THE 2012 ELECTION

MY ATTEMPT TO BE A RESPONSIBLE VOTER

CHRISTINE ARGIER christine.argier@gmail.com

The 2012 Election: My Attempt at Being a Responsible Voter

Contents
Why Am I Writing This? ...................................................................................................... 1 Finding Good Information .............................................................................................................. 1 My Plan ................................................................................................................................................... 2 The Issues.............................................................................................................................................. 2 Health Care ......................................................................................................................... 3 Key Points of the Affordable Care Act: ....................................................................................... 3 What about the “Obamacare Tax”?.............................................................................................. 4 What About Romneycare? .............................................................................................................. 5 What Are the Differences Between Obamacare and Romneycare? ................................ 5 Why Does the GOP Party Want to Repeal Obamacare? ....................................................... 7 The GOP’s Platform on Healthcare .............................................................................................. 8 Abortion Rights ................................................................................................................. 10 Keep Abortion Legal....................................................................................................................... 11 No One is Pro-Abortion ................................................................................................................. 11 Education and Family Planning ................................................................................................. 12 Gay Rights ......................................................................................................................... 14 What do the Party Platforms Say about Gay Rights? ......................................................... 14 What is Mitt Romney’s Stance on Gay Rights? ..................................................................... 17 Education .......................................................................................................................... 19 The GOP Platform on Education ................................................................................................ 19 GOP Regarding funding: ............................................................................................................... 19 GOP Regarding Subject Focus: ................................................................................................... 20 The Democratic Party Platform on Education ..................................................................... 21 Democratic Party Regarding Subject Focus:......................................................................... 22 Education and Capitalism ............................................................................................................ 23 Is Education the Responsibility of the Government? ........................................................ 23 Economy............................................................................................................................ 24 The 2008-09 Financial Crisis ...................................................................................................... 24 A Condensed Financial Crisis Timeline .................................................................................. 25 Analysis of the Financial Crisis .................................................................................................. 26 GOP Platform on the Economy................................................................................................... 28 Democratic Platform on the Economy .................................................................................... 29 Tax Policy ........................................................................................................................................... 30 Stimulus Spending and Bailouts ................................................................................................ 31 Regulation .......................................................................................................................................... 31 Are Democrats or Republicans Better for the Economy? ................................................ 31 Other Issues ...................................................................................................................... 34 Issues Agreed Upon:....................................................................................................................... 34 Issues Disagreed Upon .................................................................................................................. 35 In Conclusion ..................................................................................................................... 36 Resources ............................................................................................................................. i

The 2012 Election: My Attempt at Being a Responsible Voter

Why Am I Writing This?
It’s almost midnight. It may be Saturday, but that is still way past my bedtime. Tonight, I’ve spent several long hours performing research and reading an abundance of information about the upcoming election. It’s definitely been informative, and despite it being an exhausting pursuit, I’ve been lying in bed sleepless for long enough that I finally just decided to get out of bed and get some of my thoughts down on paper. In the interest of full disclosure, I will say that before tonight’s info-fest I was an Obama supporter and I still am after everything I’ve read. I will also say that I never hated the Republican Party and especially not its candidates. The main purpose of all this research and reading was to make sure I wasn’t missing anything and to focus on the actual issues, not propaganda, to ensure that I make a sound decision on election day that isn’t based on just a single issue that the parties disagree on.

Finding Good Information
I want to be informed, yet it is so incredibly difficult to find good information. Seriously, have you tried? Or are you just assuming that the information you are getting is good, valid information based on real facts? Any news you get, whether it is on television, the radio, print, or Internet-based, is bound to sway one way or the other. I believe that is simply human nature coming out when reporters give us the stories. The problem is that now we have media outlets that seem to not even be attempting to give unbiased reports. These media organizations are often funded by people with a vested interest in one party or the other making it into office which means the reports are structured with a specific goal in mind, missing key facts, riddled with misinformation, and in some cases, just totally false. But if those dishonest, biased news reports further confirm what you already believe, why would you question them? I believe this simple fact is the reason these types of horribly biased news reports can even exist. They know that most people don’t have the time or motivation to fact-check, do their own research, or even think for themselves in some cases. So the misinformation keeps funneling down, opinionless people absorb whatever the media says they should believe, and everyone marches around like they are an expert on every topic because they saw some guy wearing a nice tie talk about it on the news this morning.

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The 2012 Election: My Attempt at Being a Responsible Voter

I don’t watch political news on television because I think it’s nearly impossible to find a source that isn’t biased and I don’t listen to news on the radio because I’m not 80 years old. I’m 28, I rely on the Internet for a lot of things, including my news. Of course, the Internet can be just as bad. Anyone with an Internet connection and an opinion can say whatever they want and claim it as fact. Some sites are clearly biased, while others look like legitimate news sources. Regardless, for everything said on the Internet, there are plenty of people who will read it and believe it, not bother to verify it, and then share it with their friends and family as fact.

My Plan
So, with all that in mind, how can anyone possibly find good, reliable information? It seemed to me that the best thing to do would involve several parts:

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Don’t get all my information from a single source. Try to find multiple articles claiming the same thing, while at the same time trying to find articles that debunk another source’s claim for fact-verification purposes. Make an effort to use legitimate news sources, not privately owned blogs or untrustworthy Internet-based newspapers. Try to find the source of the information and read/watch/listen to that rather than reading a reporter’s interpretation of it which can be skewed. Watch/read information from both conventions. Read both party platforms. Continue researching and analyzing until I feel satisfied with the information I have garnered.

The Issues
I was looking to find information on some key issues that are the most important to me this election. I specifically looked into each party’s platform for health care, abortion, gay rights, education, and plans for the economy, but I also read some about all the other issues as well (the environment, gun control, immigration, etc.). I aimed to find out what each the party and candidate said they are going to do, not what they say the other party hasn’t done. I also wanted to avoid the scare tactics that often are used to sway voters. I aimed to hear from the parties themselves what their plans were which is why I got a lot of my information from the official party platforms and from the candidate’s official webpages. Because I am not an economist, I did turn to expert analysis to help me understand some of the facts when it came to the differences in each party’s plans for the economy.

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The 2012 Election: My Attempt at Being a Responsible Voter

Health Care
Before tonight, I admittedly didn’t know a lot about “Obamacare”. I knew many people were very happy about it and I knew that republicans were not happy about it and vowed to repeal it if elected into office. I incorrectly thought that Obamacare included (at least in part) some sort of government-run health care system similar to Canada and a lot of other countries that would guarantee everyone had health care. I was very, very wrong and very, very glad that I did some reading. Before I say anything else, I want to make this very clear: The Affordable Care Act does not include any government-sponsored/public plan. We are not on our way to becoming Canada. The government is not taking over health care, they are reforming it by instituting new laws and rules to protect people and bring down costs.

Key Points of the Affordable Care Act:

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Businesses will still offer health insurance plans and will not be penalized under the new law. In fact, ACA will actually lower insurance premium costs to businesses. Businesses aren’t going to stop offering health care because it will still be a benefit that they use to draw in and retain the best employees. Since a (very similar) law in Massachusetts went into effect more than five years ago, more businesses have actually been offering health benefits to their employees. Businesses with 50 or more employees must offer insurance or pay a $2,000 fee per employee. The plan subsidizes people who can’t afford to buy insurance on their own. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the ACA will reduce the deficit by $210 billion in the next 10 years and by over $1 trillion (trillion, with a T) in the next decade. By 2014, a family of four will save approximately $2,300 on their health insurance premiums. Insurers can no longer put a lifetime cap on how much care they will pay for. Insurers can no longer cancel your coverage simply if you make a mistake on your paperwork. By 2014, it will be illegal for insurance companies to charge women more than men. Insurance companies must spend 80 cents out of every dollar of your premium on your actual health care or improvements to it. That means they can’t spend your money on advertising or CEO bonuses or other nonhealthcare expenditures.

