Summaries of the Democratic, Republican and Libertarian platforms
The 2012 Presidential Election is just 50 days away, and it's now getting down to the wire. We've seen both the highs and lows of this election season, from former President Bill Clinton's endorsement of President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney rapidly clinching the Republican nomination to Vice President Joe Biden's inopportune "shackle" remarks and Congressman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) receiving a lukewarm response when he was picked as Romney's running mate. We've even seen Congressman Ron Paul (R-Texas) take the GOP by storm with a viral "rEVOLution" campaign by his supporters and the Democrats make history by advocating for gay marriage in their platform. These moments, along with the events of the next month or so, will all come down to this year's Election Day: Nov. 6.
Whether or not you're old enough to vote, it is a good idea to stay up to date on each candidate's stance on the issues and the policies they would like to implement, if elected. Here at Silver Chips Online, we've taken the liberty to read and sum up both major parties' 2012 platforms, so you don't have to. Below, we focus on seven key issues: the Economy, Health care, Immigration, Foreign Policy, Individual Liberties, Education and the Environment. And while the two-party system retains a stronghold in the U.S., we've also included summaries of the Libertarian platform as some consider former GOP New Mexico Governor and Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson to play the role of a spoiler in this election. Of the four third-party nominees (Johnson, the Green Party's Jill Stein, the Constitution Party's Virgil Goode and the Justice Party's Rocky Anderson), only Johnson and Stein have a mathematically possible chance to win the presidency, with Johnson on the ballot in 47 states (and litigating in the other three) and Stein on the ballot in 38, as of Sept. 15. However, we've decided to omit Stein from this analysis as the Green Party does not plan to be on the ballot for all 50 states by Election Day. To read about her stances, visit her website.The Presidential debates will begin on Oct. 3, and the Vice Presidential debates will start Oct. 11. Election Day is scheduled for Nov. 6. If you will be 18 by election day, find out how to register here. You must be registered to vote by Oct. 16.
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ECONOMY (JOBS, SPENDING & TAXES)
Democrats: The 2012 Democratic platform focuses on creating jobs and bringing manufacturing opportunities back the U.S. This manufacturing also includes the American auto industry and its main three companies, Ford, General Motors (GM) and Chrysler. They strongly believe in insourcing (bringing jobs that were previously sent overseas back to the U.S). The Democrats want to get rid of tax breaks for companies that send their work overseas and give tax breaks to companies that are bringing work back to the U.S.
Obama wants to give the middle class tax breaks and raise taxes on the wealthy. He gave tax cuts to 98 percent of families making $250,000 or less and does not intend to increase their taxes. The Democrats also want to get rid of the Bush-era tax cuts, which lowered taxes for corporations and the highest-earning Americans. Part of this plan involves the "Buffett Rule," which ensures that no millionaire pays a lower tax rate than middle class families.
Republicans: The GOP generally believes that the federal government should play a limited role in the economy. They suggest in their platform that tax relief is the solution to our economic problems and will stimulate job growth. To accomplish this, they set forth several goals in their party platform: extend the 2001 and 2003 Bush-era tax cuts, cut marginal rates in the tax code by 20 percent, get rid of the Estate Tax (also known as the Death Tax) and repeal the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). Republicans hope that as a result of these tax code modifications, small businesses and start-ups will flourish and the employment rate will increase.In regards to cutting the national debt, the GOP Platform calls for "reining in out-of control spending, balancing the budget, and ensuring sound monetary policy." On his site, Romney suggests capping federal spending at 20 percent of our country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and eliminating "undue economic burdens," such as the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Romney also hopes to decrease the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent because he argues that higher corporate taxes hurt American jobs and wages because they encourage companies to seek cheaper labor overseas. According to Romney, cutting the corporate tax rate along with pursuing new international trade agreements, such as creating the Reagan Economic Zone, will keep the U.S. competitive and thriving in the global economy.
Libertarians: In its "Economic Liberty" section, the Libertarian platform emphasizes one of the defining traits of libertarianism: fiscal conservatism. In order to jumpstart the economy and cut the national debt, Libertarians suggest deregulating the economy and slashing excessive spending as soon as possible. They aim to repeal the Sixteenth Amendment, disband the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and create a "Balanced Budget Amendment" to the Constitution. If elected, Johnson promises to submit a balanced budget to Congress within the first year of his presidency. This budget would include limiting military spending to "actions that truly protect the United States" and reforming health care, Medicare and Social Security.Johnson also calls for auditing the Federal Reserve and creating the FairTax, which will replace the Sixteenth Amendment. The FairTax will be based upon expenditures and not affect basic needs; in fact, basic necessities will become tax-free under a Gary Johnson Administration. Furthermore, he would eliminate corporate welfare and end government-backed bailouts and subsidies in the auto, banking and housing industries, among others. Johnson also supports the decriminalization, regulation and taxation of marijuana in order to eradicate a "massive underground and criminal economy." According to Johnson's website, "The billions saved on marijuana interdiction, along with the billions captured as legal revenue, can be redirected against the individuals committing real crimes against society."
