The 10 Biggest
Differences Between Obama and McCain That Will Affect Your
The next president will influence
everything from your Internet access to your ability to pay
By AlterNet. Posted October 17,
When the polls open in 18 days, voters will be faced with a stark choice in presidential candidates -- a choice that ultimately comes down to one question: What do you want the next four to eight years of your life to look like? Because the next president will shape the issues that affect the way we live our day-to-day lives.
The future of Social Security, health care, education, income, employment, civil rights and democracy itself all hang in the balance. And the two candidates are worlds apart in their visions for the country.
From the fate of the Supreme Court to the future of Internet access, here are the 10 most important differences between Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain.
1. Who They Want to Tax
Tax cuts targeted at the wealthiest Americans during a period of runaway spending -- with hundreds of billions of tax dollars spent on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan -- have resulted in massive federal deficits.
Both Obama and McCain say they'll control spending and cut taxes, but they are miles apart on the question of who would get those cuts.
According to an analysis of his tax plan by the Tax Policy Center, Obama would cut taxes on the 95 percent of filers who make less than $227,000 per year and raise taxes on the 5 percent whose incomes exceed that amount. Compared with current policy, Obama's tax plan would increase government revenues by $627 billion over the next 10 years.
McCain would make Bush's "temporary" tax cuts on the wealthiest Americans permanent. His plan would cut taxes on top earners by $23,000 per year. He would cut taxes for all other Americans as well, but his cuts would only be deeper than Obama's for those earning between $112,000 and $227,000 -- about 20 percent of the population. Compared with current policy, McCain's tax plan would decrease government revenues by $595 billion over the next 10 years, meaning that new spending cuts would be necessary to avoid growing the deficit even larger.
2. How They Would Shape the Supreme Court
The Supreme Court regularly hears cases on everything from personal injury to sexual harassment to environmental health -- cases that set legal precedents and can affect our day-to-day lives for decades, even centuries.
Our next president could name as many as three new justices for the bench. John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David Souter are all likely candidates for retirement, which means the new picks would be replacing three of the court's four moderate- to liberal-minded justices.
If Obama becomes president, the political calculus of the court will probably stay the same. If McCain becomes president, you can count on an influx of conservative ideology.
First up on the chopping block would be Roe v. Wade. McCain has already promised that much. And if something happens to McCain and his running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin, takes his place, watch out. Not only does she want Roe overturned, she has made it clear that there should be no exceptions even in cases of rape or incest. Under her watch, a 12-year-old raped by her father would be forced to bear the child. For all of conservatives' talk about values, it's hard to imagine a worse way to start a family.
3. How They View Democracy
One of the biggest and clearest differences between Obama and McCain concerns voting rights. The Obama campaign believes in expanding the right to vote and has registered millions of new voters in 2008. The McCain campaign and the Republican Party believe in limiting voter turnout and have taken many highly publicized steps in swing states to suggest that Obama loyalists are plotting to vote illegally.
The McCain campaign has been criticizing voter registration efforts by the low-income advocacy group ACORN as an attempt to steal the election. The group registered 1.3 million voters in 2008, mostly young people, people of color and other working-class constituencies. State Republican parties, GOP prosecutors and sympathetic groups have been pursuing litigation and other legal tactics in key swing states -- notably Ohio, Wisconsin and Michigan -- concerning the validity of voter rolls in order to create bureaucratic hurdles for election officials. This can only complicate the voting process on Election Day and create a climate to discourage new voters from casting ballots.
4. How They Want to Change the Health Care System
Middle-class Americans are now being priced out of health care. Nearly a quarter of Americans lack adequate health insurance to cover medical expenses, now the number one cause of family bankruptcies.
The current system is unsustainable, and the candidates' proposals for fixing it are as different as night and day. Obama's plan would drastically reduce the number of uninsured (from 47 million to about 18 million) and would require children to be covered; McCain's plan would have little effect on the uninsured population. Obama's plan would allow individuals who currently have employer-paid health insurance to keep their benefits; McCain's plan would begin the dismantling of the entire employer-paid system. Obama would create an additional social safety net: a public health plan that would give people without access to insurance through an employer or entitlement program like Medicare guaranteed coverage with the same comprehensive benefits that members of Congress now enjoy. McCain doesn't favor safety nets. Instead, he would place a $3.6 trillion tax on workers over the next 10 years and use revenue from that tax to give people a credit ($2,500 for individuals and $5,000 for families) to purchase insurance on the open market. The trouble is, the average family policy costs $12,000, and it's much harder for an individual to negotiate good prices than an employer.