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The 2012 Election: My Attempt at Being a Responsible Voter
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Parents can cover their kids until they are 26 years old. This alone gave health insurance to 3.1 million young adults. Insurers can no longer deny coverage to anyone under the age of 19 due to a pre-existing condition. By 2014, insurers will no longer be able to deny anyone coverage due to a pre-existing condition. Health plans are required to cover preventative care like mammograms, vaccines, cancer screenings etc. without requiring you to pay a copay or a deductible. The new law gives states the power to implement flexibility with the law based on their own insurance market. Regarding Medicare - the new law requires insurers to provide free screening to seniors too, as well as making it illegal to impose a lifetime dollar limit on benefits for seniors. The plan also aims to close the prescription drug donuthole. Effective immediately, when a senior fills a brand-name prescription, they get an automatic 50% discount without having to file any paperwork or do anything at all.

What about the “Obamacare Tax”?
No, I didn’t forget about the “Obamacare tax”, but I did actually go read about it and see what it was instead of assuming it was going to ruin America. In order for health care reform to be successful, everyone needs to be insured. The way the system is currently structured, when uninsured people can’t pay their bill, the cost is absorbed by everyone else who is insured. That is one of the main reasons health care costs are so astronomically high. Have you ever been to the hospital and actually looked at the bill afterwards? Do you really think two Tylenol pills cost a couple hundred bucks? The part of the bill that a lot of people are up in arms about is the penalty to those who choose to not carry health insurance. The big question was whether or not it was constitutional, which a divided Supreme Court ruled that it was. I thought this quote from Chief Justice John Roberts summed it up nicely: "If an individual does not maintain health insurance, the only consequence is that he must make an additional payment to the IRS when he pays his taxes," Roberts writes. He adds that this means "the mandate is not a legal command to buy insurance. Rather, it makes going without insurance just another thing the government taxes, like buying gasoline or earning an income."

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The 2012 Election: My Attempt at Being a Responsible Voter

Starting in 2014, under the new law, if you do not have health insurance you will have to pay 1 percent of your income tax to the IRS. There are exceptions for certain religious beliefs and in cases of monetary hardship. After all my Obamacare reading, I feel that the Affordable Care Act is a good plan, not a government takeover or an unconstitutional law that we should fear. To me, it seems as if it was put into place to keep insurance companies from continuing with a lot of questionable practices that 1) keep people from having insurance when they need it most and 2) raise the costs of health care to everyone. No one is going to be forced to carry health insurance, although a lot of people who need it and weren’t able to get it in the past will now be able to. I’d say that is a good thing.

What About Romneycare?
Since I was researching Obamacare, I also decided to look into Romneycare. Have you heard of it? Romneycare is the “very similar” health care plan that was implemented in Massachusetts five years ago that I referred to earlier. Mitt was very proud of his plan when he implemented it, as he should be. It was the first of its kind in the United States and from what I read he fought very hard for it to pass. Interestingly enough, Jonathan Gruber, an MIT professor who worked on both Romney’s and Obama’s health care plans, said the plans are “…the same fucking bill”. Yes, the dude actually said the “F” word during a phone interview. Gruber followed his angry comment by explaining that he was frustrated with the way that Mitt Romney has tried to grow distance between himself and the health care plan he fathered for Massachusetts. Why? Well, because republicans don’t like the plan and they are counting on votes from people who also don’t like the plan. If the voting public who do not like Obamacare knew that Romneycare was a thing first, maybe those votes wouldn’t be so secure.

What Are the Differences Between Obamacare and Romneycare?
Not very much:

Individual Mandate - Both plans penalize those who do not buy insurance, but Romney’s plan includes a harsher penalty than Obama’s. The source I found said “more than twice as much”, but I couldn’t verify that so I’m not sure on the exact amount. It could be a minor difference. Subsidies - Both plans subsidize people who can’t afford to buy their own insurance. Romney’s plan gives money to anyone earning up to 300% of the poverty level, Obama’s plan gives money to those earning up to 400% of the poverty level.
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The 2012 Election: My Attempt at Being a Responsible Voter

Employer Mandate - Both plans require employers to provide insurance. Romney’s plan requires companies with 11 or more employees to provide insurance or pay $295 per employee. Obama’s plan requires companies with 50 or more employees to provide insurance or pay $2,000 per employee. Young Adults - Both plans let kids stay on their parents’ plan until they are 26. Romney’s plan adds that children can stay on their parents’ plan for two years after they are no longer claimed as a dependent or until they turn 26 (whichever comes first). Limits to Benefits - Romney’s plan doesn’t forbid insurance companies from placing lifetime caps on benefits, but my understanding is that most Massachusetts plans do not place caps anyway. Obama’s plan does forbid insurers from placing limits on benefits. Pre-Existing Conditions - Both plans require insurers to cover pre-existing conditions and make it illegal to rescind coverage retroactively. In Massachusetts, insurers can limit coverage of certain pre-existing conditions to six months (not sure which conditions). Preventative Care - Obama’s plan provides free preventative care (no copays or deductibles), while Romney’s plan still allows insurers to charge copays for preventative care.

After all my reading, I’d have to agree with Jonathan Gruber that they are the same fucking bill. Sure, a few minor differences here and there, but it makes me question the Republican Party and Mitt Romney’s intentions. Romney implemented his plan in Massachusetts to help his constituents. He was proud of it. It was working. He talked openly about the plan in Washington and even wrote an editorial piece for USA Today about how his plan could be adopted federally. So what happened? If you read the GOP party platform (which I did) they state: “Congressional Republicans are committed to its repeal; and a Republican President, on the first day in office, will use his legitimate waiver authority under that law to halt its progress and then will sign its repeal.” So if Romney is elected, on his first day in office, he’s going to repeal Obamacare, which is the same thing as Romneycare? To me, that either means that Romney thinks Romneycare was bad for Massachusetts, meaning he shouldn’t have implemented it there, or it means that he’s going against something he truly believed in a few years ago simply because it’s the opposite of his opponent’s position and that’s just the way politics works these days.

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The 2012 Election: My Attempt at Being a Responsible Voter

If you ask Mitt Romney about it, he says that implementing health care reform at the state level is totally different from the federal government forcing all states to adopt it. I’m not really sure about that, but keep in mind that the Affordable Care Act gives states the power to implement flexibility with the law based on their local insurance market.

Why Does the GOP Party Want to Repeal Obamacare?
Let me get back to the GOP party platform. There is an entire section titled “Repealing Obamacare”, which I read and was a bit shocked to be honest. It seemed to employ scare tactics which I will address below: “Obamacare—was never really about healthcare, though its impact upon the nation’s health is disastrous. From its start, it was about power, the expansion of government control over one sixth of our economy, and resulted in an attack on our Constitution, by requiring that U.S. citizens purchase health insurance.” I must disagree. Obamacare is about reforming health care laws and making sure that insurance companies can’t let greed dictate their operating procedures. The ACA is also about ensuring that people who really need health care are able to get it. I do understand that republicans are about small government, meaning they don’t think the government should step into matters like this. Previously though, if a person got a serious illness or required surgery or any number of other healthrelated issues they could easily go bankrupt from it and never be able to recover. Is that okay? Also, I don’t like the use of the word “required” here. The Supreme Court ruled that’s not exactly what is happening and that’s why the law was able to pass. Another excerpt from the GOP platform: “It was the high-water mark of an outdated liberalism, the latest attempt to impose upon Americans a euro-style bureaucracy to manage all aspects of their lives.” I can’t agree with this statement either considering that private health insurance companies weren’t replaced with a government-sponsored plan. The spirit of capitalism is still alive, just regulated to keep the insurance companies from denying health care or even revoking it retroactively. “Through Obamacare, the current Administration has promoted the notion of abortion as healthcare. We, however, affirm the dignity of women by protecting the sanctity of human life. Numerous studies have shown that abortion endangers the health and wellbeing of women, and we stand firmly against it.”
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The 2012 Election: My Attempt at Being a Responsible Voter

I was really struck by this. First of all, they make it sound as if “lots of abortions” is part of the Affordable Care Act. It’s not. I also think that a woman’s dignity would be better respected by allowing her to make her own, very personal choice when it comes to an abortion. No further information on the “numerous studies” that show abortions are super dangerous, but it doesn’t take a genius to know that if abortions are made illegal, many women will get them anyway and it will be very hazardous to their health.