HEALTH CARE & OTHER SOCIAL PROGRAMS
Democrats: The Democratic platform indicates a desire to extend health care to all Americans in need. The health care reform created under the Obama Administration allows young adults to remain on their parents' insurance plan until the age of 26. Another result of the reform is the Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan, which gives coverage to those who have been uninsured for six months or more. The Affordable Care Act passed under the Obama administration ensures that families who make less than 133 percent of the poverty line will be covered by Medicaid and families making between 133 and 400 percent of the poverty line will get tax credits to help pay for their insurance. The individual mandate dictates that those who can afford health insurance costing less than eight percent of their annual income, but choose not to purchase it, will be taxed. In addition, the President pledges not to privatize Social Security. Republicans: The GOP platform dictates that Medicare and Medicaid are in need of serious reform, and to do so, they would shift federal power (by repealing the ACA) to the state level in order to allow local markets to appropriately place and treat patients. And like Obama, Romney does not plan to privatize Social Security. Instead, he aims to reform it by increasing the retirement age and indexing benefits to prices instead of wages, with the option of personal retirement accounts as a supplement.
Libertarians: Like the GOP, the Libertarian Party wants to return health care to a free-market system. Even though at first Johnson supported Obama's plans to make health care cheaper and more accessible, the end product of the ACA soon changed Johnson's mind. Now, he plans to devolve federal power to the states and believes that the allocation of federal block grants will assist those who can't afford basic health care. And in order to tackle Social Security, he plans to change benefits to be based on inflation rather than wages.
Democrats: The Democratic platform has a plan to create a reform that requires undocumented immigrants to become citizens, learn English and pay taxes. At the same time, the Democrats also want to distribute visas and keep immigrant families together. Obama expressed his approval of the potential Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, which would give immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children an opportunity to become citizens through a college education or service in the military.
Republicans: The Republican platform identifies illegal immigrants as undermining the safety and sovereignty of our country. It announces GOP support of nationwide, mandatory use of the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) program and the E-Verify program. To discourage illegal immigration, the plaform suggests that combing local, state and national efforts with the Immigration Nationality Act (specifically Section 287). To further these efforts, Romney aims to create an impermeable fence along the entire U.S.-Mexico border. Instead, he plans to attract educated and skilled immigrants by granting permanent residency to those who earn a math, science or engineering degree at an American university.Libertarians: Johnson is an avid supporter of simplifying legal immigration and would like to make it easier for potential immigrants to get a work visa and Social Security card. He argues it would allow them to pay taxes and contribute to American society. This plan is also intended to strengthen the U.S.'s relationship with Mexico. However, Johnson calls for decriminalizing marijuana in order to tackle illegal immigration (in addition to economic reasons stated above). He argues it would break Mexican drug cartels' monopolies on the drug trade and decrease violence in Mexico, which in turn will help encourage people to stay there. In addition, he supports a "one strike, you're out" policy for immigrants who dodge the work visa process.
Democrats: Two of the most discussed events under the Obama administration were the removal of troops from Iraq and the killing of Osama bin Laden. The Democrats takes pride in this by highlighting Obama's role in these situations. Along with this, Obama has stated his plans to remove troops and end the war in Afghanistan by 2014. The platform explains the President's plans to "continue to provide counterterrorism and training assistance" to Afghanistan, but will not build permanent bases there. When it comes to Iran, the Democratic platform asserts the idea of sanctions and isolating Iran as much as possible to create economic and political pressure. They backed this up in 2010 when Obama signed the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Divestment Act (CISADA), which hinders Iran's oil imports. The Obama administration has also been a strong supporter of Israel, and the Democratic platform indicates a desire to continue their involvement and increase security assistance to Israel. Obama firmly believes in Israel's national security and maintaining their current peace treaties as well as U.S. involvement in creating Israeli-Palestinian peace.
The most recent hot-button issue is the continuing conflicts in the North African region including Libya and Egypt. On Sept. 11, the U.S. Ambassador to Libya was killed during an attack on the U.S Consulate in Benghazi, which put more pressure on Obama about his position on North Africa and the Middle East. During the speech at the funeral of the American victims, Obama stated "We will continue to do everything in our power to protect Americans serving overseas, whether that means increasing security at our diplomatic posts, working with host countries which have an obligation to provide security and making it clear that justice will come to those who harm Americans."Republicans: In the GOP Platform, Republicans call for cooperation between the President and Congress in matters of foreign affairs in order to defend America and promote freedom. In order to do so, they emphasize "peace through strength." In fact, Romney plans to launch an extensive campaign to strengthen U.S.'s alliances and to expand its military presence overseas. In particular, he plans to maintain a strong naval presence in the Western Pacific, though not in an aggressive manner. Instead, he wants to use it as a way to influence the formation of the Reagan Economic Zone, which is intended to expand and encourage free trade with countries such as India and Indonesia. However, for North Korea, Romney will implement harsher sanctions to try to get the country to abandon its nuclear-weapons infrastructure.
