The economy, unemployment, taxes and how to manage the federal government's $14 trillion debt will be leading issues in the 2012 campaign. With the near-collapse of the U.S. banking and financial system hitting late in the 2008 race, and the nosedive in employment levels, President Obama's tenure in the Oval Office has been defined, in many ways, by the economy and the worst recession in a lifetime. Republicans, led by the tea party movement -- the conservative wing of the Republican party -- have been hammering Obama's economic and fiscal policy since 2009, pushing GOP candidates to hold firm on pledges not to raise taxes and to cut spending. But headed toward the so-called fiscal cliff –when several rounds of tax cuts expire at the end of 2012, resulting in a half trillion dollars in budget cuts and tax hikes that could push the U.S. into another recession – Congress and the president are poised for another fight. Obama is seeking to extend the Bush tax cuts for those making under $250,000, but has said repeatedly he is committed to ending the tax cuts for the wealthy. Congressional Republicans may be forced to compromise on a number of the measures up for vote headed into the election if they want to extend any of the cuts. These fights are about to come in front of a Congress that has yet to pass a budget for 2012. The economy remains one of the most important issues for voters, according to a CNN/ORC poll.
How much Americans should pay in taxes – along with what the government should spend those tax revenues to do -- is at the heart of the economic debate as the country heads toward what has been called a “fiscal cliff” – the automatic and devastating tax increases and spending cuts due to kick in at the end of the year unless Congress and the president take action.
Up for vote are the expiration of the Bush tax cuts, middle class protection from the Alternative Minimum Tax, and more than 50 "temporary" tax breaks for individuals and businesses that have been on the books for years.
President Obama says he will extend the Bush tax cuts for those making under $250,000 per year. Romney says that wealthier Americans should not be punished for their success and wants to extend the cuts for all income levels, including those above $250,000. And while much attention has been paid to the Bush tax cuts, if the payroll tax extension is allowed to expire, it will be the same as a tax hike for the middle class – something President Obama has said he wants to avoid.
Congressional Republicans, often in favor of lower taxes, may have their political hands tied going into negotiations this fall since many have signed pledges not to raise taxes. A recent vote in the Senate put many on the record – and subject to voter scrutiny come election day -- about where they stand on the tax cuts.
The federal government racked up an almost $780 billion deficit in the first six months of the 2012 fiscal year, according to data from the Congressional Budget Office. The ongoing deficit -- the annual gap between what the government spends and what it takes in -- makes it impossible for the government to balance its checkbook without borrowing from other countries to pay the bills. The national debt -- the accumulated total of deficits year after year, plus interest – played a role in the downgrade in the United States' credit rating last year, after Congress struggled to extend the debt ceiling, or authority to borrow more money to pay off old debts. Accumulated deficits make up the national debt, which is currently north of $15 trillion.
Last year, the federal government closed out its fiscal year in October with an estimated annual deficit of $1.3 trillion. That was the third straight year that the deficit exceeded $1 trillion. The deficit is expected to exceed that mark again this year, for the fourth year in a row, due to a combination of declines in tax revenue due to the economy, ongoing reduction in revenue because of the Bush tax cuts and continued levels of government spending. And while the government’s deficit this year is high, it's actually $53 billion less than the same period last year, when the deficit totaled $829 billion. Republicans believe that the federal government should cut spending to reduce the deficit instead of raising taxes. Democrats believe that spending cuts will only go so far and raising taxes or changing the rules on how taxes are paid are also necessary steps to help close the gap.
Economic recovery continues to be an important issue to voters – and jobs and unemployment are at the core of recovery. Job growth has slowed over the past months, leaving the unemployment rate stagnant at 8.2%. And in some communities, the unemployment rate is worse – for instance, the African American unemployment rate hovers above 14.4%, and unemployment for Hispanics is about 11%.
However, since President Obama took office, the economy has shifted from shedding jobs to adding jobs, posting 21 consecutive months of positive job growth. However, with continued cuts in local, state and federal spending, much of those cuts have been government jobs.
Gov. Romney says his private sector experience gives him the qualifications to create jobs, which he believes will come with less government interference with the private sector. Obama believes that the government plays an important role in job creation, including using stimulus spending to create more government and private sector jobs.