The GOP’s Platform on Healthcare
After explaining why they want to repeal Obamacare, the GOP states what they will do to improve healthcare. This is how they begin: “We believe that taking care of one’s health is an individual responsibility. Chronic diseases, many of them related to lifestyle, drive healthcare costs, accounting for more than 75 percent of the nation’s medical spending. To reduce demand, and thereby lower costs, we must foster personal responsibility while increasing preventive services to promote healthy lifestyles.” This is what I was referring to before. Republicans believe health is the responsibility of each individual, not to be managed by the government. Except for abortions. And birth control. Which, if you have more of it, you’ll have less need for abortions. Yes, people do need to make their health a priority by attempting to live a healthy lifestyle. However, if an uninsured person does not make their health a priority and becomes ill (perhaps chronically), we know that their health costs must be absorbed by those who are insured. Also, not all illnesses and chronic diseases are related to lifestyle, so where do those people fall? What about genetics? What about bad luck? Honestly, I find a lot of the GOP’s health care ideas reasonable, but these ideas also seem to align with Obamacare, which is already in place. The following description of the GOP health care plan is from FoxNews.com: “It calls for a Republican plan based on improving health care quality and lowering costs and a system that promotes the free market and gives consumers more choice.” So why not just stick with Obamacare? Again, it seems as if the GOP wants to repeal the ACA simply because they are aware that a lot of voters don’t like it. I guess the key from Fox’s quote above is that they are calling for a “Republican” plan, instead of a “Democratic” plan. I would really like to know how Mitt Romney truly feels about
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The 2012 Election: My Attempt at Being a Responsible Voter

the situation, not just what his party wants him to say. Let’s also keep in mind that the Democratic Party platform states that the party is open to ideas when it comes to the ACA: “No law is perfect and Democrats stand willing to work with anyone to improve the law where necessary, but we are committed to moving forward.” This is a key point to me. Let’s fix the bill where it’s needed, but let’s not completely get rid of it and start from scratch. A lot of the changes in effect now have benefitted many American citizens and repealing the ACA will put them back into a bad situation. And why, just for the sake of politics?

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The 2012 Election: My Attempt at Being a Responsible Voter

Abortion Rights
Abortion is a big deal this election because the two parties are so far off from one another. Take a look at the Democratic Party platform: “The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to make decisions regarding her pregnancy, including a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay. We oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right. Abortion is an intensely personal decision between a woman, her family, her doctor, and her clergy; there is no place for politicians or government to get in the way. We also recognize that health care and education help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and thereby also reduce the need for abortions. We strongly and unequivocally support a woman’s decision to have a child by providing affordable health care and ensuring the availability of and access to programs that help women during pregnancy and after the birth of a child, including caring adoption programs.” The section on abortion in the democratic platform was that one paragraph. A search for “abortion” in the GOP Platform brings up a ton of results. It’s actually weird how much more they talk about it. So there isn’t a pretty paragraph to paste directly from the platform, but this is a fairly succinct summary from FoxNews.com: “The Republican Party platform bans abortion in all cases, even rape, incest and when the life of the mother is endangered. Republicans say "the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed." It opposes using public revenues to promote or perform abortion or to fund organizations that perform or advocate abortions.” The “no exceptions” thing really terrifies me. Recently, a young, pregnant girl died in the Dominican because her doctors did not want to give her chemotherapy for fear of prosecution (they have a no-exceptions on abortions law as well). So what good does that do? Now this girl is dead and the fetus certainly isn’t alive either (she was 13 weeks pregnant when she died). Do the doctors feel like they made the correct decision? I doubt it. And rape. Really? From all that I have read about this recently I have a feeling that the majority of politicians who are for a no-exceptions law don’t realize how brutal and awful a rape is. I cannot imagine being brutally raped by a man, or worse, several men, finding out I’m pregnant, and then being expected to carry that child and give birth. Then what? Slap a “rape baby” sticker on it and give it up for
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The 2012 Election: My Attempt at Being a Responsible Voter

adoption? Raise it and hope motherly instincts override emotional pain for the rest of your life, while asking my rapist(s) for child support? Did you know that in the majority of states the rapist actually has parental rights? I just don’t think I could do it. I know many women can and do, but I don’t think that’s a choice someone else should be making for you either way. Interestingly enough, Mitt Romney said on a televised interview that he is pro-life, but that he believes exceptions should be made for rape, incest, and the health of the mother. So his personal views don’t align with the party’s platform. What does that mean? Will he attempt to enact the party’s views or his own? I really don’t know how that will play out.

Keep Abortion Legal
I don’t think it’s a good idea to make abortion illegal. There should be strong regulations on it, like short timeframes etc., but making it illegal will just result in women getting illegal, unsafe abortions. Also, Roe vs. Wade was decided in 1973, almost 40 years ago. I think we should accept that decision and move on rather than going backwards. Another point to consider and think about is the fact that historically, richer women were able to have an abortion either by offering a large sum of money to a local doctor, or even traveling out of the country to have the procedure performed. Keeping abortion legal in the United States allows women without the means to travel or buy off a physician to still have the same opportunities as those women who are more financially stable. Of course, keeping abortions legal in the United States also means the procedure can be regulated by the government to ensure the safety of the mother, while also attempting to prevent questionable, perhaps unethical procedures from taking place.

No One is Pro-Abortion
I admittedly don’t like Fox News at all, but I decided to look at their website for some of my information. I was so shocked with this headline “Has the Democratic Party become the party of abortion?” that I had to read the article. It is classified as an opinion piece (thank God) but it still seemed ridiculous that someone even wrote it. It was shared and tweeted enough to prove that some percentage of the public believes it too. No one is pro-abortion, which is exactly what this article is trying to say. The Democratic Party simply believes that it’s not the government’s business to decide
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The 2012 Election: My Attempt at Being a Responsible Voter

such a private decision for a woman. It seems that the republicans are focusing on their feeling that abortion is morally wrong, however, morals are by definition one’s own and should not be decided by the government. That in itself seems like a “small government” view that republicans would adopt.

Education and Family Planning
So that opinion article had many ridiculous claims, including this: “Not long ago, the Democrats’ platform welcomed dissenting views on abortion. “We respect the individual conscience of each American on this difficult issue, and we welcome all our members to participate at every level of the party,” the 1996 platform stated. “[Our goal] is to make abortion less necessary and more rare, not more difficult and more dangerous.” Obama expunged “rare” from the party platform in 2008, and it was omitted again this year. It makes a certain kind of sense. After all, if abortion is a “fundamental right,” why should it be rare?” Maybe the author of that article didn’t read this year’s Democratic Party platform, which I already shared above. The author probably also counted on the fact that most of his readers would not look at the Democratic Party platform on this issue. The Democratic Party’s stance is short, but includes this: “We also recognize that health care and education help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and thereby also reduce the need for abortions.” Democrats want to continue to reduce unplanned pregnancies by educating people, while keeping abortion safe and legal and allowing a woman to make her own choice. Now, let’s look at an excerpt from the GOP platform’s education section: “We renew our call for replacing “family planning” programs for teens with abstinence education which teaches abstinence until marriage as the responsible and respected standard of behavior. Abstinence from sexual activity is the only protection that is 100 percent effective against out-of-wedlock pregnancies and sexually-transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS when transmitted sexually. It is effective, science-based, and empowers teens to achieve optimal health outcomes and avoid risks of sexual activity. We oppose school-based clinics that provide referrals, counseling, and related services for abortion and contraception” I was shocked that the abstinence-only education idea was still even a talking point. Teens should definitely be taught that abstinence is the only 100% effective measure against pregnancy and STDs, but they should also know their options if
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The 2012 Election: My Attempt at Being a Responsible Voter

they do choose to have sex like so many teens and young adults do. This platform point just seems so dated to me. A huge percentage of people have sex before marriage (studies I found were all over 90%) while the age people are getting married continues to go up. I find it shocking to believe that the GOP really believes teaching abstinence until marriage is the smart way to go and will truly result in less teen pregnancy, especially if they want to make abortion illegal and are against free birth control. I would like to know if any of the writers of the party’s 2012 platform had premarital sex. I’m going to go ahead and guess “Yes”.

