The top 5 issues in the November 2012 election

By Sanford Lakoff

Confused about the complexity of the issues surrounding the election cycle? We’ve asked professor emeritus of political science at UC San Diego, Sanford Lakoff, to summarize his thoughts on the important questions that face us all in the November election.

1. The Economy

Obama and Romney pose sharply different approaches. Obama would modify the Bush tax cuts to preserve them for all but the top 3% of earners and raise taxes on dividends and capital gains. The receipts would be used to create jobs and end the recession. Romney would lower both individual and corporate taxes and make unspecified cuts in non-defense spending. The aim would be to encourage entrepreneurship, shrink the size of government, and dramatically lower the national debt in the near term. Ryan has also proposed eliminating tax loopholes, though which ones are not specified.

2. Health Care

If Obama wins, the Affordable Care Act–alias Obamacare– will go into full effect in 2014, mandating either employer-provided insurance or privately purchased policies from exchanges designed to promote competition and curbing insurer restrictions and administrative costs. Support for Medicare Advantage policies would be dropped and reimbursements to provider institutions would be cut, allowing savings to Medicare of about $700 billion over ten years and extending the solvency of the Medicare trust fund until 2024. Medicaid would cover more poor families. An estimated 30-35 million currently uninsured citizens would be covered. Romney has pledged to repeal Obamacare. He would also restore the proposed $700 billion in cuts to Medicare, arguing that they are being taken from seniors to support Obamacare. The new administration would set the stage for a transition to a new form of health insurance for the elderly, providing vouchers (or premium support) to be used either to buy traditional Medicare or private insurance. In response to critics, Ryan has modified his original proposal to guarantee that vouchers would keep pace with increased costs.

3. Immigration

Obama would renew efforts to pass the “Dream Act,” allowing young people brought into the country illegally to attain citizenship. He would probably also propose more comprehensive reforms, allowing temporary work permits and providing a path to citizenship for the “undocumented.” Romney has not yet put forward specific proposals, but would probably emphasize security, including completion of the border fence. In the primary campaign, Romney suggested that illegal immigrants should be induced to “self-deport.”

4. Regulation

The Obama administration is pledged to maintaining efforts to regulate the financial sector, as specified in the Dodd-Frank Act and regulation by the EPA of greenhouse gas emissions. Romney has argued that the economy is over-regulated and that market forces are better at promoting both growth and safety than bureaucratic intervention.

5. Energy

The Obama administration has sought to promote a transition from reliance on fossil fuels toward a mix of energy sources in which renewables would become increasingly prominent and automobile fuel efficiency would be greatly improved. The aim is to both promote energy independence and curb emission of greenhouse gases. As a candidate, Romney has not said that he accepts the scientific findings on climate change and has campaigned for more efforts to exploit conventional forms of energy. He has promised to approve the Keystone pipeline project (held up by Obama), to send oil from Canada’s tar sands through the Midwest to southern refineries.

Sanford Lakoff, Ph.D., is professor emeritus of political science at UC San Diego. He earned his doctorate at Harvard, where he taught in the Department of Government. His publications include "Democracy: History, Theory, Practice," "Max Lerner: Pilgrim in the Promised Land," and (with Herbert F. York) "A Shield in Space?" Professor Lakoff teaches People, Power and Politics every Fall and Winter quarterly at UC San Diego Extension, where he discusses the political powers that be and their existing and potential effect on our lives.


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