Sunday, November 4, 2012

That Question Everyone is Asking Me: Who the High Holy Hell Should I Vote For?

Okay folks.  We're nearly there.  Nearly to that moment where the American citizenry vote on their nation's leadership - and while there will be state and local elections within the next year, there won't be another Federal election for two years, and not another presidential election for four years.  And I think most of us are just fine with that.  Grin.

That said, I have gotten one question over and over again, on the phone, in class, in the halls, by e-mail and Facebook.  Who, they say, should I vote for?  I'm always a bit surprised when people haven't made their minds up yet, but then again, I understand why.  Folk are worried about the near future - our economy seems fragile, we've got a lot of men and women in harm's way overseas, and educational and healthcare numbers, both in terms of cost and benefits, seem more than a little problematic.  It has made us a little irritable, as a nation, and I think that is okay. We just have to remember - it is okay if we disagree, as long as we do so like civil, intelligent, law-abiding folk.

So, who should you vote for?  Are you kidding? That isn't my job!  My job is to help you make good decisions - to stay aloof, insofar as possible, from politics.  I might tell you who I am voting for in a social setting, mind you, but that is never to say I am advocating someone else do so - that is a matter of conscience.  That said, I think what I can do is help you final, wavering folk to make a decision of your own by summarizing the issues, to a degree.  So, well, that is what I've done below - social issues are in green, foreign and military policy, as well as immigration, are in red, and domestic issues are in blue (imperfect, but something).   For your consideration:


President Obama
Governor Romney
Abortion Rights
Pro-Choice
Adjusted Pro-Life (save in the instance of rape, incest, or risk to the woman’s life); seeks reversal of Roe v. Wade.  This is a reversal from previous position as pro-choice. 
Afghanistan
Has implemented Petraeus plan (surge, emphasis on training and infrastructure, draw-down with intention of handing over security and statecraft to local forces).   Seeks a 2014 withdrawal of forces, though with a permanent training and support force till at least 2024.
Nearly identical to the President’s plan, including support of 2014 withdrawal.
Birth Control Rights
Seeks to require work-based healthcare plans to guarantee free birth control.

China
Seeks to use intergovernmental organizations (especially the WTO) to force the PRC to improve its environmental, monetary, and trade policies vis-à-vis the US.  Far more aggressive than previous presidencies in this regard.
Asserts the PRC is a currency manipulator and violates universal principles of intellectual property so such a degree that severe trade sanctions are justified.  
Debt Solution
Plans to raise capital gains taxes and increase income taxes for those making more than $250,000/year. 