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Gay Rights
A huge social issue for me and many others this election is gay rights. Simply put, I believe lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people should have all the same rights as anybody else. Freedoms should not be limited based solely on who a person loves. That is discrimination and it is wrong. Regardless of all those who are against gay rights, I rest easy at night because I know it is only a matter of time before LGBT people have the same rights as any other citizen. It’s really only a matter of time now, just like women's suffrage or civil rights. That being said, it is still frustrating and terrifying to me that anyone would want to go backwards on this issue. The Democratic Party has been in support of gay rights for some time now while the Republican Party has been openly in opposition. I truly believe the fundamental difference here is that the Republican Party is backed more by religious people than the Democratic Party is, or at least the Democratic Party seems more successful in keeping religion out of its policies. If your religion tells you that gay people are morally wrong, great! More power to you. The democrats aren’t going to force churches to allow gay marriage. I believe homosexuals care more about being granted their legal rights as a US citizen rather than being accepted by a church anyway. It also seems that heterosexual married people forget about all of the benefits that come with being legally married. We’re talking everything from health care and tax breaks to adoption rights and retirement benefits. It is a big deal and it seems like such a simple concept to me. Two people want to get married. They get married. They get the rights and benefits that come with that. End of story. Instead, we have this “traditional marriage” argument and justifications that cite religion and morals, which frankly, I do not believe is even close to being a valid argument. Again, it is not the government’s job to enforce morals or religion.

What do the Party Platforms Say about Gay Rights?
Democratic Party Platform: “Recognizing that gay rights are human rights, the President and his administration have vowed to actively combat efforts by other nations that criminalize homosexual conduct or ignore abuse. Under the Obama administration, American diplomats must raise the issue wherever harassment or abuse arises, and they are required to record it in the State Department’s annual report on human rights. And the State

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Department is funding a program that finances gay rights organizations to combat discrimination, violence, and other abuses.” “We support the right of all families to have equal respect, responsibilities, and protections under the law. We support marriage equality and support the movement to secure equal treatment under law for same-sex couples. We also support the freedom of churches and religious entities to decide how to administer marriage as a religious sacrament without government interference. “We oppose discriminatory federal and state constitutional amendments and other attempts to deny equal protection of the laws to committed same-sex couples who seek the same respect and responsibilities as other married couples. We support the full repeal of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act and the passage of the Respect for Marriage Act.” “At the core of the Democratic Party is the principle that no one should face discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, language, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability status.” “The Administration has said that the word ‘family’ in immigration includes LGBT relationships in order to protect bi-national families threatened with deportation.” The GOP Platform: “The institution of marriage is the foundation of civil society. Its success as an institution will determine our success as a nation. It has been proven by both experience and endless social science studies that traditional marriage is best for children. Children raised in intact married families are more likely to attend college, are physically and emotionally healthier, are less likely to use drugs or alcohol, engage in crime, or get pregnant outside of marriage. The success of marriage directly impacts the economic well-being of individuals. Furthermore, the future of marriage affects freedom. The lack of family formation not only leads to more government costs, but also to more government control over the lives of its citizens in all aspects. We recognize and honor the courageous efforts of those who bear the many burdens of parenting alone, even as we believe that marriage, the union of one man and one woman must be upheld as the national standard, a goal to stand for, encourage, and promote through laws governing marriage. We embrace the principle that all Americans should be treated with respect and dignity.”

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The 2012 Election: My Attempt at Being a Responsible Voter

“We will enforce and defend in court the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in the Armed Forces as well as in the civilian world.” “A serious threat to our country’s constitutional order, perhaps even more dangerous than presidential malfeasance, is an activist judiciary, in which some judges usurp the powers reserved to other branches of government. A blatant example has been the court-ordered redefinition of marriage in several States. This is more than a matter of warring legal concepts and ideals. It is an assault on the foundations of our society, challenging the institution which, for thousands of years in virtually every civilization, has been entrusted with the rearing of children and the transmission of cultural values.” “We reaffirm our support for a Constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.” There are clearly a few key differences here. First off, the democratic platform is pretty simply summed up by “gay rights are human rights”. Basically, gays are humans so there isn’t really any need for the government to regulate gays, but rather to pass laws to ensure that their rights and freedoms are properly granted to them. Simple. The GOP platform honestly terrified me. They talked about the institution of marriage and what your family should look like and what things will happen to the country if that institution is violated. Some of the GOP’s claims seem very odd to me: “The institution of marriage is the foundation of civil society. Its success as an institution will determine our success as a nation.” How does someone’s marriage, which is in their home, determine the success of the nation? And if that is true, how do divorces and Las Vegas drive-through weddings work into that equation? “Furthermore, the future of marriage affects freedom.” By denying gays the right to marry, you are denying them freedom. How will ensuring one group of people that they have their freedoms affect anyone else’s? It’s not as if there is a cap on marriages that can take place and gays marrying will inhibit the ability of straight people to get married. This sounds like a scare tactic to me, basically warning people that allowing gays to marry will somehow affect the freedom of the rest of America. How can a rational person believe that is true?

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The 2012 Election: My Attempt at Being a Responsible Voter

“It has been proven by both experience and endless social science studies that traditional marriage is best for children.” Then why not make divorce illegal? Also, simply having a man and a woman married and raising a family is in no way a guarantee that they are good parents. I also find this excerpt to be offensive to single parents who put the priorities of their children first and raise successful, happy, healthy families. “We embrace the principle that all Americans should be treated with respect and dignity.” Then why not give all Americans the same rights regardless of their sexual orientation? “The lack of family formation not only leads to more government costs, but also to more government control over the lives of its citizens in all aspects.” What? I don’t even know where to start with this one. I am not even sure what they are trying to say really, but I don’t think it has anything to do with gay marriage. Again, how do divorces, Las Vegas weddings, and childless, heterosexual couples work into this equation? This excerpt sounds like more scare tactics and fear mongering to me. “We reaffirm our support for a Constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.” Wow. My first thought with this was it seems crazy to me to amend the Constitution to take fundamental rights away from a group of people. You are going backwards, GOP. It’s 2012. Hop on the gay rights bandwagon, there’s plenty of room and the water is fabulous.

What is Mitt Romney’s Stance on Gay Rights?
Mitt Romney’s stance on gay rights aligns with the GOP’s. There is a video circulating of a gay veteran asking Romney where he stands on marriage equality. Romney is very clear that he believes marriage is between a man and a woman. He then says, “I think at the time the Constitution was written it was pretty clear that marriage was between a man and a woman.” He is right. The Constitution actually doesn’t talk about marriage at all and I suppose George Washington wasn’t invited to a lot of gay weddings. Something that was definitely happening at the time the Constitution was written though: slavery. So what does that tell us? Times have

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The 2012 Election: My Attempt at Being a Responsible Voter

changed and just because The Constitution didn’t specifically mention something doesn’t mean you can interpret it however you want. I’m sure Mitt’s views on gay marriage are due mostly to his religious upbringing, which is fine. But why can’t politicians seem to be able to separate their personal, religious views from the policies they would enact? This is a very, very important thing to be able to do as a politician. By definition, you should never compromise on your morals or religion. Politics, however, is all about compromise. Without it, nothing gets done and the government ends up forces one group’s views on the entire public.

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The 2012 Election: My Attempt at Being a Responsible Voter

Education
I find it odd that some people don’t classify education as one of their most cared about issues. It is so important. I suppose I just value education because my parents instilled it in me. I also grew up in one of the best public school systems in the nation in northern Virginia, but now live in Las Vegas in one of the worst school districts in the country. I can really see the difference and I strongly believe that investing in younger generations’ education is one of the best things our country can do for every other aspect of our lives. So that’s where I stand. This is where each party stands:

The GOP Platform on Education
The very first sentence of the GOP platform’s section on education is simply: “Parents are responsible for the education of their children.” I agree with that in a lot of ways. It’s a parent’s responsibility to instill the value of education in their child and to encourage them in academic pursuits. However, if the goal is for the next generation to be better off than their parents, they must receive an education that was better than their parents did. By definition, a parent can’t educate their child with more knowledge than they themselves have. But again, republicans aren’t against public education; this is just the “hands-off” government approach that is at the core of republicanism. That was also only the first sentence of their education platform.