The Supreme Court’s ruling in June that the individual mandate in President Obama’s health care reform law could not be upheld under the Constitution’s Commerce Clause, but could be upheld as a tax has Democrats and Republicans once again at odds. Republicans are pushing for a repeal of much of the reform signed into law in Spring 2010. Democrats are telling Republicans to move on, that the Supreme Court has spoken. But with a majority of Americans who oppose the individual mandate and a slim majority that oppose ‘Obamacare’ altogether, Republicans aren’t backing down. And headed into the election, the debate remains – is health care reform a tax or a penalty? The way that both sides frame that issue could prove pivotal to both campaigns.
Two important decisions on immigration over the summer raised the stakes on immigration headed into November’s election. The first came when President Obama issued a directive to the Department of Homeland Security creating a path to citizenship for many of the youth who would have been covered had Congress passed the DREAM Act. The president’s political maneuver was derided by House Republicans, but was also an answer to his critics from the left who claimed the president has not done enough in his term to push through immigration reform. The second decision came when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the majority of Arizona’s controversial immigration law. The Court said states did not have the power to enforce federal laws in local jurisdictions, pushing back at Republican and conservative lawmakers’ attempts to take matters into their own hands after complaining the federal government was not doing enough to secure the borders. However, it is unlikely that Congress will be able to take action on immigration reform until after the election.
Internationally, President Obama has had a full plate for much of his term: completing an occupation in Iraq; working toward a troop withdrawal in Afghanistan; adapting U.S. foreign policy to changing dynamics in North Africa and the Middle East where the Arab Spring has led to violent uprisings in Libya and Syria; coaxing along a stalled peace plan while Israelis and Palestinians remain fierce adversaries and Iran remains a nuclear threat in the region; addressing a tense relationship with China with which the United States has deeply interwoven economic ties and working through a largely peaceful shift in dictators in North Korea from Kim Jong-il to his son Kim Jong-un. Republicans have accused Obama of “leading from behind” in much of the Middle East, and more recently for handling Syria poorly. Obama did have a major success, however, with the death of Osama bin Laden, the face of al Qaeda. The handling of a 2014 scheduled troop withdrawal from Afghanistan and the United States’ relationship with China will be at the forefront of foreign policy campaign issues.
As academic performance continues to stagnate in the U.S., the Obama administration has been critical of the Bush-era “No Child Left Behind” law, which requires that all students meet reading and math adequacy marks by 2014. With student loans overtaking credit cards as the largest amount of debt Americans owe, and even though Congress recently extended the subsidy for lower student loan rates, the cost of higher education will continue to be an important campaign issue.
Abortion proved a contentious issue -- particularly among social conservatives -- during the legislative fight over the Democratic health care reform bill in 2009, with last-minute demands to include language further restricting federal funding for abortion providers. A Health and Human Services decision in January that forced Catholic universities and charities to provide contraception through health care reform brought heated opposition from the church, which claimed it violated the constitutional separation between church and state. Calls continue from the right to cut off funding to Planned Parenthood, an organization that among other women’s health and gynecological services, performs abortions. Recently, Mississippi issued a law that would effectively shut down the state’s only abortion clinic. While social conservatives stand behind these decisions, progressives branded them a part of the “war on women.”
Though it was once a reliable "wedge" issue for Republicans, public opinion about same-sex marriage is increasingly moving toward more tolerance, making it difficult to predict how the issue will play out in 2012. In January 2011, President Obama repealed the military’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that silenced members of the military on their sexual orientation. And more recently, Obama reversed his stance on gay marriage in May which he now supports calling it an “evolution” of his beliefs. Social conservatives remain concerned about the issue and have gained some traction with North Carolina adopting an amendment to the state constitution outlawing gay marriage.
Democrats view preservation of entitlements – including Social Security and Medicare -- as a key issue with their base. Republicans, conservatives and the tea party movement see these programs – large chunks of the federal budget -- as potential places to make cuts.
The July shootings at the movie theater in Colorado, the January, 2011 shooting of Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and the botched Fast and Furious ‘gun walking’ operation have put gun control back in the national conversation. Democrats tend to favor more gun control measures, while conservatives, led by the National Rifle Association, oppose additional restrictions. However, both candidates have been relatively low-key on issues surrounding guns and gun control.
When they had control of both chambers in Congress, Democrats failed to pass the “cap-and-trade” bill to limit carbon emissions. Many Republicans, meanwhile, are far more skeptical about the science of global warming and fear the economic impact of aggressive energy policies. In the meantime, concern over rising prices of energy in the face of an uncertain economy, has the issue at the forefront of voters’ minds.
