March 22, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 34°F


Election central: taking a look at the most contested issues in the 2012 election


With the cost of attending college increasing each year and the number of student loan defaults constantly rising, candidates President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are addressing the privatization of the financial aid system.

Eric Maguire, vice president of enrollment and communication at Ithaca College, said that last year 41 percent of graduating seniors at the college had federal loans and had an average debt of $21,739. Another 26 percent had private loans and an average debt of $38,592.

This election will focus on the role of private companies in the student loan market. Maguire said private and federal loans have different terms but have been able to compete recently.

“You’re seeing the private loans be a little bit more competitive now because interest rates of those loans have dropped,” Maguire said. “Relative to the federal loans, they’ve become a little more attractive in terms of interest rates.”

Where they stand:

Obama supports increased investments in Federal Pell Grants, low interest rates on federal student loans and expanding education tax credits.

Romney supports increased private sector involvement in the student loan market, decreased federal involvement in higher education and a strengthened financial aid system.

Foreign Policy

The recent violence in the Middle East, including Syria’s attack on Turkey on Oct. 3 and the terrorist attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya, has made foreign policy a more prevalent issue in the election.

Robert Nolan, producer and editor at the Foreign Policy Association, said the campaigns have recently begun to focus on foreign policy in the Middle East.

“We’re looking at hot spots like Egypt, Libya, Iran and Israel,” Nolan said. “Those are the areas where the foreign policy debate will focus on.”

Under the Obama administration all U.S. troops were withdrawn from Iraq. Obama plans to withdraw troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014. Romney is questioning whether leaving Iraq was the right decision and plans to work with the Afghan government before withdrawing troops.

China has also been getting attention in the race. Nolan said the candidates will need to focus on how to deal with China as a world power. This will include dealing with China’s economic and political influence.

The candidates also have varying opinions on how to deal with immigration. Both candidates agree the borders need to be secured, and the immigration system needs to be reformed, but their methods of doing so differ.

Where they stand:

Obama supports the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons and an immigration system that gives equal opportunity to all immigrants.

Romney has said he would work with the Afghan government to decide on an appropriate time to withdraw troops. He also supports tough sanctions on Iran and an immigration system that favors highly skilled immigrants.

Health Care

The Affordable Care Act, passed in March 2010 and upheld by the Supreme Court in July 2012,  is another contested issue. The health care bill is one of the main components of President Barack Obama’s campaign, but Republican candidate Mitt Romney has promised to repeal the bill in his first act as president.

The Affordable Care Act focuses on lowering the cost of insurance and providing more preventive care. It does this by issuing new rules for private insurance, providing tax credits to businesses to make employee health care more affordable and strengthening Medicare. If the act is repealed, private insurance companies will have more power in deciding how much coverage to provide and the price of their premiums.

While the bill has an effect on many areas of insurance, its provision concerning limited benefits has directly impacted students in college. The Affordable Care Act has done away with limited benefit plans, but it is allowing student insurance plans to work their way up to unlimited benefit over the next three years. According to Laura Keefe, manager of health center operations, this year the college’s insurance plan increased its maximum benefit from $10,000 to $100,000. Next year the maximum benefit will be $500,000, and the following year it will be unlimited.

Keefe said this increased maximum benefit means the college’s student insurance plan now includes coverage of preventive care including immunizations and yearly physicals. It also means premiums for student insurance have increased and will continue to increase. As coverage increases, Keefe said, the cost of insurance must also increase.

“Our premium was $575 last year; this year it’s $1,110,” Keefe said. “Expand coverage, the premium goes up.”

Where they stand: 

Obama supports the continuation and growth of the Affordable Care Act.

Romney supports the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, decreased spending on Medicaid and decreased regulation for insurance companies.

Women’s Health

Women’s reproductive health is also playing an important role in this election. Abortion rights and access to affordable contraception are both issues that are up for debate.

There are currently bills in Congress regarding the personhood of an unborn child that would affect a woman’s right to abortion. Many religious and anti-abortion groups support these bills because they consider abortion to be murder.

Women’s rights groups are against these bills. Sybil Shainwald, president of the national women’s health alliance, said the right to abortion and contraception are in danger in this election.

“There’s a clear and present danger to women in this election,” Shainwald said. “Rights that [women] have had for decades are being challenged now.”

Romney has said if elected he will eliminate Title X Family Planning Funding, which provides subsidies for groups like Planned Parenthood.

Maureen Kelly, vice president for programming and communications at Planned Parenthood of the Southern Finger Lakes, said Planned Parenthood’s ability to provide for women is at risk in the election if Title X funding is taken.

“It’s going to be harder for us, potentially, to provide people with the information and resources they require,” Kelly said. “That means that people may go without having access to preventive reproductive health care.”

Where they stand: 

Obama supports the right to abortion and access to affordable contraception.

Romney supports the reversal of Roe v. Wade and ending government support for the purchase of birth control.


Campaign update

Rachael Hartford, politics columnist for The Ithacan, gives her take on the latest developments of the presidential election.

Presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Barack Obama hit the campaign trail immediately following last week’s historic debate. They both made stops in battleground states Ohio and Virginia, two of the nine or 10 that are still considered to be competitive. With less than four weeks left before the election, candidates are down to the wire and working to court the small population of undecided voters in those states that will ultimately determine who becomes president.

Obama will need to be particularly aggressive in battleground states after his lackluster debate performance last week. Many Americans, as well as the media, have declared Romney the winner of the debate. The widely received notion that he did better than Obama helped Romney turn things around in an unprecedented way. Romney is closing the gap that Obama created following his Democratic National Convention success and the series of Romney faux pas — like the 47 percent secret video leak in which he claimed 47 percent of Americans are dependent on the government because they “believe that they are victims” and “pay no income tax” — that hindered his campaign.

Over the next few weeks, Romney and Obama will go at it in some of the most contentious battleground states for both presidential and congressional elections. There are some clear strategy choices on behalf of both parties, namely Obama’s choice to not chase after the Republican-tilting battleground states of Georgia and Arizona and, much to the chagrin of his party, and Romney’s decision to pay less attention to Democrat-leaning battlegrounds in Pennsylvania and Michigan. In addition to the mission-critical Virginia and Ohio stops, voters can expect to see more of both of them in states like North Carolina, Colorado and Florida.

In the three days prior to the debate, Obama held a nearly five-point edge over Romney among registered voters. But in a recent Gallup poll, it appears Romney has narrowed the gap to an even tie among registered voters.

However, likely voters are another story. Among voters that are not just registered but likely to turn out to the polls and cast their vote, Romney has the edge over Obama, 49 percent to 47 percent.

This switch could prove to be significant come Election Day on Nov. 6 and just goes to show that debates and performance can have a significant impact on voters. We will just have to see how many of these “likely voters” are the ones in the battleground states that will ultimately decide the election.

Election central