GOP Regarding funding:
“Since 1965 the federal government has spent $2 trillion on elementary and secondary education with no substantial improvement in academic achievement or high school graduation rates (which currently are 59 percent for African-American students and 63 percent for Hispanics). The U.S. spends an average of more than $10,000 per pupil per year in public schools, for a total of more than $550 billion. That represents more than 4 percent of GDP devoted to K-12 education in 2010. Of that amount, federal spending was more than $47 billion. Clearly, if money were the solution, our schools would be problem-free. More money alone does not necessarily equal better performance.” Funding is obviously a tricky issue, but I can’t help worrying anytime someone mentions cutting funding for public schools. Maybe giving more money won’t make schools automatically succeed, but cutting funding is definitely not the answer in my opinion. Mitt Romney’s personal opinion is that if schools should only continue
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The 2012 Election: My Attempt at Being a Responsible Voter

to receive government funding if their test scores reach a certain threshold. That idea might seem good in theory, but don’t the schools with the lowest test scores need the most funding to help improve those scores? Won’t a lack of funding only cause those test scores to plummet even further? I have talked to teachers in Las Vegas about this and one mentioned that because of the way funding works, they must focus not on teaching and learning, but on training their students to do well on an upcoming test. As I’m sure everyone knows from personal experience, how well you do on a test isn’t necessarily indicative of how much you actually know about the subject.

GOP Regarding Subject Focus:
“...higher academic standards; programs that support the development of character and financial literacy; periodic rigorous assessments on the fundamentals, especially math, science, reading, history, and geography; renewed focus on the Constitution and the writings of the Founding Fathers, and an accurate account of American history that celebrates the birth of this great nation.” I think before we can raise academic standards, we must make sure all students are able to reach the current level with ease. The phrase “development of character” seems out of place. To me, that is most definitely the job of parents and not the government. I do agree with focusing on math and science, but I don’t think we need more focus on the Constitution and American history. Not to say it isn’t important, but it is knowledge that you can’t really apply to better your life once you are out of school. We still need to learn it, but increasing the focus seems unneeded, especially if both parties’ main goal right now is to improve the economy and the job market. A few things I totally agree with: “A young person’s ability to achieve in school must be based on his or her God-given talent and motivation, not an address, zip code, or economic status.” “We support legislation that will correct the current law provision which defines a “Highly Qualified Teacher” merely by his or her credentials, not results in the classroom.” “It is time to get back to basics and to higher education programs directly related to job opportunities.”

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The 2012 Election: My Attempt at Being a Responsible Voter

Regarding higher education, the GOP recognizes there are problems that need to be addressed. They don’t seem to offer a solution (maybe they don’t have one in mind yet) but they do say this: “The federal government should not be in the business of originating student loans; however, it should serve as an insurance guarantor for the private sector as they offer loans to students. Private sector participation in student financing should be welcomed. Any regulation that drives tuition costs higher must be reevaluated to balance its worth against its negative impact on students and their parents.” So when it comes to college, the GOP says no federal student loans but make sure that regulations don’t increase loan costs.

The Democratic Party Platform on Education
The Democratic Party platform, in contrast to the GOP’s, begins by stating that it is the government’s responsibility to ensure education. Again, this is one of the fundamental differences between republicans and democrats and how much each feels the government should be involved. Here is how the platform begins: “Democrats believe that getting an education is the surest path to the middle class, giving all students the opportunity to fulfill their dreams and contribute to our economy and democracy. Public education is one of our critical democratic institutions. We are committed to ensuring that every child in America has access to a world-class public education so we can out-educate the world and make sure America has the world's highest proportion of college graduates by 2020. This requires excellence at every level of our education system, from early learning through post-secondary education. It means we must close the achievement gap in America's schools and ensure that in every neighborhood in the country, children can benefit from highquality educational opportunities.” As the platform plan continues, they touch more on funding for public schools: “The Democratic Party understands the importance of turning around struggling public schools. We will continue to strengthen all our schools and work to expand public school options for low-income youth, including magnet schools, charter schools, teacher-led schools, and career academies.”

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The 2012 Election: My Attempt at Being a Responsible Voter

And also about how they have already taken steps to reform the student loan process: “To help keep college within reach for every student, Democrats took on banks to reform our student loan program, saving more than $60 billion by removing the banks acting as middlemen so we can better and more directly invest in students. To make college affordable for students of all backgrounds and confront the loan burden our students shoulder, we doubled our investment in Pell Grant scholarships and created the American Opportunity Tax Credit worth up to $10,000 over four years of college, and we're creating avenues for students to manage their federal student loans so that their payments can be only 10 percent of what they make each month. President Obama has pledged to encourage colleges to keep their costs down by reducing federal aid for those that do not, investing in colleges that keep tuition affordable and provide good value, doubling the number of work-study jobs available to students, and continuing to ensure that students have access to federal loans with reasonable interest rates.” Remember, the GOP platform said the federal government should stay out of student loans. I don’t know, I think it’s helpful and important. There are a lot of people who don’t go to college at all because they know they won’t be able to pay back their loans. Some people do go to college and then are hammered by student loan bills before they can even get their post-school life sorted out. I truly believe these ideas will help and that the government investing in education is a very good thing. The real difference between the two plans is how much direct involvement the government has.

Democratic Party Regarding Subject Focus:
“That is why the President has invested in community colleges and called for additional partnerships between businesses and community colleges to train two million workers with the skills they need for good jobs waiting to be filled, and to support business-labor apprenticeship programs that provide skills and opportunity to thousands of Americans. The President also proposed to double key investments in science to educate the next generation of scientists and engineers, encourage private sector innovation, and prepare at least 100,000 math and science teachers over the next decade. “ The democrats want to focus on learning real job skills, with a major focus on math and science. The GOP also stressed the importance of math and science and somewhat on real-world job skills. The democratic platform does not mention increasing focus on American history, the Constitution, or geography as the GOP
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The 2012 Election: My Attempt at Being a Responsible Voter

platform does. Again, I believe it is much more worthwhile for students to learn real job skills that will prepare them to be competitive employees and successful adults than to study the Constitution and American history.

Education and Capitalism
Mitt Romney and the GOP also support more private schools, citing that parents should have more ability to choose their child’s educational path. I agree with this, however, the issue is that not every family can afford to send their child to private school. I believe that private schools are a wonderful thing, if you can afford them, but we really need public schools that provide an equally valuable education. Without it, lower classes will not be able to afford an education while those families that are better off will continue to excel. Is that fair? Is it the government’s job to ensure this doesn’t happen? It’s a matter of opinion and a fundamental difference between each party’s plans for the education system.

Is Education the Responsibility of the Government?
Many people feel that their hard-earned tax dollars should not go to fund another family’s education. I understand that on a very basic level, but on a compassionate human level, I can’t. I recognize that not every family is as fortunate as my own and I also believe that just because you were born into a low income family in a school system with a lot of room for improvement shouldn’t mean your future has been decided before you even reach kindergarten. I thought this excerpt from the Democratic Party plan was interesting as well: “We also recognize there is no substitute for a parent's involvement in their child's education.” This is what I mentioned before in response to the GOP platform’s opening idea that education is the parents’ responsibility. Parents definitely need to be involved in their child’s education, but I’m not sure they can be 100% responsible for it especially if we want each generation to be more educated than the last. Another point that I’m not clear on is how a parent can be responsible for their child’s education when the parent must work and take care of a household. There are very few households today in which only one parent needs to work and the other can stay home and take on their children’s education needs fully. Perhaps I am interpreting the GOP platform incorrectly on this issue.

