Salary: $400,000 per year • Term: Four years • Tasks: As chief executive of the federal government, the president enforces laws, court rulings and treaties. He crafts the country’s budget, appoints federal officials, develops policy, and approves or vetoes decisions made by Congress. He also has the power to grant pardons. As commander in chief, he oversees the nation’s armed forces. The president is the only person in the United States who can choose to use nuclear weapons.
Barack Obama—Joe Biden (Democrat)
Mitt Romney—Paul Ryan (Republican)
Gary Johnson—James Gray (Libertarian)
The criticism of President Obama centers on the idea that he hasn't done enough. "Where's your hope now?" the GOP sneers. But campaigns are all about preying on your emotions, creating an immediate, visceral reaction. There are more logical ways to evaluate the situation. In the last four years, the president has: • Ended the combat mission in Iraq and brought troops home• Halted the program that forced soldiers to remain in service beyond the end of their terms• Reduced nuclear stockpiles in the U.S. and Russia• Begun reforming our ailing health care system• Halted the deportation of illegal immigrants who entered the country when they were kids• Signed the Ledbetter law, requiring equal pay for women• Appointed a special adviser on violence against women• Offered larger Pell Grants to low-income students• Lightened the load for students paying back loans• Beefed up loan programs for small businesses• Cut taxes for people making less than $200,000• Expanded eligibility for Medicaid• Given the Veterans Administration more cash for mental health professionals, fully funded the VA, expanded vet services in rural areas• Lifted a seven-year ban on federal funding for stem cell research• Announced support for same-sex marriage—not civil unions or domestic partnerships, but marriage• Repealed Don’t Ask, Don’t TellThe list goes on. It doesn't come from his campaign website, by the way. Most of those items come from politifact.com, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalistic website that fact-checks politicians. It's got a running scorecard on the president and is tracking 500 promises he made during his campaign cycle in 2008. He kept 38 percent, compromised on 15 percent, broke 17 percent and was stalled on 9 percent. About 21 percent is still in the works.
The thrust of this campaign is that a Romney presidency would strengthen the economy and create jobs. His five-step plan includes: 1) energy independence 2) opening new trade routes with other countries but cracking down on China 3) increasing the quality of schools 4) cutting the deficit and 5) tax reform that favors business.So let's break that down. "Energy independence" means aggressively expanding drilling for oil and natural gas, and relaxing federal regulation. "Opening new trade routes" means more deals like NAFTA. "Better schools" means voucher programs and support for No Child Left Behind. "Reducing the deficit" means cuts in government spending but not raising taxes for the wealthy. "Tax reform" includes giving everyone a 20 percent break while still managing to raise as much cash as the tax system does today. (The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center pointed out that his plan is "mathematically impossible." The Romney camp is calling the center biased.)Romney's positions have changed over the years. In 2002, he spoke of his outrage that senior citizens had to pay so much for prescriptions. Ten years later, he says he'd like to raise the age of Medicare eligibility. Veep pick Paul Ryan pitched a plan that eliminates Medicare and replaces it with a voucher system. In June of 2011, Romney said he believed humans were causing global warming but four months later said it's hard to tell why the climate is changing.In 1994 he supported a federal health insurance mandate, and in 2006, he ensured health care for every Massachusetts citizen. But in 2012, he's focused on attacking the Affordable Care Act. In 1994, he spoke of his support for safe and legal abortion in the country, as well as Roe v. Wade. By 2005, he was calling himself “pro-life.” During this campaign cycle, he's promised to cut funding for Planned Parenthood.As president, he'd repeal regulations on Wall Street, he says, and would make it harder for other federal agencies to impose them. He's against minimum wage increases and isn't crazy about unions. He opposes same-sex marriage.
