Tuesday, September 18, 2012

US Election 2012: What’s at stake

The Capitol. Source: FreeDigitalPhotos

The choice of a new president for the US is not just one between two candidates, but one between two different visions of the country. Two visions that point at a bleak outlook. The problems—an almost stagnant economy, high unemployment rates, the deplorable state of the education system, troops still in Afghanistan—are obvious and unavoidable. America is in desperate need for real solutions, and
hopefully whoever gets chosen between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama will provide some, if not all of them. Let’s take a look at the current panorama.

Economy and Unemployment
Americans consider this the main trouble burdening the country. The recession ended in 2009, but the economy does not seem to grow yet, three years later. Total national debt is larger than it has ever been since WWII. Unemployment rates, which are already high, are on the verge of rising even more. Obama intends to keep taxes low for everybody except the wealthiest, give tax breaks to businesses, and spend on public works and clean energy. Romney, on the other side, proposes cuts in tax rates for all income levels and cuts in corporate rates, as well as encouraging oil production.

The U.S. education system is in dire need of a transformation. The quality of primary schooling is not quite up to global standards, with less teachers and larger class sizes. On the other hand, higher education costs are leaving students buried deep in debt, that is, if they are able to afford college at all. State budget cuts have affected the quantity (and quality) of teachers, and are ultimately affecting students. The candidates are using this sensitive issue as a means to set philosophical distance from each other. Obama, for example, mentioned on a speech that he and his wife had only been able to pay off their student loans eight years ago, whereas Romney had advised a high school student in Ohio to borrow money from her parents, ignoring the fact that not all parents actually have that money to lend. It’s up to the government to step up and really help the American youth on their path to a professional career.

The increasingly unpopular war in Afghanistan has gone on and on for years, and trillions of dollars have been spent to that end. Now, the deployment of American forces in the Asian country has entered a transition phase where power is being handed over to the Afghans, but this transition seems slow. Nevertheless, if everything goes according to plan, the troops should be going home by the end of 2014. Both candidates agree on the timeline proposed for troop withdrawal, although the question about possible future Al-Qaeda attacks still lingers in the air.

With these important points on the table, it is crucial that people register to vote and do so consciously. The winner of this election, no matter if it is Obama or Romney, must earn his post in a fair electoral process. Voting, as the cornerstone of democracy, is the first step towards a brighter future for a country in crisis. It must not be taken lightly.