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The 2012 Election: My Attempt at Being a Responsible Voter

Economy
This section is really long. I did more research on this than any of the other topics that I have covered so far. I suggest an intermission. The economy is another big deal issue right now for obvious reasons. I was inclined to think that each side has its pros and cons and neither is better than the other. After actually doing some reading though, I can see there are some real, important differences between each party’s economic ideas this election. It is more difficult to decipher the parties’ platforms on this one, mainly because they both have the same goal in mind: create more jobs and turn the economy around. I am also not an expert economist. To start, here are some key differences that illustrate where each candidate stands: Should we expand or dismantle our Social Security program? -Barack Obama: Expand and increase the payroll tax on individuals making more than $250K to make up for the budget shortfall. -Mitt Romney: Reform and raise the retirement age to account for people living longer. Do you agree with President Obama's 2009 Stimulus Plan? -Barack Obama: Yes (duh) -Mitt Romney: No Do you believe the 2001 and 2003 George W Bush tax cuts should be extended? -Barack Obama: Extend only for those making less than $250,000 -Mitt Romney: Yes Should Congress raise the debt ceiling? -Barack Obama: Offset the debt by raising taxes on the rich and reduced spending -Mitt Romney: No Should the U.S. have bailed out the major banks during the financial crisis of 2008? -Barack Obama: Yes, but with more restrictions -Mitt Romney: No

The 2008-09 Financial Crisis
The financial crisis in the housing and credit markets is an extremely convoluted event that was not caused by any single issue, or by the decisions of a single politician. Anyone can find a wealth of information about the subject, but it is difficult to decipher exactly what happened without being an expert economist.
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The 2012 Election: My Attempt at Being a Responsible Voter

However, in order to think critically about each party’s plans for the economy, I believe it is important to try to garner a basic understanding of why the crisis occurred and how a similar situation can be prevented. So, I did a lot of reading.

A Condensed Financial Crisis Timeline
In the era of the Great Depression, the Glass-Steagall Act was passed to establish the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and to limit commercial bank securities activities. The full title of the act reads: “An Act to provide for the safer and more effective use of the assets of banks, to regulate interbank control, to prevent the undue diversion of funds into speculative operations, and for other purposes.” In very basic terms, the act placed regulations on banks in an attempt to prevent them from making such risky bets with their depositors’ investments. After the tech bubble burst in the 1990’s, federal interest rates were lowered to increase the amount of available capital. This was the beginning of the housing boom. Banks started issuing subprime mortgage loans. These are risky loans that give the buyer a very low interest rate that then rises dramatically after an initial period. Because of this, many low-income families or those with poor credit scores were finally able to buy homes. The concept of securitization is also created, which allows people to roll all of their debt (home, credit card, auto loan, etc.) into a single obligation. In 1999, the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act passed which repealed the Glass-Steagall act. This removed regulations from the financial services industry and allowed these institutions to grow larger than ever before. In 2000, the Commodity Futures Act of 2000 declares that credit default swaps are unregulated by the government and not subject to federal oversight. The mortgage denial rate continues to go down and subprime mortgages continue to rise. Mortgage lenders began to adopt automated loan approvals, granting loans without proper underwriting procedures. By 2007, 40% of subprime loans were a result of automated underwriting. Meanwhile, the concept of credit default swaps is created which results in companies selling insurance-like products to buyers that covered losses on mortgage-backed securities which are basically individual mortgages that are bundled by the thousands and resold to investors. Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and large investment banks invested heavily in mortgage-backed securities.
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The 2012 Election: My Attempt at Being a Responsible Voter

In October 2004, homeownership reaches its peak. Also in October, the SEC suspends the net capital rule for several large financial firms which freed them from any government-imposed limits on the amount of debt they could assume. As a result, financial firms began buying large amounts of mortgage-backed securities and other equally risky investments. Many also borrowed money (leveraging) to purchase mortgage-backed securities which increased their financial risk even further. The housing bubble burst in 2006, causing home prices to fall. Homeowners are unable to make their payments, which results in many foreclosures. Banks and lenders who invested heavily in mortgage-backed securities lose billions due to the inability to recover loaned amounts. There is widespread panic and investors begin pull back their money. At this point, the economy is on the brink of collapse. The government steps in and lends $85 billion to AIG to avoid bankruptcy. George W. Bush signs the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act and creates the $700 billion TARP program to purchase failing bank assets. This plan is soon abandoned and instead the Treasury gives money directly to some of the largest banks in attempt to provide them capital to lend and save the economy. Despite the fact that an economic collapse would mean the end of these banks, the banks did not want to take the money from the Treasury if restrictions were placed on how they used it. My understanding is that the Treasury gave the money to the banks without restrictions due to the severity of the situation and the imperative timeframe. This gigantic mess came to a head just a few weeks before Obama was elected.

Analysis of the Financial Crisis
The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission believes that this crisis was avoidable and was caused by a lack of financial regulations. If you actually made it through the gigantic block of text above, regulations were placed after the Great Depression and then were removed over time, which I believe encouraged and exacerbated the problem. A quote from a January 2011 report from the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission follows:

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The 2012 Election: My Attempt at Being a Responsible Voter

"The crisis was avoidable and was caused by: Widespread failures in financial regulation, including the Federal Reserve’s failure to stem the tide of toxic mortgages; Dramatic breakdowns in corporate governance including too many financial firms acting recklessly and taking on too much risk; An explosive mix of excessive borrowing and risk by households and Wall Street that put the financial system on a collision course with crisis; Key policy makers ill prepared for the crisis, lacking a full understanding of the financial system they oversaw; and systemic breaches in accountability and ethics at all levels.“ Did you catch that first part? “The crisis was avoidable and was caused by: Widespread failures in financial regulation…” Wall Street is greedy. In order to avoid the same financial crisis in the future, they must be regulated. Lenders’ bottom line is to make money, regardless of the people who are hurt or the risk inherent to the entire U.S. and world economy. That is why as restrictions were lifted, riskier investments were made. We tried lifting restrictions and regulations and investors took things too far. Let’s not go down that path again. Another fact that seems to get lost is that Obama was not even in office when the bank bailout took place, yet a lot of the blame for the situation is placed on him. In fact, once Obama was elected, the Treasury Department abandoned its original strategy which focused only on the banks and financial institutions and instead focused on using the remaining TARP funds to help consumers directly (the Stimulus Plan). If you have been paying attention to the GOP side of the campaign, it’s clear that the general feeling is that the Obama administration handled the economic crisis incorrectly and that he has been given ample time to turn things around without results and has actually made things worse. Again, let’s reiterate that the crisis and bank bailout took place during the Bush administration. Obama merely inherited it. From a Forbes analysis: “As strange as it may sound, diehard Republicans believe that President Barack Obama’s tenure has been disastrous to U.S. business. Stock market returns so far during his tenure tell another story. A recent Reuters article detailed that the S&P 500 is up some 74% since Obama took office in late January 2009. Of course, luck has much to do with the fact that he came into office just as the stock market was bottoming from the credit crisis, but it is somewhat surprising to learn that this is the strongest first-term performance since Dwight Eisenhower served his first term back in the 1950s.”

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The 2012 Election: My Attempt at Being a Responsible Voter

I find it difficult to believe that anyone truly thinks that the economy is worse off today than it was when Obama took office. Numbers prove he did not make things worse. I do understand people’s frustrations in feeling that he did not do enough, but I think republicans echoing this belief is odd considering their “hands-off” preference when it comes to the economy.

GOP Platform on the Economy
The GOP believes in less government involvement in the financial system especially when it comes to regulations that limit a company’s ability to make investments. They also believe it is up to the borrower to make smart choices such as not buying a home they cannot afford. The problem here is that, as we saw just a few short years ago with the housing collapse, lenders and investors can’t be trusted to not let greed cloud their decisions and borrowers can’t resist the chance to own a home. From the GOP platform: “We must establish a mortgage finance system based on competition and free enterprise that is transparent, encourages the private sector to return to housing, and promotes personal responsibility on the part of borrowers.” Wonderful in theory, however, I don’t think borrowers are responsible. It’s like putting a piece of cake in front of a fat kid. If a lender says “Hey, check out these super-low rates! You can finally be a homeowner!” the borrower is probably going to trust the lender that this is a smart move and will go ahead and borrow the money. If that decision turns out to be a bad one, it won’t only affect that buyer and lender. As we saw with the market crash, if your neighbors made bad choices, all of the sudden your home, which was bought by you responsibly, lost a lot of value. Mitt Romney stated that he does not believe the U.S. should have bailed out the banks in 2008. As we know, Mitt worked for Bain Capital for many years. I would venture to say he is very knowledgeable about finances and the economy. According to financial experts, without government involvement, we were days away from an economic collapse far worse than the Great Depression. I would like to know if Mitt had an alternative solution, or if he would have rather let things play out because the idea of a bailout goes against republican ideals. Remember, the bailout was signed off on by George W. Bush (a republican), not Obama.

