With each side saying its own thing – and at times, both saying the same thing – understanding who stands for what can be a daunting task itself, let alone using it to decide how to vote.
The abundance of political information, analysis and opinion that rides in tandem with every presidential election makes “difficult to understand” an understatement.
With just more than two weeks until the general election on Nov. 6, both parties have outlined their respective agendas as specifically as we are going to see before next year when either incumbent Democratic President Barack Obama holds the office for four more years or former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney claims it for Republicans.
Though campaign platforms are not the same as specific policy agendas, the topics within can prompt a view of specific ideas, personalities and values held by each candidate. Subjects that generally receive the most attention are the economy, deficit, taxes, social programs and foreign policy.
With the country on the brink of recession, economic policy is the major player in this election.
The major facets of the Obama administration’s tax proposal for the next term include the expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts (as the name implies, a tax cut implemented during President Bush’s previous term) and raising the tax rate for incomes over $200,000 ($250,000 for families) from 35 to 39.6 percent (and from 33 to 36 percent for families). Middle and lower class families would largely be unaffected.
The increase is aimed at high-yield individuals and companies who, after write-offs, deductions and loopholes, often pay an average of 15 percent. The increase would also affect less than 10 percent of what economists consider “small businesses” – limiting their ability to expand or hire. Small businesses make up the primary driving force of the American job market.
The rate hike is part of Obama’s 10-year plan aimed at balancing the federal budget and reducing, and the federal deficit of more than $16 trillion.
According to the Obama campaign, the second part of the plan would reduce the deficit by $4 trillion by the final year, however the numbers do not add up – more than $800 billion in savings comes from concluding the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, and another $1 trillion in savings was already put in place last year during Congressional budget negotiations – meaning regardless of who is president next year, roughly $2 trillion is already in place.
Gov. Romney’s tax plan proposes cutting existing rates across the board by 20 percent while reducing and closing deductions and loopholes, especially among the highest income earners, to make up for the lost tax revenue.
The plan has yet to specify exactly which claim benefits would be cut, but as it stands now those numbers do not add up either.
The Romney campaign has since said the plan does not take into account the national economic growth spurred by the tax cut, which though incalculable, they believe will make up the difference brought on by the cut.
The proposal is the biggest part of Romney’s plan to create 12 million jobs over the next four years, citing the 20 percent tax cut as a means of reducing the rates for small businesses, allowing them to create seven million new jobs by 2016.
Another three million would result from independent energy manufacturing initiatives, and the last two million jobs from trade expansion – specifically by attacking China for stolen intellectual property rights and patents belonging to U.S. companies.
However, these numbers are not entirely accurate based on the same studies used by the Romney campaign.
The seven million jobs number actually comes from a study spanning 10 years of tax cuts, not four, and the three million from energy initiatives is based on a study over the next eight years from energy policies that are already in place.
According to Moody’s Analytics, 12 million jobs in general will be created by 2016 no matter who is president.
The Obama campaign continues to endorse the American Jobs Act, a $447 billion plan put before Congress last year, as the president’s means of stimulating job growth over the next term.
The meat of the plan is the $175 billion price tag of reducing the payroll tax by another 50 percent. Another significant portion, $140 billion, would pay for government sponsored rebuilding of roads and bridges, updating schools, hiring teachers and emergency services.
Small businesses would receive $70 billion in tax cuts in an effort to stimulate hiring, and a final $65 billion would go to an unemployment increase. The cost of the plan is more than half the price of the controversial stimulus requested by the Obama administration in 2009, and has yet to be approved or implemented by Congress.
The policy divide between Obama and Romney is far from uncommon between Democratic and Republican presidential candidates, tracing the lines of increased government regulation and steeper high income taxes to support government programs, and conversely government deregulation and tax cuts to stimulate private economic growth.
For more information about each party’s economic, social, and foreign policy initiatives, check out The Slate’s “On the Campaign Trail ‘12” political column.