On Obama's watch, terrorist Osama bin Laden was hunted down and killed, and the administration has stepped up its drone campaign over Pakistan. The economy has taken center stage, with neither candidate focusing much on foreign policy.
Whether it is about taxes, spending, the bailouts, the debt ceiling or entitlements, a fundamental source of disagreement between Republicans and Democrats is whether the federal government should be a support system for the country or play an extremely limited role in business, social and day-to-day life. The tea party wing of the Republican party has used reducing the size of government as a rallying cry while progressive Democrats decry it as an elimination of the traditional safety net responsibilities of the federal government.
Where OBAMA stands
Perhaps the issue that will make or break his re-election campaign is the economy and his handling of what many call the Great Recession. Hammered by Republicans who say that he is steering the country in the wrong direction and that his policies haven't worked, Obama made a series of reforms to crack down on Wall Street practices and instituted programs to help small-business owners and consumers. His stimulus plan, which temporarily helped boost the economy, has failed to significantly drop the record-high unemployment rate of 9.1%. Obama, who came into office facing the fiscal crisis, says economic recovery will need years to fully kick in. That's why, his campaign says, he needs to be re-elected.
President Obama has said repeatedly he does not want to raise taxes on the middle class, but would raise taxes on the wealthy. The Buffet Rule, named for billionaire Warren Buffet that says millionaires and billionaires shouldn’t pay a lower tax rate than middle income earners, encapsulates much of Obama’s approach to taxes.Most millionaires today already pay a higher percentage of their income in federal taxes than the vast majority of all Americans. But roughly 25% of them end up with a lower effective tax rate than 10% of middle-income households, according to the Congressional Research Service.Recently, Obama announced he would seek to extend the Bush-era tax cuts for those earning less than $200,000 individually and $250,000 if married. Obama’s plan drew criticism from his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney who said that the plan would hurt small business owners – many of whom fall within the $250,000 and above range. Obama has yet to address what he would do on the payroll tax extension he signed into law in February 2012, come the end of the year when it expires. When the tax break expires, it will be tantamount to a tax increase. Obama came under fire from Democrats for extending the payroll tax cuts.Obama also unveiled a plan in February 2012 to reform the corporate tax code. The main reform would slash the corporate tax rate to 28% from 35% and pay for the reduction by eliminating "dozens" of business tax breaks. There are currently more than 130 such tax breaks on the books.However, while running for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2007, Obama wrote in an Op-Ed in the Quad City Times that not only should the payroll tax extension exist, but that “we could eliminate the entire Social Security shortfall,” if the tax was increased to 12.4% for all citizens making more than $97,000. In extending the tax cuts in February, Obama did the opposite of what he said could help fix Social Security.
In unveiling his budget for 2013, President Obama's plan would create $6.4 trillion annual deficits between 2013 and 2022, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Under the so-called alternative fiscal scenario, where Congress simply extends a number of favored policies, cumulative deficits would reach nearly $11 trillion.By rolling back the Bush-era tax cuts for those making over $200,000 individually and $250,000 as a couple, the President hopes to make up some of the revenue currently being lost by the government. The CBO analysis shows that the president's budget would end up stabilizing the debt -- meaning the country's deficits stop growing faster than the economy. The annual deficit in his proposal would fall to 2.5% of GDP by 2017 -- well below the 8.1% projected for this year. But they would climb back to 3% by 2022. And barring any more significant debt-reduction plans, deficits thereafter would continue on a northward trek.The President says his administration has worked hard to reduce wasteful spending, including using the “Campaign to Cut Waste” to hunt down and eliminate wasteful spending across every agency in the federal government. But independent deficit watchdogs say the President should put into place a debt-reduction plan to lower the public debt by the end of the decade. One reason why Obama's budget fails to do so is because it doesn't adequately address entitlement costs, such as Medicare.
President Obama told NBC’s Matt Lauer in 2009 that if he hadn’t fixed the economy in three years, “then there's gonna be a one-term proposition.” The jobs numbers are a large part of the equation, with recent jobs numbers showing lukewarm hiring and an unemployment rate stuck around 8.2%.That stagnant hiring rate has drawn a rash of criticism for the president from his opponents who say the president’s policies are hurting growth. But in the face of 8.2% unemployment, President Obama continued to push jobs policies in his 2012 State of the Union Address, including initiatives to improve manufacturing jobs within the United States and push exports outside the United States via free trade agreements, addressing the tax code to keep jobs in the United States and support for education and training.However, with Congress in a stalemate, many jobs initiatives from both parties have been left on the cutting room floor. Most recently was Obama’s “Bring Jobs Back Home Act” that provided a 20% tax break for the costs of moving jobs back to the United States and would rescind business expense deductions available to companies that are associated with the cost of moving operations overseas.