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The 2012 Election: My Attempt at Being a Responsible Voter

More from the GOP platform: “We reject the use of taxation to redistribute income, fund unnecessary or ineffective programs, or foster the crony capitalism that corrupts both politicians and corporations.” “We oppose tax policies that divide Americans or promote class warfare.” “To level the international playing field, and to spur job creation here at home, we call for a reduction of the corporate rate to keep U.S. corporations competitive internationally.”

Democratic Platform on the Economy
The Democratic Party platform focuses a lot on more on ending the loopholes for corporations and the richest Americans. Another major point is attempting to end the corruption of Wall Street. Here are some excerpts: “We are committed to defeating efforts that would return us to the failed economic policies of the past, in which tax relief for the wealthy explodes the deficit and asks the middle class to shoulder that burden.” “The Democratic Party opposes efforts to give additional tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans at the expense of the middle class and investments in our future.” “We Democrats support lowering the corporate tax rate while closing unnecessary loopholes, and lowering rates even further for manufacturers who create good jobs at home.” “We will raise the minimum wage, and index it to inflation.” “We've created a single consumer watchdog agency whose sole job is looking out for working families by protecting them from deceptive and unfair lending practices of mortgage brokers, payday lenders, debt collectors, and other financial institutions. Democrats are not only fighting to protect consumers from practices that can hurt their pocketbooks and add to their debt, but also working to put an end to practices that helped cause the mortgage crisis.”

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The 2012 Election: My Attempt at Being a Responsible Voter

Tax Policy
Mitt Romney has proposed multiple tax cuts. Here is a summary:  Individual taxes o Maintain current marginal tax rates; make the Bush tax cuts permanent o Eliminate estate (inheritance) tax o Eliminate taxes on interest, dividends, and capital gains for individuals with incomes below $200,000 o Repeal the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) Corporate taxes o Cut the corporate tax rate to 25% o Make the R&D tax credit permanent o Repeal the corporate Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) o Move to a territorial tax system where US companies will not have to pay U.S. taxes on income earned overseas even when repatriated.

Romney has not said exactly how he will pay for these tax cuts, but said he will eliminate certain tax deductions, such as mortgage interest deduction for second homes, state income tax deduction and state property tax deduction. He also said he would look to the Department of Education and the Department of Housing and Urban Development for budget cuts. Another interesting takeaway here is that in the GOP platform they state “We oppose tax policies that divide Americans or promote class warfare.” However, actually looking at the Romney plan for taxes it appears that it will most definitely divide Americans based on class. Obama’s proposed changes to the tax system:  Individual taxes o Let Bush-era tax cuts expire for households where income is more than $250,000 o A "Buffett rule" where individuals with incomes more than $1 million are required to pay a certain minimum tax rate (30%) regardless of the source of their income Corporate taxes o Tax credits for manufacturing firms o Eliminate tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas

Two very major differences here are that Romney’s plan will encourage companies to outsource, while Obama’s plan will not. Obama’s tax plan also favors those who
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The 2012 Election: My Attempt at Being a Responsible Voter

make less than $250,000 per year and aims to ensure that the very rich (more than $1 million per year) are taxed at a minimum rate by eliminating loopholes.

Stimulus Spending and Bailouts
Obama supported the bank and auto industry bailouts while Romney opposed them, stating that a better plan would have been to allow the companies to file for bankruptcy. Obama’s stimulus plan combined tax cuts with government spending. Romney opposes stimulus spending and instead favors tax cuts to stimulate growth. Romney believes that the government should have let the foreclosure process play out to allow the housing market to hit bottom and then begin to rebuild on its own.

Regulation
Obama believes the 2008 financial crisis was caused in a large part by the deregulation of the banking industry and that government regulation is needed. He has called for a review of the current regulations to eliminate those that “don’t’ make sense”. Romney favors deregulation, which he believes will foster a more business-friendly economy.

Are Democrats or Republicans Better for the Economy?
I am not a financial expert by any means so it is easy to become lost in all of the data, information, and debate regarding whether or not republicans or democrats are better for the economy. I turned to Forbes for some insight: “It is generally assumed that Republicans are pro-business and good for the economy, while Democrats are focused on regulation and related tax-and-spend initiatives to encourage government growth at the expense of private businesses. The reality is that the difference isn’t as stark as people might expect.” “As strange as it may sound, diehard Republicans believe that President Barack Obama’s tenure has been disastrous to U.S. business. Stock market returns so far during his tenure tell another story. A recent Reuters article detailed that the S&P 500 is up some 74% since Obama took office in late January 2009. Of course, luck has much to do with the fact that he came into office just as the stock market was bottoming from the credit crisis, but it is somewhat surprising to learn that this is the strongest first-term performance since Dwight Eisenhower served his first term back in the 1950s.”

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“Truman was ranked the highest and happens to be a Democrat. Of course, the post-war boom was one of the strongest economic performance periods in U.S. history, so Truman may have also lucked out with his timing as America’s leader. The second spot also went to a Democrat: John F. Kennedy, who was followed by Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson. Next on the list were Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower, Republican Gerald Ford, Democrat Bill Clinton, Republican Richard Nixon, Republican Ronald Reagan, Democrat Obama, Republican George Bush Sr., Democrat Jimmy Carter and finally Republican George W. Bush. As it turns out, Carroll’s analysis resulted in a tie between Democrats and Republicans regarding which party affiliation was better for the economy.” “The real question might be if the government can truly be responsible for controlling the ups and downs in the business cycle.” I also turned to NPR for some insight comparing the two plans for the economy: “President Obama wants to raise tax rates only for households making more than $250,000 a year, while Romney wants to implement a 20percent tax cut in everyone's rate. The latter "would mean, in dollar terms, a much larger tax cut for people who make a lot of money," he says.” “Obama has lost the ability to implement his tax agenda with a Republican-led House, Leonhardt says. On the flip-side, Romney promises too much. "What he says is that he'll cut tax rates, he won't add to the deficit, and he won't, in any way, add to the tax burden of the middle class," Leonhardt says. "And when independent economists have looked at it, they've said, 'He cannot do all those things mathematically.' " “Romney has then said, though, that this isn't going to add to the deficit at all, which is another way of saying, 'It's not going to be a tax cut.' So he has promised that every tax cut he gives people, he's going to take away by closing deductions. "Now, economists really like this idea because it simplifies the tax code. It means rather than spending a lot of time trying to figure out what deductions and credits you qualify for, you can just go about your business. "The problem is that Romney has not identified any of the tax breaks he would close. And while we can all say we're in favor of simplifying the tax code, you start to lose people when you say you're going to take away their mortgage deduction or take away their tax exclusion for health insurance or the tax break for saving for retirement. And so there's a lot of skepticism about whether he's actually going to be able to do that.”

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"What President Obama says he wants to do is he wants to keep tax rates where they are for everybody making less than $250,000. For people making more than $250,000 he wants to go back to the rates under Bill Clinton, rather than the rates under George W. Bush, which is to say he wants to raise taxes on every household making more than $250,000 a year by a few percentage points. "The big uncertainty here is whether he can actually do that. It's not clear how tough Democrats are willing to be about that. When Democrats controlled the Senate, the House and the White House with President Obama, they had two years really in which they could have done that and they didn't. They were worried about putting in place any kind of tax cut during a terribly deep recession. They were worried about being cast as tax raisers by the Republicans heading into the midterm elections.” After studying each party’s plans for the economy further, it seems clear to me that Romney’s plan favors businesses and wealthy individuals while Obama’s plan favors the middle class. The group you identify with more will likely determine which candidate you side with when it comes to the economy.

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The 2012 Election: My Attempt at Being a Responsible Voter

Other Issues
It is actually interesting how similar both candidates are on some of their policies. The best site I have found to use as a comparison tool is isidewith.com which lays out the most-asked questions and each candidate’s policy on the matter with a single sentence. I recommend everyone to check out the site to see where each candidate stands on the issues they care about. The site also offers an “election quiz” in which you can state how you feel about each issue and how passionate you are about it. The site will then tell you how closely each candidate agrees with your own beliefs. For best results, take the election quiz before reading about each candidate’s policies to achieve a real answer, rather than subconsciously picking the answers you know your favored candidate agrees with.