Note: Failed in 1st term debt reduction promises.
Plan to cut budget till it is under 20% of the US GDP, but is lacking in specific proposals. Plans to increase military and Medicare spending (again, unspecific in plans).  Plans to cut income and capital gains taxes.  Supports a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.
Energy
Moratorium on deep-sea drilling but, nonetheless, the US has substantially increased its overall domestic energy production under Obama, including petroleum. Goal of cutting petroleum imports in half by 2020.
Seeks US/Canadian total energy independence by 2020, largely through aggressive fossil fuel development.
Environment
Supported legislation regulating mercury vapor and atmospheric heat-trapping chemicals. Failed to get Congressional support for support carbon emission regulation.
Supports deregulation, fuel exploitation in protected areas, and is an anthropogenic climate change skeptic.
Financial Markets
Supports Frank-Dodd and the Consumer Protection Act.
Plans to deregulate financial markets further by seeking the removal of Frank-Dodd and the Consumer Protection Act.
Free Trade
Signed bilateral agreements with Columbia, Panama, and South Korea, though negotiations began under Bush administration.  Has not fulfilled his campaign promise to renegotiate NAFTA.
Supports NAFTA and seeks the establishment of a Trade Promotional Authority which would remove Senatorial ability to amend trade agreements, limiting them to “up or down” votes.
Gay Rights
Has steadily become more libertarian on this issue, now supporting legal recognition of gay marriage.  Supported end of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. Has failed to get Congressional support to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act, but has ended enforcement.  Supports the right of gay couples to adopt.
Opposes both same-sex civil unions and same-sex marriage and supports a constitutional amendment to define marriage as between a man and a woman. Acknowledges the right of gay couples to adopt, but seems to approve to states’ rights to decide on this issue.
Guns
Has pursued no significant changes with regards to gun control.  Has claimed he supports renewal of assault weapons ban.
Favors strict enforcement of existing gun laws and has supported state-level assault weapons bans.
Healthcare
Will continue implementing the Affordable Care Act.  
Has pledged repeal of the Affordable Care Act and a “start from scratch” effort to reform healthcare, readopting some provisions of the ACA, which was largely based upon Romney’s healthcare plan adopted by Massachusetts. 
Immigration
Has, by executive order, ended deportation and guaranteed work permits to those brought as minors to the US.  Has sought clearer paths for illegal immigrant acquisition of citizenship.  A record number of illegal immigrants have been deported under his presidency.
Supports the DREAM Act.
Favors a border fence along the Mexican border.  Opposes granting legal status for illegal aliens in college (DREAM), but supports it for those serving in the military.  Favors an immigrant status system and punishments for employers of illegals who did not attempt to confirm their status.
Iran
Opposes a first-strike on Iran but maintains option as viable if Iran demonstrates nuclear capability.  Has begun trying to frame negotiations along similar lines to those with North Korea, now using the P5+1 multilateral model, forcing Iran to negotiate with the US, PRC, France, Russia, UK, and Germany simultaneously.   
Seems more aggressive towards Iran, but without any concrete statements as such.  Would allow Israel to deal with Iran without repercussions.
Iraq
Successfully completed Petraeus’ plan developed and begun in late Bush administration, including withdrawal.  Key failure is the inability to establish a Status of Forces Agreement which would have left 5000-odd US troops in situ – fell apart because US demanded legal immunity for its troops. 
Has been critical of lack of a Status of Forces Agreement.
Israel
Opposes continued construction of internationally unrecognized settlements in Palestinian territories; insists 1967 borders be respected; reiterates all traditional support of Israel and has offered no changes in policy, military and financial, and has pledged support to Israel in the event of a war with Iran, no matter who initiates it.  
Closely associates himself with Israeli hardliners; seems willing to oppose the current international agreement on returning to the 1967 borders. Plans to move the US embassy to Jerusalem if elected.  Supports Israel’s right to preemptively strike Iran.
Libya
Committed air forces to support Libyan uprising, maintains support for new regime despite the Benghazi crisis.
Claims high-level malfeasance in the Benghazi crisis. 
Military (General)
Endorses a plan, developed with both major parties in Congress, to decrease total manpower in the Army and Marines over a 10-year period.
Propose a substantial increase in military spending on the order of $100billion/year by 2016, focusing this income on warship development and troop strength. Has criticized Congressional Republicans for risking military funding by being uncooperative on budgetary matters.
Primary & Secondary Education
Through executive order suspended least popular elements of No Child Left Behind and established the Race to the Top grant program.
Supports both Bush’s No Child Left Behind and Obama’s Race to the Top grant program.  Seeks to support “parental choice” programs (voucher programs).
Russia
Only significant win in policy vis-à-vis the Russians is a new arms limitation treaty.
Has openly asserted Russia to be our greatest geopolitical threat. Seeks the renewal of START negotiations.
Social Security
Inadequate long-term plan; some inflationary adjustments.
Seeks status quo for those 55 and above but seeks to raise the retirement age for those under that age and decrease benefits along a progressive plan, though the degree to which is unclear.
Sub-Saharan Africa
Has slightly increased funding for research and healthcare since the Bush years.
Insists the US must become more aggressive with regards to American interests in Africa, particularly in response to growing influence of China.
Syria
Has called for the Assad to leave office. Has declined to commit military forces to support resistance.  Pursues international consensus against Syria though Russo-Syrian and, secondarily, Iran-Syrian alliances likely will prevent this.  
Wishes to find and unite pro-American forces amongst the Syrian opposition and funnel, using intelligence assets, weapons to them.  Won’t rule out military options without interstate support.
Taxation
Seeks to extend Bush-era tax cuts for individuals making less than $200,000 and couples making less than $250,000.
Wants to extend Bush-era tax cuts and cut income taxes an additional 20%, end capital gains taxes for families making less than $200,000, cut corporate tax rates from 25% to 35%, and compensate by closing loopholes in the code, but has failed to describe which loopholes.
Terrorism
Ended Bush-era policies legitimating “enhanced interrogation,” a euphemism for torture.  Failed to end most Bush-era policies otherwise that he insisted he would end, including closing the Guantanamo detention centers. Has expanded use of drones against cells in southwest Asia.  
Insists foreign terrorism suspects have no constitutional rights.  Accepts the validity of at least some “enhanced interrogation.”
Tertiary Education
Has supported substantial increases in available funding for individual students, both positive (grants, etc.) and negative (tax breaks).
Seeks a freeze on Federal funding for tuition (arguing that increases result in more rapid tuition inflation) and the
Unemployment
Supports both private and corporate stimuli and has used both. 

Note: Inherited and has not alleviated persistently high Bush unemployment levels of around 8% (claimed).
Favors a trickle-down model, cutting corporate and high-income taxes.  Favors decreased regulation, including health, welfare, and environmental. Emphasizes balanced budget plan which, however, lacks details.


Okay, so that is a solid start, I think (hope) we can all agree. But, something else of note - there are other issues - I want to suggest to two things.  First, if you don't see the issues that matter most to you, please, consider looking at the candidates' official platforms on their respective websites - Mr. Obama's here and Mr. Romney's here.  Secondly, if you still don't feel like you know enough, or you feel that you need further elaboration, please, let me know on the bounce - I'll do my best to help you find what you need.


Sources: 

“Obama, Romney Poles Apart on Domestic Issues.” Voice of America. 

“Obama and Romney on the Issues.” The Wall Street Journal. 

“Where Obama and Romney Stand on Big Issues.” ABC News.