Presidential issues for 2008

Published 12:02 am Monday, April 30, 2007

By By Tray Smith
As the 2008 Presidential campaign swings into full gear, candidates are beginning to offer their ideas on public policy. However, they have not yet offered detailed proposals for how to solve national problems such as health care, taxes, education, entitlements and the environment. As we move closer to the Presidential primaries, we can expect a flood of new proposals from the current group of Presidential hopefuls as they seek to ease voter concerns about domestic issues.
Republican candidates will be most concerned about entitlement reform. Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid already take up 60 percent of the federal budget. As time goes on, that percentage is expected to grow. Republicans recognize the threat posed by insolvent entitlements as the greatest threat to our long-term prosperity. They also understand that bringing choice and competition into these programs will give both taxpayers and recipients a better deal.
Democratic candidates, on the other hand, are likely to focus on global warming as the country's greatest long-term challenge. Already, many solutions to the phenomenon have been discussed, but no consensus has been achieved. Democrats continue to preach the perils we face if global warming continues, but they ignore the politically difficult issue of entitlement reform. However, economists are universal in their agreement that the welfare state, if allowed to go unchanged, is not financially sustainable. But there is a raging debate within the scientific community over whether or not global warming exists, and if it does, whether or not there is anything we humans can do about it.
Both parties will likely respond to voter concerns about health care and taxes. Republicans will push for the extension of the Bush tax cuts and either an overhaul or at least a broad simplification of the tax code, and they will tie health care into their broader entitlement reform efforts. Democratic proposals, on the other hand, will use increased health care coverage as a justification for higher taxes, and use the "increased" revenues to fund more government funded health insurance programs.
Education will likely not be a very large issue in this election, in light of the fact that the No Child Left Behind Act will be renewed this year with very few changes. However, Democratic candidates will support, as always, an increase in the amount of funding for our nation's schools, and Republicans will give lip service to school choice initiatives such as vouchers and charter schools.
In the domestic issues debate, Democrats have the upper hand. Opinion polls give them higher marks on health care and education. The media has rallied behind the global warming scare much more than it has rallied behind the looming entitlement crisis. The result has been a public overly concerned about the environment but ill informed about economic issues such as taxes and the federal budget deficit. Also, many voters have Republican fatigue, and are simply looking for something different because it is different.
More important than any of the items the candidates actually propose will be the proposals they actually enact once in office. Overcoming the special interest on Capitol Hill and pushing major reforms through both houses of Congress is difficult. In 2005, President Bush's Social Security reform plan arrived D.O.A. President Clinton's 1994 attempt to achieve universal health care coverage received a similar fate. While the candidates will not be able to prove their legislative ability until they are already in office, experience on Capitol Hill will be an important factor when candidates are forced to work with Congress in order to enact legislative changes.
Each campaign season, a large debate goes on in this country, with a vivid discussion of how we can best move forward. Too often, the ideas that flourish in that debate disappear as soon as elected officials take the oath of office. Nevertheless, paying close attention to the candidates proposed agendas is well worth while. We must always hope that this time may be different. That this election will be a real contest of ideas; ideas that will be implemented as soon as the election is over.
That is the bottom line.
Tray Smith is a sophomore at ECHS and former intern in the Riley administration. He can be reached for comment at

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