Similarly, in the Middle East, Romney will add a fifth round of sanctions on Iran. He also plans amp up the foreign aid and assistance to Israel and have American aircraft carriers be a regular presence in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf. Furthermore, Romney hopes to remove Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from power and to create a strong missile defense system in Eastern Europe.
Regarding the Americas, Romney wants to implement the Campaign for Economic Opportunity in Latin America (CEOLA) within his first 100 days in office. The CEOLA is intended to expand free trade with members of the Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) and other countries, preparing them to join the Reagan Economic Zone in the future.
Libertarians: The Libertarian platform's foreign policy statement is simple: "Our foreign policy should emphasize defense against attack from abroad and enhance the likelihood of peace by avoiding foreign entanglements." To accomplish this, they plan to avoid U.S. military intervention abroad and stop providing other countries with economic aid. Johnson will reevaluate the necessity of deploying troops to certain locations and allow countries to be in charge of their own sovereignty. In terms of Guantanamo Bay and the "war on terror," Johnson plans to allow terrorism suspects similar civil liberties enjoyed by Americans, including due process and freedom from torture.INDIVIDUAL LIBERTIES
Democrats: Obama and his party are strong supporters of equality for all races, genders, sexual orientations and religions. While in office, Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, which helped close the gender pay gap. Along with equal pay, the Democratic platform supports the decision of Roe v. Wade (1973) and a woman's right to have an abortion. This election, for the first time ever, the Democratic platform includes open support of gay rights and marriage equality. The platform states "We support marriage equality and support the movement to secure equal treatment under law for same-sex couples." The Obama administration also repealed the "Don't ask, don't tell" policy that prevented openly gay soldiers from serving in the military. When it comes to gun control, Obama wants to continue to enforce the current gun laws and work on a more thorough background check system.Republicans: The GOP Platform states that the GOP hopes to return our federal government to its constitutional roots, highlighting its support for actions such as "public display of the ten commandments as a reflection of our history and of our country's Judeo-Christian heritage." The party also cites the First and Ninth Amendments as arguments against abortion and same-sex marriage. According to his site, Romney remains in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and hopes that the Supreme Court will overturn Roe v. Wade (1973). He also wants to draft a Federal Marriage Amendment (FMA) to define marriage as between a man and a woman and to push for the implementation of the Hyde Amendment, which will prevent certain federal funds from being used on abortions. With regard to the Second Amendment, Romney promises not to expand gun control regulations any further.
Libertarians: Their platform reveals a core libertarian belief: government should stay out of the personal lives of its citizens. Johnson, who claims he is more socially liberal than Obama, is pro-gay marriage, pro-choice and pro-marijuana legalization. If elected, he also plans to repeal the Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism (PATRIOT) Act of 2000 and to uphold the gun ownership rights for all Americans.
Democrats: The Democrats say they are committed to the idea of giving every child in America a solid education and recognizing and rewarding the achievements of good teachers. In order to aid the student loan process, Obama passed the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010, which, starting in 2014, will allow new students taking out loans to pay no more than 10 percent of their disposable income. This reform will also assist service workers, such as nurses or teachers, by forgiving remaining student debt after 10 years. In addition, the platform expresses the Democrats' interest in the U.S. having the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020.
Republicans: The Republicans advocate for school choice (in the form of vouchers) and an increase in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education, in addition to phonics. They also support replacing sex-education classes with abstinence education. In terms of combating rising higher education costs, the GOP plans to privatize student loans and improve alternatives to traditional four-year universities. Romney's website, however, did not specify any policies he would like to implement, if elected.Libertarians: The Libertarian platform calls for free market education, in which consumer choice can influence and encourage underperforming schools to improve their quality. Johnson also suggests eliminating the federal Department of Education, citing cumbersome "strings-attached" policies, its inability to address local educational needs and its habit of wasting millions of dollars that could have gone to classrooms across the country as arguments in favor of the Department's removal.
ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT
Democrats: The Democratic platform dictates that protecting the environment is a "top priority." They firmly believe in Global Warming and climate change. Obama wants to increase regulations on emissions, develop higher fuel efficiency standards and limit pollution for power plants run on fossil fuel. During his term, Obama furthered participation in clean and alternative energy by approving the country's first offshore wind farm and 16 commercial sized solar facilities. In addition, the Democrats want to continue to protect, preserve and restore National Parks and other landscapes such as the Great Lakes and the Everglades.Republicans: The GOP platform calls for continued use of coal, oil and natural gas as part of its "all of the above" policy, which includes conservation and nuclear energy. Romney proposes to increase the number of nuclear power plants and develop the U.S.'s energy reserves. Furthermore, the GOP disagrees with many of the regulations that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has imposed and would like to conduct an in-depth analysis of the agency.
Libertarians: Although the Libertarian platform is supportive of a clean and healthy environment, it states that the Government should not be held responsible for poor environmental protection regulation -- private businesses should. Johnson aims to reduce federal subsidies and incentives that encourage companies to use certain energy sources because he believes it is unconstitutional for the government to "manipulate our behavior as consumers or producers of energy." However, if government imposes certain regulations, Johnson believes cost-benefit analysis is necessary in order to create reasonable environmental policy and protect jobs.
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