Prepare to be schooled. Legitimately.

On the second Tuesday in November, history will be made. America will have elected either its first African American president, more than 140 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, or the first woman vice president, nearly 90 years following the ratification of the bill that gave U.S. women the right to vote. It’s a spectacular opening of doors for future generations in America, and a new source of untapped talent for the highest offices in the land. Regardless of the scurrilous gossip strewn about the candidates personal lives, about the disagreements over flip flopping and petty fighting between party lines, there are real issues here at stake that actually matter to our lives and the lives of our children. As Lauren stated, it’s exhausting to witness the bickering, and maybe this is only another voice in the crowd of many. I’ve painfully recognized how uneducated and seemingly uninterested Americans are on the actual FACTS of this election. We have let our reality become distorted by the most backwards and terrifying process of dehumanization out there, the agenda of the corporate American press.

In an attempt to be as bipartisan as possible, I thought that I would try to outline some of the basic issues of both candidates and what they stand for. This is in no way a purpose for me to be stumping for either party (even though you know I’m not afraid to let you know who I support), this is simply an attempt to break down the basic facts. Just because you’ve always voted Democrat, or you’ve always voted Republican, does not mean that you should blindly support whomever that party has nominated. Do you agree with their stance on foreign policy? Their answer to the war in Iraq? Their energy policies? What about education? When it comes down to it, this is a personal decision, but one that should be an informed choice. We can’t base our sources of knowledge in hearsay, propaganda or in the opinions of spouses or parents or friends. I’ve done the gruntwork for you, and here it is. Make your own choices.

In black and white, I give you the facts:

  • Taxes

In comparison to the policies in place under our current administration, the McCain tax plan will reduce taxes by approximately 4.2 trillion. The Obama plan will cut taxes by 2.9 trillion. McCain’s tax cuts will hit across the board, with the biggest cuts going to the highest income households (top 1% of US citizens making over $1.2 mill/year), while Obama would give larger tax cuts to low and moderate income households and pay most of the cost by raising taxes on high income taxpayers (top 1% making over $1.2 mill/year). Both policies from both parties will substantially increase our national debt over the next ten years: McCain’s would increase our debt by $5 trillion, Obama’s by $3.5 trillion.

What does this mean for you? The typical American, middle class income (incomes of less than $200k yearly for individuals and $250k per year for married couples) will raise 3% with McCain’s plan. In comparison, with Obama’s plan, middle income households will see a boost of 5% back into their wallets.

Things to consider: National debt. Want to see how much we owe? Check this out. We need to pay taxes in order to dig ourselves out of debt and get this tattered economy back on it’s feet. Bigger tax breaks and higher spending pushes this debt onto our children and our children’s children.

(Please note, these are estimations based on currently proposed tax plans. Source: Tax Policy Center, Urban Institute and Brookings Institution)

  • Health Care

McCain proposes a refundable income tax credit of $2500 individually or $5000 for married couples purchasing health insurance. He believes that competition between insurance companies will lower the cost and improve the quality of health insurance. This, among other changes that McCain proposes, would cost the US deficit $1.3 trillion over ten years. Obama’s plan is to modernize the US healthcare system and make relatively low cost insurance available to everyone, along with subsidizing premiums for low and moderate income folks. This will cost the US deficit $1.6 trillion, but would also cover virtually all children and the majority of currently uninsured adults. McCain’s proposed plan would cut the number of uninsured people by a little over 6 million in ten years. Obama’s plan would bring the numbers of uninsured people down by 34 million.

(Source: Tax Policy Center, Urban Institute and Brookings Institution)

Things to consider: One in seven Americans are uninsured, living sicker and dying younger. Uninsured Americans effect everyone’s health coverage. Even the insured pay the price with crowded emergency rooms and escalating health care costs, which in turn make health insurance less affordable. The United States spends nearly $100 billion annually to provide uninsured patients with health services, often for preventable diseases or diseases more effectively treated with an earlier diagnoses. Can you guess where this money comes from, loyal tax payer?

  • Iraq

The basic discrepancy between candidates on this issue is whether or not to pull out from the war and withdraw our troups. McCain says fight it out, Obama says end it. McCain believes that it is our moral obligation to stay in Iraq until it is capable of governing itself and safeguarding its own people. He supports counterinsurgencies (sending additional troops) in order to control the population and violence in Iraq. McCain will promote efforts within the international community to support regional stability and to bolster Iraq’s economy. He also supports structuring the US’s military posture in order to put pressure on Iraq’s neighbors (Syria and Iran) to stop aiding Shi’ite militias.

Obama believes that we are in the midst of a war without end, and proposes a plan to finish it. He believes that our military resources are dwindling and leaving us less safe at home, and that with a responsible and phased withdrawal, both Iraq and the US will be better off. Obama’s basic plan will have brigades removed at a pace of 1 to 2 per month, to be completed in 16 months. He will also have a residual force remain in Iraq to conduct targeted counter-terrorism missions as well as continue efforts to train and support Iraqi security forces with the support of the Iraqi government. Obama believes in a moral obligation to Iraq’s humanitarian crisis, providing $2 billion to support the millions of displaced Iraqi families while reserving the right to intervene militarily, with international support, to suppress potential genocidal violence within the country.

