Disclaimer: The facts and information here were obtained from online news sources, campaign websites, speeches and governmental agencies, and do not necessarily represent the views or ideas of The Collegian or Houston Baptist University. Voters are encouraged to do their own research and make informed decisions.
ECONOMY | WHAT TO KNOW: With the 2008 freefall of the economy, President Barack Obama’s tenure has been defined by how he handled the Great Recession. Since 2009, Republican Congress members have been advocating to not raise taxes and to cut spending. However, the country is headed toward a “fiscal cliff,” coined by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke to describe the simultaneous onset of tax increases and spending cuts, which will be triggered on Jan. 1, 2013 unless Congress acts. Congress is not doing anything about this issue yet, so that is where the two candidates come in.
Obama: The President created reforms to regulate Wall Street and help small business owners and consumers. His $787 billion stimulus was supposed to boost the economy with government spending, tax cuts and credits and resulted in only a 1.3 percent growth in gross domestic product instead of the projected 3 percent growth. The unemployment rate has fallen to 7.8 percent of the labor force, the lowest it has been in nearly four years. He plans on creating 1 million new manufacturing jobs by the end of 2016 and wants to promote trade to increase growth. Obama says recovery needs time and patience; thus re-election would allow him to finish what he started. Opponents claim his plan does not work fast enough and adds on to the $16 trillion deficit. Furthermore, Republicans claim government injection of money into the economy results in less competition and will stunt the economy’s growth in the long run.
Romney: In line with Republican and Tea Party activists, Romney plans on reducing taxes, spending, regulation and government programs to improve the economy and promote the free market. The plan cuts taxes by 20 percent across the board. Tax provisions from the 2009 Stimulus Act would expire, including the American Opportunity tax credit for higher education. He wants to keep tax benefits for savings and investment. He also wants to eliminate estate taxes and the Alternative Minimum Tax, an extra tax some have to pay on top of their regular income tax to prevent high income earners from using special tax benefits to pay little or no tax. To make up for the lost revenue in lower taxes, he plans on closing unidentified tax loopholes. Romney claims the plan is “budget neutral,” although opponents claim it will reduce revenue by $5 trillion over a decade. According to the Tax Policy Center, it is difficult to make predictions about the plan due to its lack of specificity.
EDUCATION | WHAT TO KNOW: Student loans are one of the largest facets of American debt. With the cost of higher education rising, government-subsidized loans remain a vital issue in the election.
Obama: Following his plan to grow the economy from the middle out, Obama believes improving education will ensure a strong middle class. He doubled investments in Pell Grants after taking subsidies away from banks, as well as established a college tax credit for students. He also plans on creating jobs for new teachers, specifically in math and science. He supports increasing government-subsidized loans.
Romney: The governor calls his plan “a chance for every child,” beginning a voucher system in public schools and emphasizing accountability in the classroom. He also supports private companies giving loans to students for higher education and seeks to repeal the American Opportunity tax credit. He feels the flood of federal dollars drives up the cost of tuition, causing increased debt.He hopes to spur more competition and innovation in colleges, resulting in lower tuition.
FOREIGN POLICY | WHAT TO KNOW: The two major successes of Obama’s administration, ending the war in Iraq and the death of Osama bin Laden, have struck a chord with Americans although relations with Pakistan have strained after the U.S. invaded its borders to kill Bin Laden. Republicans take the president’s diplomacy as a sign of weakness. Also, the death of American soldiers by American-trained Afghani soldiers has called into question America’s desire to spread democracy to unwilling countries. America’s future with the Middle East is at the forefront of the foreign policy issue.
Obama: The current administration wants to continue negotiation and compromise with other nations instead of making coercive decisions. Obama came into office in 2009 vowing to end the longest war in American history, and he has. He seeks to continue working with nations to pressure dictators from volatile states such as Libya, Egypt and Syria to step down. If re-elected, Obama says he wants to improve relations with Muslim countries and finish bringing troops home, in effect saving the U.S. a projected $200 billion over a decade. With the recent death of Ambassador Chris Stevens and other Americans in Libya and the administration’s delay in calling it a terrorist attack, Obama’s policies have been called into question and are seen as weak.
Romney: The Romney campaign prides itself on wanting the U.S. to be more powerful on a world stage, but lack of foreign policy experience makes it hard to pinpoint what Gov. Romney will do if elected. Although Romney will advocate sanctions and coalitions similar to those by the Obama administration and agrees with the 2014 timetable for bringing troops home from Afghanistan, he thinks the president has acted cowardly towards nations who threaten the U.S., including Iran. Republicans claim negotiations will not stop dangerous countries like Iran from making nuclear bombs or attacking the U.S. Romney claims a more aggressive approach must be taken for the country to remain the leader of the free world.
SOCIAL ISSUES | WHAT TO KNOW: This election season is about the economy, or so that is what the politicians want voters to think. By avoiding sensitive issues that create divisions within the parties themselves, both candidates are making the economy the center point of their campaigns. However, social issues are the driving forces behind much contention in the government and Americans should fully understand the issues before heading to the polls.
Obama: President Obama has voted for pro-choice initiatives and supports a woman’s right to choose. He gained criticism when he passed a bill denying federal funds to pay for abortions, a compromise he needed to make in order to pass his health care reform bill in 2010. Vice President Joe Biden is also pro-choice. In 2011, Obama repealed the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Although he used to oppose same-sex marriage, the president reversed his stance this year.
Romney: Gov. Romney has been anti-abortion and supports the repeal of Roe v. Wade, believing abortion should be decided at the state level. His stand was clear after he vetoed a bill for stem cell research in Massachusetts, claiming that life begins at conception. Romney says he does not plan, however, to pursue any abortion-related legislation, if elected. His running mate, Congressman Paul Ryan, known as a stanch pro-life supporter, has recently changed his position to include cases of rape and incest.