When the history books are written, health care reform will be at the top of the list of Obama’s accomplishments.Despite facing heavy opposition by congressional Republicans, Democrats were able to pass the Affordable Health Care Act in March 2010 – a sweeping set of reforms aimed to help more Americans get insured.Perhaps Obama’s biggest victory and biggest future challenge in the election came when the Supreme Court ruled that the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate was constitutional, not as a penalty, but a tax.
President Obama has been widely criticized by both the right and the left for not addressing immigration reform when Democrats controlled both the House and Senate during his first two years.In mid-June, just before the U.S. Supreme Court decision on the Arizona’s controversial immigration law, President Obama announced a Department of Homeland Security directive halting deportation for young undocumented immigrants under the age of 30, who obtained a high school diploma or equivalent and/or served in the military. Obama said it allowed the government to “focus our resources wisely while giving a degree of relief and hope to talented, driven, patriotic young people.”The directive drew heavy fire from the right with Republican congressional members claiming Obama was trying to circumvent the democratic process that had already rejected the DREAM act, legislation that would have guaranteed similar rights as the DHS directive. The current Congress has not revisited the DREAM act, even though Obama has asked them to consider the legislation.
Obama's foreign policy has been defined as pursuing negotiation and working with other nations instead of taking unilateral American action.Since taking office, the commander-in-chief has wound down two wars: withdrawing U.S. combat forces from Iraq, America's longest war, and setting a 2014 timeline to pull most troops out of Afghanistan.One of Obama's crowning decisions, to capture and kill Osama bin Laden is seen as one of his administration’s foreign policy victories, though critics from the right say his administration should not have shared details of the bin Laden raid with the public.Obama has favored coalitions, sanctions, drone strikes and special operations over full-scale invasions to execute American foreign policy initiatives. But the Osama bin Laden raid, which broke sovereign Pakistan borders, and drone strikes that have killed Pakistani civilians have strained relations with one of the United States' most fickle allies.And recently, Obama's policy toward liberation movements in Egypt, Syria and Libya has been to work with a coalition of nations to pressure dictators to step down. But with atrocities increasing in Syria, additional criticisms continue to come from the right, which attacks the president’s seemingly hands-off approach to foreign policy.Obama has also been criticized for not seeming to support Israel enough in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But the President fired back at Republicans recently over the issue of sequestration – a deal brokered last year that forced both parties to address needed spending cuts come this year – saying that Republicans favored taxes for millionaires over properly funding the military.
Over the past four years, the Obama administration has worked to craft a signature education reform policy that builds on provisions in the No Child Left Behind law while scuttling requirements that some states have deemed too cumbersome. Early on, many states were given waivers to allow more flexibility in meeting some of the standards of the law that requires that every child be proficient in reading and math by 2014.The signature of the president’s efforts is the competitive “Race to the Top” program, which has awarded states more than $4.35 billion in competitive grants in exchange for crafting “innovative plans to improve teacher quality and student achievement.” “Race to the Top should be the approach we follow this year as we replace No Child Left Behind with a law that is more flexible and focused on what's best for our kids,” Obama said during the 2011 State of the Union address.
President Obama supports Roe v. Wade and has consistently voted in favor of pro-choice initiatives, including opposing a Supreme Court ruling that supported a partial birth abortion ban and a repeal of a Bush prohibition on international funding to groups that supported abortions.Obama drew criticism regarding women's reproductive rights several times during the last four years. The first came from women’s reproductive rights groups when Obama signed an order banning the use of federal funds to pay for abortions except in cases of rape, incest and if the woman's life was in danger. The compromise was needed to gain the votes to pass the health care reform bill in 2010.The second round of criticism for the Obama administration came when the Department of Health and Human Services issued a rule interpreting the health care reform law as requiring religious employers to offer birth control under their health plans to employees. The Obama administration bowed to pressure from Catholic outrage on the rule, offering a compromise that shifted the burden for providing contraception to the insurance companies. But regardless of these two compromises, Obama has remained a staunch supporter of women's reproductive rights and a woman's right to choose.
