Become an Informed Voter

So, you want to vote this November, but aren’t sure who to vote for? Here’s a guide to the positions each of the major candidates has taken on most of the important issues.

Two disclaimers: These positions are taken from the candidates’ websites, and while there are other candidates, these are the important ones.

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Economy: Both candidates want to increase US exports, in particular by signing free trade agreements. Obama has worked to make it easier to get patents, and created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to watch over financial organizations more closely. This includes regulating the types of fees credit cards can charge consumers. Romney would repeal regulations from the Obama administration, and believes regulations should not cost companies anything and new ones should go through Congress. He would guarantee the secret ballot in votes to have unions and prohibit unions from spending money they get from automatic dues on political activity. He has proposed reorganizing federal retraining programs to minimize the number of agencies, encouraging private sector involvement in the programs, and giving states block grants – which have relatively few strings attached – for job retraining.

Education: Both candidates believe education, on all levels, is necessary for success, and the current system needs reform. Romney believes federal student loans have helped drive up the cost of college, while Obama has expanded federal student loans. Obama has also regulated the student loan market heavily, and starting in 2014, new borrowers will only have to pay up to 10% of their disposable income, with forgiveness after 20 years, 10 if the person goes to work in public service, contingent upon all payments being on time. For K-12 education, Romney wants to give block grants to the states to encourage teacher quality, and make funding for schools move with low income and special needs students. Obama has implemented the “Race to the Top” program, which rewards states with money for making reforms. Romney wants to keep the testing requirements of No Child Left Behind but release test results to parents and the community instead of using them as a basis for government intervention. Obama has provided waivers to states for the No Child Left Behind requirements to encourage local solutions instead of forcing governmental takeovers.

Environment: Romney favors long lead times before regulations come into effect, and wants to make it easier to develop the country’s resources by streamlining regulations. This streamlining would also apply to new, clean technologies and new nuclear reactor designs. He would approve pipelines for Canadian oil. He also supports amending the Clean Air Act to exclude carbon dioxide from its scope. Obama has issued new rules to reduce mercury and other air pollution, including raising the fuel economy of vehicles to an average of 54.5 by 2025. He has encouraged government investment in clean coal, biofuels, wind, solar, and nuclear energy, as well as promoting the development of natural gas and oil.

Healthcare: Obama’s major accomplishment is the Affordable Care Act, known popuarly as Obamacare. Some of its provisions are as follows: allows people to stay on their parent’s healthcare until they’re 26, forces insurance companies to justify expense increases and pay for preventative care, removes lifetime caps on coverage, creates healthcare exchanges to make it easier for individuals to buy healthcare, outlaws discrimination based on pre-existing conditions, expands Medicare to make drugs more affordable and pay for some preventative care, and gives small businesses tax credits for buying insurance for their employees. Romney would waive the requirements of Obamacare and repeal it as soon as possible. In its place, he supports states creating their own healthcare systems, and would turn Medicaid into block grants, but would allow people to purchase insurance from any state. In addition, he favors limiting federal requirements for private insurers, instead rating the plans. Despite this, he still wants uninsured and high-risk people to have a chance at health insurance. He also would cap damages in medical malpractice suits and work to reduce the total number of suits.

Immigration: The candidates agree that foreign students who study at American universities should have an easier path to citizenship, and illegal immigrants who serve in the military should be able to become citizens. Obama supports the DREAM Act, which would allow illegal immigrants in college who were brought to the country as children to become citizens, and has proposed allowing the undocumented family of citizens to apply for legal status inside the US. Romney believes they must apply for citizenship like anyone else – go back to their other country and wait. Romney opposes providing government services to illegal immigrants, such as in-state tuition and driver’s licenses, while Obama has moved the focus of federal enforcement away from low-priority cases, such as veterans, spouses of military personnel, and the elderly. Romney would like to increase visa caps for high-skilled workers and temporary worker visas, but implement a system to stop people overstaying their visas, and create a mandatory system for employers to check if their employees are legal. Obama opposes the Arizona law which allows state police to question people about their immigration status.

LGBT issues: Obama supports gay marriage, while Romney opposes it, wanting to define marriage as one man, one woman. Obama supports appealing the Defense of Marriage Act, while Romney supports the act. Obama has also given hospital visitation rights to same-sex couples, and has expanded hate crime legislation to cover crimes motivated by gender or sexual orientation.

Taxes: Obama supports raising taxes on those who make $250,000 or more a year to be equivalent to taxes on those who make less, particularly by closing loopholes such as the lower tax rate on capital gains. Romney opposes this, believing that current tax rates should be sufficient to sustain government. He supports lowering rates, arguing it will stimulate the economy. Specifically, he favors eliminating the “Death Tax” and the Alternative Minimum Tax. Both want to cut corporate taxes, with Obama specifically proposing lower taxes in exchange for bringing jobs back to the US and using more advanced manufacturing technologies.

Women’s Rights: Obama passed and supports a law which forces “equal pay for equal work” between women and men, and Obamacare forces insurance companies to cover birth control. He has overturned a rule that banned federal aid for international aid groups that gave out information about abortion. However, he still supports policies that prevent federal dollars from being used to pay for abortions. Romney supports expanding this policy to force federal money to not have anything to do with abortions, including stopping funding for Planned Parenthood. This is because he believes life begins at conception, and that Roe v. Wade should be overturned.