The former New Mexico governor is pitching himself as being more right than the right on fiscal issues and leftier than the lefties about social issues. From the right: He'd pare government down, he says. He favors eliminating the Department of Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, and the Department of Education. He's promising to overhaul Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security so they fit within the country's budget. Johnson promises to cease bailouts and abolish the IRS. He supports a tax system where people and business don't pay taxes from their paychecks and profits. Instead, everyone would pay extra sales tax, except on items that are considered necessities. He'd like to see the Affordable Care Act repealed. The government shouldn't manage energy development, he says. Citizens should be protected from polluters, he adds, but he's against cap-and-trade or tax subsidies for green initiatives. From the left: Johnson supports abortion rights and same-sex marriage, saying the latter should be guaranteed in the Constitution. He wants to exit Afghanistan immediately. For fiscal reasons and border security, the drug war must also end, he says. Johnson supports legalization of marijuana. He says no terrorism suspect should be subjected to physical or psychological torture, and everyone detained by the U.S. should be given due process. Immigrants should be allowed a two-year grace period to get their work visas, according to Johnson. Campaigns must be 100 percent transparent about their funding, but that's all that's needed in campaign finance reform, he says. Education should be left entirely to the states.
Virgil Goode—Jim Clymer (Constitution Party)
Ross C. "Rocky" Anderson—Luis J. Rodriguez (New Mexico Independent Party)
Jill Stein—Cheri Honkala (Green Party)
Goode, a National Guard vet, served in the Virginia state Senate for 24 years and in Congress for 12. Like Johnson, Goode promises to balance the budget immediately. All federal departments and agencies would experience significant cutbacks or possible extermination under a Goode administration. Veterans benefits would not be affected, he says. But foreign aid and education would definitely be on the chopping block. The National Endowment for the Arts would be gone, along with No Child Left Behind. Goode proposes a moratorium on green cards until unemployment drops below 5 percent. He also advocates an end to diversity visas and a reduction in the number of asylum-seekers and refugees the United States takes in. The borders should be secured with troops and fences "to stop the invasion from Mexico." The government must manage the "anchor baby situation, whereby a child of illegal aliens is an automatic citizen of the United States." There should be no amnesty for people who enter the country illegally. English must become the official language of the U.S., he says. (There is no national, official language today.) He fears a union between the United States, Mexico and Canada and says we must secure our sovereignty. NAFTA erodes the U.S. manufacturing base, says Goode, and he opposes international trade agreements. Goode says medical care is expensive because people are always suing doctors for malpractice. He suggests a federal limit on attorneys’ fees for such cases and a limit on settlements. He would like to see the Affordable Care Act repealed. Goode would only serve one term as president, he promises, so that the American people would be guaranteed that while in office, he isn't focused on his next campaign.
This party formed in 2008 and pulled in 1 percent of the vote for Ralph Nader, qualifying NMIP for the 2012 ballot. In June of this year, the party nominated Rocky Anderson to be its presidential candidate, though he's also the nominee of the Justice Party in other states. The Justice Party is not on our ballot in New Mexico. Anderson was a two-term mayor of Salt Lake City and a lawyer who focused on civil rights. Anderson advocates campaign finance reform and tax reform to end corporate welfare. Labor laws should be strengthened, he says, and there should be tax incentives for local manufacturers. The federal minimum wage must climb to no less than $10 an hour, he says, and it should also be tied to the cost of living. The wealthy must be taxed more heavily, he says, since money has “diminishing marginal utility.”The U.S. should adopt a single-payer health care system like Taiwan's or Canada's, he says, which are the most efficient and most popular in the world. Our country should repeal the death penalty at the federal level, he says.America needs to cease its empire-building and respect international law. We cannot continue to support regimes that abuse human rights, Anderson says. Overseas military bases should be closed, and he promises to chop the Pentagon’s budget in half. The Guantanamo Bay detention center must be closed down, and terrorism suspects tried in civilian courts. Torturers who worked under the Bush and Obama administrations should be tried, Anderson adds. As president, he would defend civil liberties, he promises, and demolish the remnants of the Patriot Act. Global climate change is the most important issue in the history of our species, Anderson says. Our country should embark on an effort to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the middle of the century. We also have to allow farmers to grow industrial hemp, he adds. There's a huge market for it, and it's allowed in every other industrialized nation in the world.