Reversing an earlier stance, President Obama is now in favor of same-sex marriage. In May, he explained his change in thought during an ABC interview. “At a certain point, I've just concluded that for me personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.”
President Obama has remained constant on his pledge not to privatize Social Security, saying, "That agenda is wrong for seniors, it's wrong for America, and I won’t let it happen," in an April 2010 weekly address.Despite calling for a bipartisan solution to Social Security reform, the president has yet to address Social Security reform during his presidency. Recently, he came under fire in February 2012 for extending the payroll tax cuts. The cuts, up again for a vote as a part of the "fiscal cliff" negotiations at the end of the year, amount to approximately $83 more for a person making $50,000 and $183.50 for a person making $110,100 a year. The money, which ends up back in the pockets of Americans was designed to add to the Social Security pot. Critics said they were worried Americans would become "addicted" to the tax break. The deal, The Hill reported, deprives Social Security of approximately $100 billion by the end of the 2012.
Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, famously told the American public in an address to the Conservative Political Action Conference in February 2012 that President Obama wants to destroy the Second Amendment.In 2009, Obama signed into law a bill that allowed guns in National Parks. As CNN reported following the Colorado Shootings, save an opinion piece where the President called for "focus" on "effective steps that will actually keep those irresponsible, law-breaking few from getting their hands on a gun in the first place," Obama has stressed the importance of the Second Amendment going back to his 2008 campaign when he said, "If you've got a riffle, you got a shotgun, you've got a gun in your house, I'm not taking it away," and pushed for "common-sense gun safety measures." Still his stance on gun control remains vague. As a result, the President has been criticized by gun control advocates for not doing enough on gun control.
During his term, President Obama has been confronted with several environmental challenges including the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. He also had a few self-inflicted political problems, including his support of stimulus funding for the ill-fated Solyndra solar energy company.The president faced rising energy costs in a down economy alongside a loud call to address global warming. In response, Obama has focused on an “all of the above” energy policy, including promising to create 5 million green jobs during his 2008 campaign. In May 2012, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 3.1 million green jobs, after the federal government spent millions on the effort - $16 billion in the 2011 and $60 billion in the 2009 stimulus.The president has also had to contend with powerful forces behind the three main forms of energy in the United States – oil, natural gas and coal. The oil lobby has pushed back at calls to reform offshore drilling, and is fighting Obama’s blocking of the Keystone pipeline. The president, however, is offering offshore leases for sale this fall for the first time this year. Natural gas, which has become one of the cheapest forms of energy in recent years, is grappling with negative publicity against its fracking extraction method – which opponents say pollutes ground water and has other negative impact on the environment. The president introduced new federal regulations on fracking on public land in May. And the coal industry is resisting increased federal regulation following several deadly mine collapses, saying Obama is waging a war on coal by wanting to eliminate lucrative federal subsides.
Capturing and killing Osama bin Laden has been noted as one of President Obama’s biggest achievements during his administration.In continuing the “War on Terror,” from former President George W. Bush’s term, Obama has made some important shifts, including withdrawing troops from Iraq and setting a timeline for withdrawal in Afghanistan.During his first term, the president has ramped up unmanned drone strikes in an effort to kill high-level terrorists and also has increased special operations. But the drone strikes, while effective in killing terrorists, have come at a cost -- both in civilian casualties and in the United States' fragile relationship with Pakistan.
President Obama, like many in the Democratic party, believes that the federal government has an important role to play in shaping the lives of the people, building infrastructure, regulating and helping to grow business.During his first term as president, he backed a number of measures that increased the role of government including the health care reform bill sometimes called "Obamacare."President Obama also pushed forward a federal stimulus plan, an over $800 billion injection into the U.S. economy in 2009 that was aimed at helping the U.S. economy recover from the 2008 bank failures.His critics from the right, many of whom believe in small government and less federal government interaction, said that the Stimulus Plan was an example of government overreach and was going to make the country’s financial situation worse by pushing the country further into debt.President Obama also supported a 2009 bailout of the auto industry, despite critics who believed that the government should stay out of free enterprise and let the cards fall where they may.Obama was criticized for comments in the summer where he said in Roanoke, Virginia in July: "If you are successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you've got a business, you didn't build that."
Where ROMNEY stands
On the campaign trail, Romney frequently touts his mix of experience in the public and private sectors. Romney has also expressed support for the "cut, cap and balance" approach to curbing federal deficit spending that has been championed by tea party activists and some conservative lawmakers in Congress.