Issues Agreed Upon:
Should the U.S. end the war in Afghanistan? Their answers: No, not until all U.S. military leaders are confident the mission has been accomplished Should foreign terrorism suspects be given constitutional rights? Their answers: No Do you support the Patriot act? Their answers: Yes, but limit the scope of the government’s powers Do you support increased gun control? Their answers: No, only for assault weapons Should the federal government regulate the internet to deter online piracy? Their answers: No, the government should prosecute copyright violators but not regulate the internet Should marijuana be legalized in the U.S.? Their answers: No Should able-bodied, mentally capable adults who receive welfare be required to work? Their answers: Yes Should the federal government allow the death penalty? Their answers: Yes Should we expand our offshore oil drilling? Their answers: Yes
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The 2012 Election: My Attempt at Being a Responsible Voter

Should the federal government fund stem cell research? Their answers: Yes

Issues Disagreed Upon
Do you believe the theory of Evolution? Barack Obama: Yes Mitt Romney: Yes, and I believe it is a part of Creationism Should children of illegal immigrants be granted citizenship? Barack Obama: Yes, but it should not grant their parents citizenship Mitt Romney: No Should we limit federal funds to public schools that do not meet performance standards? Barack Obama: No Mitt Romney: Yes Is Global Warming a threat to the environment? Barack Obama: Yes Mitt Romney: No, global warming and cooling are natural cycles beyond our control Should U.S. National Parks and Forests continue to be preserved and protected by the federal government? Barack Obama: Yes, and expand the government’s domain to protect more land Mitt Romney: No Should the government require health insurance companies to provide free birth control? Barack Obama: Yes, but exempt religious organizations or charities Mitt Romney: No Should gay marriage be allowed in the U.S.? Barack Obama: Yes Mitt Romney: No, marriage should be defined as between a man and woman There are a lot of sites that aim to compare the two candidates side by side, which makes it much easier to see the differences than trying to sift through party plans. However, be careful. Even these kinds of sites can still be swayed toward one candidate or another. Remember to do additional research to back up any claims you are passionate about.

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The 2012 Election: My Attempt at Being a Responsible Voter

In Conclusion
I spent several days reading about these policies and trying to ensure my sources were factual, which is why I relied heavily on the party platforms. I learned quite a bit, and I must say that I feel even stronger in my opinion that Obama is the right choice for me this election. The key there, in case you missed it, was that he is the right choice for me. I do not go around touting one candidate or the other and I despise when people do, especially when they do so with ungrounded sources, propaganda, fear mongering, and scare tactics. Don’t tell me what you hate about the other guy, tell me what your candidate is going to do that you think is the right decision for our country. Everyone needs to do their own reading on the issues and make their voting determination based on who aligns the most with their personal beliefs. Don’t vote for Obama just because you are a self-proclaimed democrat and don’t vote for Romney just because you hate Obama. Actually read about the issues and gather as much information as you can before making a decision. This is 2012 and you have access to more information than you can possibly read. The least you can do is spend a few minutes verifying a claim before taking it as fact and passing it on to others. Don’t let the media shape your beliefs without doing your due diligence as an informed citizen. Do some fact checking and verify the news claims before making your decisions. Don’t vote the same way as your spouse, friends, family, or coworkers just to “keep the peace”, but whatever you do, vote and do so responsibly. This election really isn’t about choosing the “lesser of two evils” as many news sources would have you believe. If you actually take some time to read about the policies and issues that you care about the most, I guarantee that one party will stand out to you as the right choice. Will you agree with a single party or candidate on every issue? I should hope not, that would be weird. Remember, the only way to elect a president that agrees with everything you do is to write in your own name on the ballot. This experiment of mine was very informative. I found out that I held some false preconceptions about each party and candidate and I am now able to say that I am an educated voter. I will continue to pay attention to politics up until election day so that I can vote with the confidence that I made the right decision for myself and my family and didn’t cast a vote based on ideas that I didn’t bother to verify. I refuse to believe everything that is put in front of me and I sincerely hope that the rest of America can find the time to do the same.
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Resources
Dems Reveal Platform Backing Gay Marriage, Abortion Rights. (2012, September 4). Retrieved from FoxNews.com: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/09/03/dems-reveal-platformbacking-gay-marriage-abortion-rights/ GOP Vs. Democrats: Who's Best For America's Economy? (2012, August 31). Retrieved from Forbes: http://www.forbes.com/sites/investopedia/2012/08/31/gopvs-democrats-whos-best-for-americas-economy/ 2012 Republican Platform. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.gop.com/2012republican-platform_home/ American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stimulus_plan Automotive industry crisis of 2008–2010. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Automotive_industry_crisis_of_2008%E2%80 %932010 Barack Obama vs Mitt Romney. (n.d.). Retrieved from Diffen.com: http://www.diffen.com/difference/Barack_Obama_vs_Mitt_Romney Baur, G. (2012, September 7). Has the Democratic Party Become the Party of Abortion? Retrieved from FoxNews.com: http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2012/09/07/has-democratic-partybecome-party-abortion/ Bernanke, B. (2007, March 6). GSE Portfolios, Systemic Risk, and Affordable Housing. Retrieved from FederalReserve.gov: http://www.federalreserve.gov/newsevents/speech/Bernanke20070306a.h tm Collaterized Debt Obligation. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collateralized_debt_obligation Credit Default Swap. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Credit_default_swap Dzieza, J. (2012, March 6). Romneycare and Obamacare Differ Only in Inconsequential Ways. Retrieved from The Daily Beast: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/03/06/romneycare-andobamacare-differ-only-in-inconsequential-ways.html Gay Veteran talks to Mitt Romney - ABC News. (n.d.). Retrieved from YouTube.com: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GRN9Y5Nvdqk Glass-Steagall Act. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glass%E2%80%93Steagall_Act Goodwin, L. (2012, June 28). Supreme Court upholds Obamacare individual mandate as a tax. Retrieved from ABCNews.com: http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/OTUS/supreme-court-upholds-obamacareindividual-mandate-tax/story?id=16669186#.UE9u9I1lRyY Goodwin, L. (2012, June 28). Supreme Court upholds Obamacare individual mandate as a tax. Retrieved from Yahoo! News: http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/ticket/supreme-court-issue-obamacaredecision-135554880.html i

Hanlon, S. (2012, August). Sheldon Adelson’s Return on Investment. Billionaire Donor Could Turn $100 Million Invested in the 2012 . Retrieved from Politico.com: http://images.politico.com/global/2012/09/hanlon_adelsonc4brief.html Hanson, C. (Director). (2011). Too Big to Fail [Motion Picture]. ISideWith.com. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.isidewith.com/ Isikoff, M. (2011, October 11). White House used Mitt Romney health-care law as blueprint for federal law. Retrieved from MSNBC.com: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/44854320/ns/politicsdecision_2012/t/white-house-used-mitt-romney-health-care-law-blueprintfederal-law/#.UE9tko1lRyZ Kacynski, A. (2012, March 2). Mitt Romney's Advice For ObamaCare: Look At RomneyCare. Retrieved from Buzzfeed.com: http://www.buzzfeed.com/andrewkaczynski/mitt-romneys-advice-forobamacare-look-at-romney Leonhardt, D. (2012, September 5). Journalist Evaluates Obama, Romney Economic Plans. Retrieved from NPR.org: http://www.npr.org/2012/09/05/160607524/journalist-evaluates-obamaromney-economic-plans Pillifant, R. (2011, November 16). Architect of Obama's health care plan fears a 'political' decision by the Supreme Court, says Romney's lying. Retrieved from Capital New York: http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/politics/2011/11/4156059/archit ect-obamas-health-care-plan-fears-political-decision-supremeSecuritization. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Securitization Subprime Crisis Impact Timeline. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subprime_crisis_impact_timeline The Affordable Care Act. (n.d.). Retrieved from HealthCare.gov: http://www.healthcare.gov/law/full/index.html The Democratic Party Platform. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.democrats.org/democratic-national-platform Transcript of Mitt Romney's speech at the RNC. (n.d.). Retrieved from FoxNews.com: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/08/30/transcript-mitt-romneyspeech-at-rnc/ Transcript of Obama's Speech at the DNC. (n.d.). Retrieved from FoxNews.com: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/09/06/transcript-obama-speechat-dnc/

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