The Harbinger Online

The Layman’s Guide to Politics

The Economy

The Issue

Unemployment fell significantly during the month of September, hitting 7.8 percent. That is the lowest it has been since 2009, but it has reached as high as 8.1 percent during Obama’s presidency. The United States has seen 31 months of steady job growth, with the adding of 5.2 million jobs to the pri- vate sector.

At the beginning of the year Congress makes a budget, deciding what programs and services the fed- eral government is going to fund that year. Since the federal government takes out bonds to finance this budget, it can’t always pay back the bonds right away. This results in a deficit—the difference between what the federal government takes in and spends in a year. In the last decade, the deficit numbers have run up ac- cumulating in a $16 trillion in debt.

The Gross Domestic Product (the value of all the good and services the United States has produced per year) has been on a slow path of growth since Janu- ary 2009 when President Obama took office. It has grown from -5.3 percent growth to 1.3 percent as of this October according to CNN. This growth is slower in comparison to growth after other previous reces- sions.

Romney’s Take

Romney said during the first presidential debate in Denver that he “will eliminate all programs based on this test, if they don’t pass it — Is the program so critical it’s worth borrowing money from China to pay for it? And if not, I’ll get rid of it.”

He also would try to increase international trade and domestic energy production. He says his plan will give more power to individual states.

Obama’s Take

Obama has created a plan for reducing the country’s debt by $4 trillion. His campaign website states that “he has proposed a new independent fund that will attract private dollars and issue loans for new construction projects based on: how badly are they needed, and how much good will they do for the economy.”

He would also increase taxes for anyone that makes over $1 million dollars a year, and make certain the up- per class pays more in taxes than the middle class.

Energy and The Environment

The Issue

Since 2008, the energy issues have shifted: there is less emphasis on what type of energy the United States uses (i.e., cleaner coal, wind turbines) and more discussion of how we get our energy. Both campaigns are proposing plans for more domestic sources for en- ergy and oil, and less reliance on foreign energy and oil. They agree that with an unreliable Middle East and the cost of global oil on the rise, domestic oil is the most cost-effective and safe solution to the oil problem.

The campaigns differ on their views about the en- vironment and how their plans would affect it. The items being debated are whether or not the incentive of domestic oil is better than its environmental consequences, and also how realistic energy independence truly is. Both campaigns have different ways of going about becoming self-sufficient in oil production.

Romney’s Take

Romney stated that he would loosen environmental laws for oil companies; this would make oil companies better able to drill more on federal land and get results quicker. It would also make more incentives for domes- tic oil companies to seek out more oil on U.S. land.

According to the Romney campaign website, Rom- ney’s energy plan will have the United States energy independent by 2020. The site goes onto state that he would have the government facilitating more private- sector energy technology development.

Obama’s Take

During Obama’s presidency domestic petroleum production has jumped 24 percent. Obama has pledged to keep supporting domestic energy if elected a sec- ond term. But here is where the two campaigns differ: Obama is still putting an emphasis on decreasing the demand for oil in the United States by backing cleaner technologies, in contrast to Romney’s emphasis on oil. Obama would also eliminate tax breaks for the oil in- dustry.

In his speech addressing the Democratic National Convention, Obama said that “climate change is not a hoax.”

Education

The Issue

In 2012 alone, the United States saw large-scale teacher strikes, an eruption of debates over student loans and various attempts to reform the U.S. educa- tional system as a whole.

The 2002 law No Child Left Behind made it so that the federal government played a larger role in states’ education and held states more accountable for students’ test scores. The law also stated that all students needed to be proficient on state assessments by the 2013-2014 school year. But as the deadline ap- proaches, it has become clearer many schools will not be able to attain this proficiency level. Getting 100 percent of students proficient in all subjects seems very improbable to many administrators, states and teachers alike.

College has become increasingly more expensive and students are having to take out more loans to help pay for college. Even as the job market numbers become less grim, students graduating college are still apprehensive about trying to achieve successful careers and pay off their debts at the same time.

Romney’s Take

On higher education, Governor Romney “will take the unprecedented step of tying federal funds directly to dramatic reforms that expand parental choice, invest in innovation, and reward teachers for their results in- stead of their tenure.” According to his campaign web- site.

Romney has not yet prescribed any ways to replace/ reform NCLB but believes states should have more edu- cation independence. He also wants the federal govern- ment to play a smaller role in the states’ education.

Obama’s Take

Obama has taken on the issue of getting young people into the colleges of their choice without hav- ing immense debt after their schooling. He says that he would try to make college more affordable and make sure students have the opportunities they want for college and their futures.

Regarding NCLB, Obama believes the law is too specific and thinks the states are making the curricu- lum easier to achieve better scores. Although he agrees that states should take full accountability in the performance of their students, he want states to have the choice to go about educating their students using their own means.

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