Mitt Romney wants to cut taxes, announcing a move that would reduce the current top rate paid on income from 35% to 28%, with similar reductions across all tax brackets. Americans in the lowest bracket would pay 8% instead of 10%. Individuals closer to the middle would pay 20% instead of 25%. In addition to the changes to the marginal income tax rates, Romney also said he plans to eliminate the Alternative Minimum Tax.
Two of the more expensive provisions under his tax plan would reduce revenue by more than $3.4 trillion over a decade. Meanwhile, the campaign, and the candidate, insist that the plan is "budget neutral."
The campaign says the tax cuts will spur economic growth, and that will fill in some of the revenue gap. And it says Romney is prepared to limit deductions, exemptions and credits in order to finish the job. Romney’s campaign website outlines a plan that includes repealing the Affordable Care law and reducing the federal government workforce to reduce spending. But, Romney hasn't said how fast he expects the economy to grow under his plan. And he hasn't laid out which tax breaks he is willing to curtail -- crucial details if his deficit neutral claim is to be believed.
Gov. Romney calls America’s fiscal health a “moral imperative” on his campaign website since every dollar that is paid to the deficit must be borrowed.
The Romney plan to reduce spending includes a three-pronged approach including not doing things “the American people can’t afford,” – repealing health care reform, privatizing Amtrak, cutting funding to Planned Parenthood, cutting funding for the National Endowment for the Arts and The Corporation for Public Broadcasting and cutting foreign aid. By cutting Obamacare, the campaign estimates that the federal government will save $95 billion. The additional four programs total $2.6 billion.
The second prong of Romney’s plan is to empower the states to innovate, saving “more than 100 billion.” Romney’s plan also calls for improving efficiency and effectiveness in part by reducing the federal work force and reducing waste and fraud at the federal level saving $112 billion.
But Romney’s budget plan also adds $3.4 trillion over the next ten years. Romney came under fire earlier this year for putting out a budget plan he said cannot be scored. The reason? He said those things have to be worked out in Congress.
Romney’s plan to create jobs includes a heavy investment in “Human Capital,” a plan to cut the corporate tax rate from 35% to 25%, repealing health care reform and continuing the Bush-era tax cuts.
His plan also includes initiatives to retain workers and develop a competitive American workforce by raising visa caps for highly skilled workers. Former Gov. Romney has come under fire for allegedly still working as CEO of Bain Capital during a period when jobs were being shipped overseas, though his campaign has said he left Bain in February, 2009 and was in charge of Bain for the rest of that year only on paper, for SEC reporting purposes.
Romney, similarly has criticized the president for not making good on his promise to turn the economy around. In an effort to draw a contrast with Obama, Romney says that the entrepreneurial spirit helped build American prosperity, seizing on Obama remarks that said business owners had help from the government in building their companies.
Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney says if elected, he will work to repeal the Affordable Care law, which he also calls “Obamacare.” But, as Massachusetts governor, Romney signed a health care bill into law that penalized Massachusetts citizens for not having health insurance –similar to the federal provision but applied at the state level. At the time, Romney said the purpose of “Romneycare” was to provide, “Every citizen with affordable, comprehensive health insurance…and, finally -- beginning to reign in health care inflation.”
Romney says that the president’s health care plan is an example of Washington overstepping its boundaries because it places a mandate on 100% of Americans. Instead, because his Massachusetts plan was limited to the states, it is better tailored to the people of Massachusetts.
Following the Supreme Court ruling on health care this year, Romney renewed his pledge to overturn Obama’s health care plan, calling it the biggest tax increase in U.S. history – a point that Factcheck.org, an independent website dismisses.
Governor Romney, in creating a contrast between himself and President Obama on immigration reform, said that he would do more than Obama did in his first term to create a long-term solution to immigration reform. Obama’s solution, Romney said, was "politically motivated", coming, “four and a half months before the general election."
Romney’s own solution includes securing the borders -- in part, by building a border fence -- as well as creating a pathway to citizenship for those who have served in the U.S. military or for children who came here “through no fault of their own.”
Facing opinion polls that show more public support for Obama on foreign policy, Romney has constantly criticized what he calls the president's failure to lead on international issues such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Iran's nuclear ambitions and Syria.
Romney attacked the president for policies that he said weakened the nation and its international standing, along with pledges to fulfill the conservative view of the United States as a force for good that uses all its power, including military, to exert influence in the world.