McCain highlights that the past year has shown a significant reduction in violence in Iraq, and he places the success on the shoulders of the troop surge. Obama supports redirecting our efforts towards Afghanistan where Taliban has since reemerged, pointing out that 2007 was the most violent year in Afghanistan since the invasion in 2001.

Things to consider: With hundreds upon thousands of innocent lives lost, almost 5,000 American soldiers dead since the start of the war, and $3 trillion in national debt… the cost of the war continues to rise by the second.

  • Environment/Energy Crisis

It seems as though major authorities on the environment and energy crisis don’t think that either candidate has enough policy in regard to these topics. It also seems that both candidates bleed into one another’s solutions, there is a meshing between sides. The major differences are that McCain is touting increased fossil fuel production and nuclear energy, while Obama emphasizes alternative sources and conservation to meet our energy needs.

McCain’s emphasis on increased production of nuclear energy and oil is based in a re-commitment in these energy sources. Nuclear energy produces zero emissions, and could decrease our dependency on foreign oil, however safety can be an issue due to the high levels of radioactivity that can be emitted from the waste (newer plants have a much better safety record, but it makes some reminisce about Chernobyl). There are also concerns about the cost of researching and building nuclear power plants. McCain’s plan also will give $2 billion per year in order to advance clean coal technology.

McCain supports off-shore drilling, deep sea drilling off U.S. coastlines in search of oil in order to increase domestic supplies. Increasing domestic oil production could put a patch on the situation we’ve found ourselves at the gas pump, however ecologically speaking, oil is a non-renewable resource and not a great thing to be dependent on, not to mention the threat of what oil spills can do to our environment. McCain has the idea of providing a $300 million award for “the development of a battery package that has the size, capacity, cost and power to leapfrog the commercially available plug-in hybrids or electric cars.” Anyone know how to make batteries?

Obama will back limited off-shore drilling, as he believes that oil companies should first drill on the 68 million acres that they have which are so far unused. Previously against the idea, Obama has recently said that he now believes a compromise will have to be made in order to prevent gridlocking between oil companies and the government. His main objective is that we need to reduce our dependency on oil completely and move towards new fuel choices and alternative energies. Obama’s proposed policies take it a step further by investing $150 billion over ten years in order to build a clean energy future, along with creating 5 million “green collar” jobs. As for an immediate solution, he’ll give a $1,000 emergency energy rebate to help families pay for rising bills, the money coming from oil company profits. Obama would mandate the auto industry in order to influence them towards making vehicles capable of running on alternative fuels, and increase federal support of mass transit. McCain is against these mandates, and once a cap and trade is implemented (keep reading…), would rely on the market to cultivate alternative energy itself.

Both candidates support tax credits to those that buy hybrid cars. Both support a cap-and-trade system that would place a cost on emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases linked to global warming, in order to encourage a shift towards renewable energy. Both also agree that regardless of the solution to stop the immediate oil bleeding from the gas pumps in America, something needs to be done to catalyze our shift from fossil fuels to alternative energy sources.

Please see this as well as this for further info.

Things to consider: Where you’ll be in 2050 when the Arctic Ocean has completely melted, the glaciers are gone from the Alps, and over one million species of animals are extinct. I’ll be (hopefully) still kicking it at 68.

  • Education

The low standards that our education system has currently in place are dismal at best. American children rank 28th out of 40 countries in mathematics and 19th out of 40 countries in science. Education should be a top priority. Bush’s No Child Left Behind plan was a complete dud, most agree the reason for this is because it was neglected in funding. We have huge issues in America with teacher quality and accountability. (Although this article is Obama based, if you are interested in the current state of our national education system, it is phenomenally written, please devour.) McCain will work to improve the No Child Left Behind Law, Obama will fundamentally extricate it.

McCain doesn’t seem to have a clear plan in regard to changing our education system, although lets hope he focuses more on this issue with the addition of his running mate and mother of 5. He does believe that public schools need to be publicly accountable for test results. McCain supports the basis of using competition in order to obtain greater quality teachers, and thinks that if parents are unhappy with the public education of their children, they should be allowed to change schools. He’ll also reward teachers with individual merit pay. Obama‘s main concerns are in the US’s high school dropout rate (30%), quality of teachers, and extremely high college costs. He will work to create a voluntary national performance assessment for new teachers, as well as work with school districts to create a program for salary increases for accomplished educators that work to mentor new teachers. Obama will also enact an unprecedented American Opportunity Tax Credit of $4000 to families universally. He will also ensure that the tax credit is available to families at the time of enrollment by using prior year’s tax data to deliver the credit when tuition is due.

Things to consider: Children are our future!

The basis of this article has grown out of Project votesmart. I believe that being informed is so important, and I am up for anyone willing to question. If we are open to it, we can all learn something here.

Signing off before my fingers fall off, as your CNN addict/political adviser chick, I bid you adieu…. DON’T FORGET TO VOTE!!!!