Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Issues and Just the Issues, please

I have been accused of not getting it and being ignorant about the issues in the upcoming Presidential election. So just what are the issues in this campaign? Are they Palin or Obama's lack of experience? Or how about John McCain's rich wife, ambiguous number of homes or self-proclaimed computer illiteracy? Or maybe Obama's support of explicit sex education for kindergarteners while in the Illinois senate? Maybe it's McCain, Obama and Palin's questionable choice of preachers. Maybe it's that 10% of Americans think Obama is a muslim. Is it really any of those things? Of course not. They are what the ads are all about, what the media is covering and what's being talked about around water coolers across America. Some of them are blatant attempts by one side or the other to inflame voters, some of them are patently false (and yet still circulated) and some are open to opinion on their importance.

So what do I think are the issues for this campaign? In my opinion, there are really only 3 issues facing this nation that cross party lines and affect us all: the Economy, Health Care and the War on Terror.

Let's look at the economy first. I will be the first to admit that I don't know a lot about the intricacies of the economy. Both candidates have attempted over the last year to expand upon what they will do to fix the economy. Both agree that there is quite a bit wrong.

McCain's website has a briefing paper on his economic plan. He would reduce corporate taxes to encourage companies to remain in the US, reduce our reliance on foreign oil by drilling in the Outer Continental Shelf, build 45 nuclear reactors and commit $2 billion annually to clean coal. This plan includes reducing government spending by freezing all non-defense and non-veteran discretionary spending for a year and reviewing government programs to
weed out those that are ineffective and streamline others while using a line-item veto to remove earmarks. He would support small businesses by keeping tax rates low, allowing a first year deduction of equipment and technology expenses and giving every American family $5000 to spend on health care costs to reduce the burden on small business.

Obama's website also has a briefing paper on his economic plan. Obama wants to give a tax break to the middle class by creating a new tax credit and simplifying the tax return. He would also exempt any senior citizen making less than $50,000 from paying taxes at all. He wants to end tax breaks for companies that move overseas and reward those that create jobs in America. Obama proposes a Credit Card Bill of Rights that would ban unilateral charges, apply interest rates only to future debt, prohibit interest on fees, prohibit universal defaults and require prompt and fair crediting of payments. He would also reform bankruptcy laws to close loopholes for mortgage lenders and make an exemption for families that file bankruptcy because of medical bills. Obama wants to eliminate capital gains taxes for start-up and small businesses and create a network of public-private business incubators.

Obama and McCain agree on a few points. Both would make a permanent tax credit for Research & Development. Both have HOME plans regarding home ownership, though they differ in many ways. McCain's HOME plan would aid those with sub-prime mortgages in danger of foreclosure by allowing qualified applicants to trade their unworkable loans for a FHA loan. Obama's HOME plan creates a standardized metric for home mortgages that a compares various mortgage products and helps borrowers to understand the full cost of the loan, their long-term obligations and would be include all mandatory taxes and insurance. Both want to reduce dependency on foreign oil. Obama by creating 5 million new green jobs through the research and development of biofuels, accelerated commercialization of plug-in hybrids, development of commercial scale renewable energy, clean coal and new job training for clean technologies. McCain would drill on the OCS, build 45 new nuclear power plants, set up a Clean Car Challenge to encourage US automakers to sell zero-emission cars and calls on automakers to make a more rapid and complete switch to Flex Fuel Vehicless.

The basic differences in the two plans, as I see them, are that Obama's reforms are directed at helping the middle class through tax breaks, credit card and mortgage reforms and creating jobs through the development of renewable energy; while McCain's plan focuses on helping business through corporate tax cuts, reducing spending and reducing our dependency on foreign oil through domestic drilling, nuclear energy and biofuels.

After looking at both website and reading both briefs, I find Obama's more appealing, more thorough and more likely to work; while McCain's was really more of the same old Republican mantra.

Next time: Health Care.

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