In a defining address on foreign policy, Romney told the Veterans of Foreign Wars in July 2012 that he wanted to bring about an “American Century,” in which the United States, “lead[s] the free world and the free world leads the entire world.”
On closer view, though, some details of Romney's foreign policy appear similar to Obama’s: advocating sanctions, coalition-building and other diplomatic moves. On Syria, Romney has called for working with allies to arm the rebels, but stopped short of advocating U.S. military involvement, which is similar to the administration's stance so far. The main difference is in visibility. Romney says the United States should have been a leading voice from the start in calling for al Assad's ouster and support for the rebels, while the administration adopted a more neutral stance seeking a diplomatic resolution that has failed to materialize.
In the Middle East, Romney advocates a lock-step approach with Israel instead of the administration's attempt to assume more of a mediator's role. Romney's stance on the Afghanistan war shows the nuance he uses to try to keep conservatives and moderates happy. While criticizing Obama for announcing plans to bring home some troops before the November election, he supports the timetable agreed to by NATO of withdrawing combat forces by the end of 2014.
Mitt Romney recently unveiled his education plan -- “A Chance for Every Child” -- which emphasized school choice, accountability and ensuring that qualified teachers are in every class. “As President, I will give the parents of every low-income and special needs student the chance to choose where their child goes to school,” Romney told a gathering at the Latino Coalition’s Annual Economic Summit in Washington, D.C. in May.
Romney was strongly criticized for comments he made that same month at an education roundtable at a charter school in Philadelphia. He said that in Cambridge, Massachusetts, “the schools in the district with the smallest classroom sizes had students performing in the bottom 10%...Just getting smaller classrooms didn't seem to be the key." In a speech in the battleground state of Ohio, Romney also made clear that educational equity would be balanced with fiscal restraint.
A spokesperson for Romney has described him as "firmly pro-life." But, when he ran for Massachusetts governor, Romney maintained he was personally opposed to abortion but would be a pro-choice governor. But Romney changed that stance in 2004 when he had to decide if he should sign a law that allowed stem cell research. Romney says he didn’t sign the law because he thought it allowed scientists to create life and then kill it 14 days later. At that point Romney allowed Massachusetts to become a “pro-life state.”
Additionally, Romney has said repeatedly that he would support an overturn of Roe v. Wade, and believes that abortion should be decided at the state level. But in June 2011, the former Massachusetts governor refused to sign a tough anti-abortion pledge put out by the Susan B. Anthony List, a conservative organization that opposes abortion. The document has "some potentially unforeseen consequences and he does not feel he could in good conscience sign it," Romney representative Gail Gitcho told CNN.
On the issue of contraception provided by religious organizations, Romney said in a February 2012 CNN debate that the Massachusetts health care law, “Romneycare” did not require churches to provide contraception. Romney said in the same debate that the Obama administration’s HHS rule was an attack on religious conscience and religious freedom.
Mitt Romney believes that marriage is a union between a man and a woman. While governor of Massachusetts, Romney presided over a complicated battle to legalize gay marriage in the state. Romney repeatedly said that marriage was between a man and a woman throughout the debate, and added that it was up to the voters to decide, not the courts -- which ruled in favor of same-sex marriage in the state.
Romney also supported an amendment to the Massachusetts constitution that defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman. In response to a 2007 court decision that struck down a law banning gay marriage in Iowa, Romney released a statement in favor of a federal amendment to the Constitution banning gay marriage. "This once again highlights the need for a Federal Marriage Amendment to protect the traditional definition of marriage as between one man and one woman," Romney said in a statement.
Romney, however, does support domestic partnership. “My view is the domestic partnership benefits, hospital visitation rights, and the like are appropriate but that the others are not,” Romney said at a press conference in 2012.
Mitt Romney has proposed a variety of measures that in his view will shore up Social Security without either increasing taxes or reducing the federal government's involvement.
He has said in the past that he disagrees with plans that move power over Social Security to the states. The components of Romney's plan include the raising of the retirement age, the creation of personal retirement investment accounts for younger workers, and the indexing of benefits to prices rather than wages, as is currently done. For the people who are retired, 55 and over, Romney said in a Fox News Debate in January 2012, nothing will change. Instead, for the next generation, “I’d lower the rate of inflation growth in the benefits received by higher-income recipients and keep the rate as it is now pretty high for lower income recipients. And I’d also add a year or two to the retirement age under Social Security. That balances Social Security.”
