All Students Should Vote For President Obama
The upcoming elections will have a big impact on your future. The two presidential candidates and their parties have sharply different positions and records on issues such as education costs, job opportunities, access to healthcare, debt, reproductive rights and the very quality of democracy. In my view, the clear choice is President Obama and the Democratic Party. Here’s why:
Consider first college costs and debt. Since 1985, the price of a college degree has risen over twice the rate of inflation. Americans now owe more for student loans than for credit card debt. In response, President Obama increased Pell grants, simplified student aid applications, made it easier for ex-students to repay loans and ended unnecessary subsidies to banks. The Obama administration has helped students get accurate information on the costs and benefits of colleges and universities. Republicans want to raise interest on federal student loans and cut Pell grants for low-income students, they oppose interest limits on private loans and they back bankruptcy rules that make student loan indebtedness tough to discharge.
What about jobs? Millions of jobs have been lost since 2008. History tells us that Democrats provide better remedies than the GOP. Over the 64 years leading up to President Obama’s inauguration, jobs were created twice as fast under Democrats as under Republicans. During the economic collapse that started under Republican President George W. Bush, 417,000 jobs were lost each month. Since Obama’s policies took hold, job creation has amounted to 155,000 per month. His American Recovery and Reinvestment Act invested in infrastructure and construction jobs and provided help to the unemployed and grants to enable states to retain and hire teachers, police and firefighters.
This hasn’t been enough. Part of the problem was that the administration underestimated the depth of the recession, and its stimulus was too modest. But a big part of the problem was Republican opposition: the GOP unanimously opposed the President’s American Jobs Act and has fought hard to cut funds for state and local governments.
Republicans respond that Obama’s plans will increase our huge national debt (now equal to our GDP) while discouraging private sector hiring. Their approach is to cut spending (austerity) as is happening now in Europe. In fact, Obama’s plans may lead to a short-term rise in debt. But history, economic theory and Europe’s dismal economic performance under Republican-supported policies tell us that fiscal stimulus — government spending — is the only way to get out of this kind of a recession and to reduce debt when interest rates are already close to zero. If you’re skeptical, check out the latest International Monetary Fund study concluding that fiscal expansion helps growth while austerity has weakened it and raised debt. And keep in mind that, at least since President Carter, deficits have risen under Republicans. Democrats are left to clean up the mess, as Obama is now trying to do.
There are also striking differences on health insurance. The Affordable Care Act passed by the Democrats in 2010 is critical for young adults, who have often not had access to affordable health coverage. The law requires insurance companies to let young people stay on parents’ plans until age 26; it prohibits insurers from denying coverage or dropping people with health problems. In 2014, Americans who lack health insurance will be eligible for Medicaid benefits or will get tax credits to help them buy health plans in state-run marketplaces. Gov. Romney pledges to repeal health reform, while the Republicans propose drastic cuts in Medicare and Medicaid that will leave tens of millions more without health insurance or require people to pay more for care they already have.
The two parties differ sharply on the rights of women and gays. The first bill President Obama signed into law, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, makes it easier for a woman to challenge pay discrimination in court. Republicans opposed this law and state efforts to enhance remedies for victims of gender-based wage discrimination. Opposed by Republicans, the Affordable Care Act requires insurers to cover contraception free of charge as well as a full range of preventive and pregnancy-related services without charging women more than men.
In contrast, the 2012 Republican platform calls for overturning Roe v. Wade and ending women’s rights to make their own choices about childbearing — no exception for victims of rape or incest. Finally, President Obama and most Democrats support gay rights, such as marriage equality. Republicans want to reverse these gains.
And….there’s this little question of voting rights and democracy. I’m a Democrat. If the Democratic Party was engaged in what I consider to be efforts to discourage political participation by voter suppression, I would protest, along with Republicans. So where are thoughtful Republicans when it comes to Republican efforts in over 30 states to discourage voting? These efforts involve legislation requiring new identification — unexpired government-issued photo IDs — before entering the voting booth. In principle there’s nothing wrong with requiring an official ID. But these new restrictions will affect seniors, who may not have photos on their driver’s licenses or even have a driver’s license or other such identification. In fact, according to NYU’s Brennan Center for Justice, at least 11 percent of voting-age Americans, mostly elderly and minority voters, lack necessary papers.
Republicans have also fought to limit voter registration drives. This will clearly limit the votes of Latinos and African-Americans who were more than twice as likely as white voters to register through early voter registration. Early voting has been especially important for people without easy access to transportation or the ability to take off work: low-income voters.
The NYU’s Brennan Center for Justice found no evidence of any extensive fraud and concluded that these laws could “make it significantly harder for more than 5 million eligible voters to cast ballots in 2012.” Even the Bush White House was unable to find evidence of fraud. Indeed, judges across the country, from Florida to Ohio to Pennsylvania to Texas, have been ruling the Republican backed measures illegal and damaging to the democratic process.
Richard Doner is an Emory professor of Political Science.