As a result of the 2008 election, the Green Party was stripped of its minor party status in New Mexico because it didn't receive one-half of 1 percent of the vote for presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney. That’s just a standard-issue New Mexico roadblock for third-party candidates at work. It's great to see the Greens back on the ballot in 2012. Jill Stein is a doctor and environmental health advocate. For decades, she's fought to have the environment considered a human health issue. She helped clean up the five dirtiest coal plants in Massachusetts and changed regulation of the fish industries in that state to protect people from mercury contamination.The party's platform includes a "Green New Deal," which would see the government employing 25 million people to work in sustainable energy, mass transit, organic agriculture, and other social service jobs. Stein emphasizes that this would be federally funded but locally controlled.Workers should be able to unionize without fear of reprisal, she writes.The military budget has to be reduced. The budget can also be balanced by eliminating corporate subsidies, and rewriting the tax code so that the rich pay more and working families pay less. She promises to tax bonuses for bankers who were bailed out by the government at 90 percent. Banks that are "too big to fail" must be broken up, Stein says. Education should be tuition-free from K through college, according to Stein. Existing student debt should be completely forgiven.Medicare should be extended to every American, she says. Environmentalism is at the heart of the Green Party platform. As such, Stein offers an end to: mountaintop removal, nuclear power, fracking, coal power plants, subsidies for "clean coal" and drilling that threatens water resources. She also advocates an international treaty to reduce carbon dioxide levels and halt global warming.
Let's start by talking about the third-party candidates. The Green Party's Jill Stein and the New Mexico Independent Party's Rocky Anderson are in line with our values. But we remain unconvinced that the drastic solutions they offer could be implemented when the country's so far behind their vision. The Constitution Party's Virgil Goode, on the other hand, is paranoid and xenophobic. Those are not good traits for a leader. It's hard to pretend that America isn't a part of the greater world, and the world is ever-smaller by the day.
Libertarian Gary Johnson's got a lot of great ideas. And he's right when he says many people are fiscally conservative and socially liberal. But we think he goes too far in the cuts he's proposing. Johnson promises to slash Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security. He objects to the Affordable Care Act. Axing social programs in times like these is a bad idea that could harm a lot of people.
Johnson’s not great on conservation of the environment, either. His proposed solution of penalizing polluters but not imposing strict regulations smacks of standard GOP fare. It’s important to note that as our governor, Johnson held the record for vetoing the most bills that came out of the Legislature. That kind of obstructionist, partisan b.s. is not going to get us anywhere. A big part of the problem in our country today is that politically motivated representatives and senators can't reach compromises. We're stuck. A Johnson presidency won't help.
But good for him for being against the war and supporting common sense drug policy reform. There is no better cure for trouble at our southern border. Legalizing weed could go a long way in improving life for people in Mexico, too.
Mitt Romney's just not an option. He's changed his positions so many times, you wouldn't really know who you're electing. It's frightening that a candidate this terrible has made it so far. The best thing about him, for most of his supporters, is that he's not Obama. The "I'm not the other guy" approach didn't pan out for John Kerry and the Dems in 2004. Let's hope it doesn't work today.
President Obama has done a lot to fix the problems created by President Bush and worked to advance civil rights and boost the economy in our country. While Republicans often talk a good pro-business game, they're not really talking about you. They're talking mega corporations. Obama has proven he can help small businesses and working class families. His approach of growing the economy from the middle out (instead of by just hoping the bigwigs allow some to trickle down) makes sense. All that he accomplished he managed with a hostile Congress doing its best to thwart his efforts.
Among the president's failures: We're still at war in Afghanistan. The Guantanamo Bay detention camp is still open. Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act despite his "serious reservations" about how it allows the feds to detain—indefinitely, without trial—citizens suspected of terrorism.
While there's a lot left to do (and while we hope he rectifies some of his errors) we'd love to see Obama thrive in a second term with a more supportive Congress. This is the kind of healing this country has to do before it can handle an idealist president like Johnson, Stein or Anderson.