Romney seemed to indicate he would not support a Social Security tax cap increase, that Obama floated in 2007, when Romney told a member of the crowd that success should be celebrated instead of punished.
In 2004, then Massachusetts Governor Romney signed a state bill into law that banned assault weapons, closing a gap left when the 1994 federal assault weapons ban expired. It was the first law of its kind in the United States. Romney characterized it as a compromise between gun control advocates and gun rights advocates, where gun rights advocates lost their battle on assault weapons, but won their battle that allowed the “expansion of other gun control rules.”
But in 2005, Romney also declared May 7th “Right to Bear Arms Day” in Massachusetts, seemingly confusing his initial stance. His rocky relationship with the National Rifle Association and his distant personal relationship with guns have both confused the former governor’s stance on gun control. Romney famously said in 2007 that he received an endorsement from the NRA when he ran for governor. In fact, the NRA didn’t endorse in his 2002 run for Massachusetts governor. The NRA did, however give Romney a “B” on gun control, while giving his Democratic opponent an “A.”
Defending what a Boston Globe article said was Romney’s retreat on gun control, he went on to say in that interview that he believed in background checks, and keeping “weapons of unusual lethality from being on the street.” He, however supported “the right of law-abiding citizens to own guns either for their own personal protection or hunting or any other lawful purpose.”
Additionally, Romney also said that if a federal assault weapons ban came across his desk, he would sign it – the same as President Bush said at the time. Bush never had to address that claim since the assault weapons ban never made it through Congress. A year before giving the “Meet the Press” Interview, Romney joined the NRA for the first time. Following the Colorado shooting at a movie theatre that killed 12 people.
“Drill, baby, Drill,” became the chant from the right during the 2008 campaign, signaling some Republicans' desire to increase drilling in otherwise limited areas such as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and offshore to increase domestic supply and relieve rising oil costs. Mitt Romney’s energy plan supports additional drilling . Romney is also seeking to deregulate many of the energy industries, relying on “conservative values” of less government intervention in businesses.
Romney also has proposed a comprehensive survey of America’s energy reserves and opening them for development. And one of Romney’s “day one” initiatives would include approving the Keystone Pipeline. He also wants the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to speed up systems of regulation, signaling an approach to energy independence that would include more nuclear power plants. Romney’s plan also includes special attention to research and development, using in part, the federal government’s Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy, or ARPA-E.
Mitt Romney has said that he is committed to stopping radical Islamists who seek to harm Americans. But his argument for the war on terror centers largely around the role of Israel in the Middle East and a belief that Iran is a serious threat to the United States. Romney doesn’t believe the many sanctions or diplomacy that Obama has used toward the country have been effective. However, it is unclear what options Romney would use apart from diplomacy or sanctions to address his concerns with Iran.
Romney also said that the President has damaged the U.S. relationship with Israel, which he sees as an important American ally in the Middle East. At the Republican Jewish Coalition in December, Romney attacked the president for criticizing Israel, not saying enough about the thousands of rockets fired into the country by Hamas and his support for Israel to adopt "indefensible borders." Romney traveled to Israel over the summer, but was criticized by the Palestinians for what they thought were insensitive remarks.
Romney also hit the president’s plans to withdraw troops from Afghanistan in 2014, saying that he would use a timetable for withdrawal, “based on conditions on the ground as assessed by our military commanders.”
Republicans have traditionally believed in smaller government, lower taxes and encouraging a free market economy. Mitt Romney is no exception. Romney has advocated for less federal government in many respects, save Social Security, which he believes should remain at the federal level. Romney has advocated for lower taxes for just about every income level of Americans, including wealthier earners who make in excess of $250,000 a year.
While he believes that marriage is a union between a man and a woman, when asked as Massachusetts governor, Romney said that the people and not the courts should decide the definition of marriage. The former Massachusetts governor also said that it would be a good day when Roe v. Wade was overturned, leaving the issue to the states.
He has advocated for a smaller federal work force, in an effort to reduce federal spending. And a successful businessman and founder of Bain Capital, Romney has advocated for lower corporate tax rates and less regulation, including repealing health care reform. He thinks that should also remain a choice at the state-level, as was the case under his own health care plan in Massachusetts.
Over the summer, Romney took advantage of comments the president made about the role of government in business to distinguish himself from Obama. In Roanoke, Virginia in July, Obama told a crowd, “If you are successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you've got a business, you didn't build that.” Romney later attacked Obama’s use of the phrase “you didn’t build that” in campaign ads and rallies.