Since I'm a teacher, I'll start with a quiz. Answer the following questions "yes" or "no":
1. Health Care: Do you think access to physicians and hospitals should be a right for all Americans, regardless of ability to pay?
2. Environment: Do you think global warming is a serious threat and is due to carbon emissions?
3. Pensions: Do you agree that all employed Americans should contribute to, and have access to Social Security?
4. Jobs: Do you think job opportunities would be reduced if government social and regulatory programs were severely cut?
5. Taxation: Do you think income from stock market transactions (capital gains) should be taxed at the same rate as most other income as opposed to the current lower rate?
6. PBS: Do you think your tax money should be used to support public broadcasting?
7. Immigration: Do you think there should be a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who have lived (and worked, and had children) in this country for more than, say, 10 years?
8. Education: Do you think a college education should be an entitlement (i.e. subsidized) for all those who qualify?
9. China policy: Do you agree with the current free market policy of supporting the growth of China's manufacturing industry, which has the effect of lowering the prices Americans pay for goods but also the effect of increasing American unemployment?
10. Abortion: Do you support the right women currently have to obtain an abortion?
11. Defense: (Both candidates would maintain our military supremacy. There isn't much difference here.)
Six or more "yes" votes suggests you should vote for Obama and for other Democratic candidates. Four or fewer "yes" votes suggests you should vote for the Republican ticket.
Actually, with a fractious Congress, I don't think there's much chance that the policies of either candidate will result in much new legislation. The place where policy is most likely to be decided is in the Supreme Court - as we have already seen on health care, immigration and abortion. Support for President Barack Obama will could translate into Supreme Court appointees likely to further his policies.
Mitt Romney's argument on jobs is that, by cutting government regulation, which means cutting government, business owners will be stimulated to create new jobs. The flaw in this is that nearly all government spending goes to pay salaries of government and government-contracted workers, so that cutting government produces a major loss of jobs. It is difficult to create private-sector jobs. Manufacturing jobs have mostly been outsourced to foreign countries. Many service jobs have been similarly outsourced. (When I called my local telephone company recently, I spoke with someone in Manila.) So Romney's position seems risky to me: giving up many existing jobs on the chance that new jobs will appear.
I'm hardly an expert in tax matters, so I rely on The Economist magazine. In the Oct. 13 issue, an essay subtitled "The new politics of capitalism and inequality," compared income disparities, social mobility and tax structures in different countries. It noted that the U.S. tax structure is one of the least progressive in developed countries, when loopholes such as the low capital gains tax are considered. Here are some of the magazine's conclusions: "By slashing government spending on basic services such as education and advocating yet more tax cuts at the top, (the Republicans) undermine equality of opportunity. The Democrats are little better ... from raising the top income tax-rate to increasing college tuition subsidies, (Obama proposes) just a laundry list of small initiatives. ... Something much bolder (is required)."
If you agree power tends to corrupt, I hope you'll agree that wealth tends to corrupt. The abuses of America's Gilded Age (the late 1800s), and of the 1920s and early 2000s demonstrate the need for regulation to check the abuses of wealth. The more concentrated the wealth, the greater the need for regulation.
On the environment, the Sierra Club has endorsed Obama. Executive Director Michael Brune blogs that Obama is "the strongest supporter of clean, renewable energy ever to occupy the White House," and a supporter of successes in dramatically curbing mercury, soot, acid rain, and carbon emissions, all programs that Romney promises to overturn.
Dick Colby is professor emeritus of cell biology at Richard Stockton College and a past chair of the Sierra Club's New Jersey chapter. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Richard Stockton College faculty members Michael Busler and Dick Colby offer their arguments for supporting Mitt Romney and Barack Obama.