans have health insurance is not the government’s responsibility.

Recent decisions on immigration have caused some serious controversy, making this issue an important one in the upcoming election. Following a directive made to the Department of Homeland Security, many young, undocumented immigrants now have the chance to receive citizenship. Then, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the majority of Arizona’s controversial immigration law as unconstitutional.

  • Obama: Obama had critics on the left and right urging immigration reform during his first two years in office. Finally, in mid-June, the president announced the directive ceasing deportation for young undocumented immigrants under the age of 30, who have a high school diploma or equivalent and/or have served in the military, in order to “focus our resources wisely while giving a degree of relief and hope to talented, driven, patriotic young people.”
  • Romney: Governor Romney has said that he will do more to create a permanent solution to immigration. The governor has called Obama’s recent directive “politically motivated”. Romney’s own solution includes increasing border security, as well as allowing access to citizenship for those who have served in the U.S. military or for children of illegal immigrants.

The Obama administration has been critical of George W. Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” and has worked to reform it. Academic performance in the US remains stagnant, however. Americans can now call student loans the largest source of their debt, making the cost of higher education is a hugely important campaign issue.

  • Obama: The current administration improved on the No Child Left Behind law by implementing a solid reform while scaling back on many states’ unmanageable requirements. Early on, many states were given waivers to allow more flexibility in meeting some of the standards of the law that requires that every child be proficient in reading and math by 2014. The key component of his reform, Race To The Top, has awarded states more than $4.35 billion in competitive grants in exchange for crafting “innovative plans to improve teacher quality and student achievement.”
  • Romney: Mitt Romney’s plan, “A Chance for Every Child”, underlines the importance of school choice, accountability, and qualified teachers in every class. Romney was criticized for saying that “the schools in the district with the smallest classroom sizes had students performing in the bottom 10%…Just getting smaller classrooms didn’t seem to be the key.”

Same-Sex Marriage
Public opinion of same-sex marriage has become increasingly tolerant, making this issue less of a “wedge” for Republicans. Following his repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in 2011, Obama has changed his stance on gay marriage. North Carolina adopting an amendment to the state constitution outlawing gay marriage, an action supported by social conservatives.

  • Obama: President Obama is now in favor of same-sex marriage. “At a certain point, I’ve just concluded that for me personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married,” he said during an ABC interview in May.
  • Romney: Mitt Romney believes that marriage is a union between a man and a woman, and supported an amendment to the Massachusetts constitution that defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman. In response to a 2007 court decision that refused a law banning gay marriage in Iowa, Romney reiterated his support in favor of a federal amendment to the Constitution banning gay marriage.

Abortion continues to be a controversial issue, particularly among social conservatives. A Health and Human Services decision in January forced Catholic universities and charities to provide contraception was heavily opposed by the Church. Republicans remain firmly against governmental funding for Planned Parenthood.

  • Obama: President Obama supports Roe v. Wade and has consistently voted in favor of pro-choice initiatives. He opposed a Supreme Court ruling that supported a ban on partial birth abortions, and demonstrated support for the repeal of a Bush prohibition on international funding to groups that supported abortions.
  • Romney: Romney is personally pro-life. On the issue of contraception provided by religious organizations, Romney has said that the Massachusetts health care law, “Romneycare” did not require churches and religious organizations to provide contraception, holding that this requirement would be an attack on the “religious conscience”.

You may still be unsure about your personal stance on some of these issues, or even which political candidate you support. You still have time! Read up on the candidates and their policies – you could even take a quiz matching you with a candidate/party platform (try iSideWith.com). Most importantly, make sure you are registered to vote! And remember to vote on Election Day.

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