After the Debates: How the Candidates Stack Up on the Issues
So how do Obama and Romney measure up on key issues—abortion, economic policy, healthcare, religious freedom, taxation, international affairs, marriage and family, immigration, the military, and the environment? More than at any time in recent memory, the two candidates differ sharply.
The excerpts below detail the candidates' positions on the issues that were brought up in this past week's town hall debate. Read Ron's full article for more information.
Romney used to support "abortion rights" but now is "pro-life." He opposes abortion, believes life begins at conception, would nominate Supreme Court justices he believes would overturn Roe v. Wade, and supports the Hyde amendment banning the use of federal funds to pay for abortions. He also opposes the use of human embryos for stem cell research.
Obama is "pro-choice," supports abortion, would nominate Supreme Court justices that would support Roe v. Wade, and overturned President Bush's ban on the use of human embryos for stem cell research. Obama faithfully implements current law prohibiting federal funding of abortions.
Obama and Romney both agree that we must substantially reduce federal budget deficits—although Romney promises to have a balanced budget by some unspecified time, and Obama is even less clear. But there is a huge difference in how the two propose to achieve deficit reduction. The key components of Romney's budget proposals are (1) increasing defense spending dramatically; (2) giving more big tax cuts (mostly for the richest Americans); and (3) dramatically cutting Medicare, Medicaid, and discretionary programs that include many important supports for poorer Americans.
Romney wants to keep all Bush's tax cuts (65 percent went to the richest 20 percent), reduce individual income taxes by 20 percent, repeal the estate tax, and keep the very low 15 percent tax rate on capital gains and dividends (which is why rich people like Romney and Warren Buffett pay at such a low rate) rather than tax them at the same rate as other income. These tax cuts would mean a loss of $4.9 trillion in federal revenue over10 years. These tax cuts would also substantially widen the gap between the rich and the poor, which is already more extreme than at any time since 1928. Experts at the urban-Brookings tax Policy center say Romney's tax proposal would give an additional average tax cut of $250,000 to persons making a million dollars or more a year, while those earning $40,800-$50,000 would get an average tax cut of about $512. People earning between $10,000 and $20,000 a year would actually pay an average of $174 a year more, partly because Romney wants to shrink tax advantages implemented by Obama to help lower-income families.
Obama proposes a very different federal budget. He wants to keep, not cut, effective programs that empower poor people. He also wants to somewhat increase spending to improve our national infrastructure, schools, and clean energy programs. Obama's tax proposals reflect what many polls indicate a majority of Americans favor—that the richest Americans should pay more, not less. A Buffett Rule would require that people earning more than a million dollars would pay income taxes of at least 30 percent. For people earning more than $250,000, dividends would be taxed at the regular income tax rate rather than today's low rate of 15 percent. Obama also wants to retain the estate tax. Obama fails to provide a clear plan for getting to a balanced budget within the next five or even 10 years. His fiscal year 2013 budget projected adding $6.4 trillion to the nation debt over 10 years, which is not acceptable.
There are good ways to retain effective programs that empower poor people and get to a balanced budget over five to 10 years. But neither Romney nor Obama tells us how to do that.
Obama and Romney also disagree sharply on environmental issues. Obama has worked with auto manufacturers to essentially double the fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks by 2025. His administration has sought to use the authority of the clean air act to regulate (and reduce) carbon emissions. Obama has a 10-year goal to develop cost-effective clean coal technology and plans to spend $150 billion over 10 years to develop a "green economy." Obama refused to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline. Romney would reverse Obama's regulations designed to reduce carbon use and would amend the clean air act so it cannot be used to regulate the use of carbon. Romney favors the keystone XL Pipeline. Romney used to accept the scientific consensus that humans are causing climate change but now says, "My view is that we don't know what's causing climate change."
Obama and Romney also differ sharply on immigration. in 2007 Romney supported legislation that would have offered a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants but now opposes it. He wants to complete a high-tech fence on our southern border and expand border patrol. He opposes the Dream Act and promises to develop a tamper-proof verification system to make sure undocumented immigrants cannot get jobs. The result, Romney says, is "self deportation."
Obama favors additional personnel and technology to support the integrity of the border. Unable to persuade Republicans in Congress to pass the dream act, Obama used his executive power to accomplish largely the same thing for two years. Obama wants to increase the number of legal immigrants to keep families together and favors a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who have not committed crimes.
Both want to expand the number of visas for highly skilled workers and grant permanent residency to graduates with advanced degrees in math, science, and engineering.
In early 2012, the Obama administration raised a major issue of religious freedom as it developed federal regulations for implementing the Affordable Care Act. The regulations specified that nearly all organizations, including religious ones, must provide health insurance coverage that includes contraceptives (including some that are probably abortive) even if the organizations have religious convictions against them. Obama has promised some modification of this regulation but has not yet done that. Romney has condemned this violation of religious freedom and would clearly change it.
So who does God want us to vote for? I honestly do not know. I urge you to do what I plan for myself. Follow the debates. Keep learning about each candidate and his polices as they are stated, attacked, defended, and developed. Talk to others. Pray fervently that God will guide in this election. And then vote for the person you think will be at least a little better in moving our nation and the world a bit closer to the shalom God wills.