Election 2012 Faceoff: Whose domestic policy leads the country in a better direction?

Adam Wage, College Republican Representative

Social issues have not received much attention during the largely economic-oriented 2012 presidential election. Questions regarding issues such as Social Security and education, however, remain at the front of Americans’ minds. Regardless of promises made during the campaign season, whoever wins the election in November will face harsh realities in implementing plans for these important social issues.

According to the U.S. Social Security Administration’s current projections, the country will have exhausted trust fund reserves for Social Security by 2033. According to the administration’s August 2012 report, over 53 million Americans are on Social Security. This number will greatly increase, especially as the baby boomer generation grows older. Although it may be politically safe, ignoring Social Security in the short-term will not solve the problem. Unlike so many other politicians, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has not shied away from addressing this issue.

As president, Romney would modernize Social Security so that today’s seniors keep their benefits, while the program remains solvent for tomorrow. For Romney, this involves slowing the growth of benefits for people of higher income who depend on the program less. Social Security keeps many seniors out of poverty, and Romney’s plan ensures that the government will continue meeting these people’s needs.

The other step in Romney’s plan for Social Security gradually increases the retirement age to account for increased longevity; the retirement age was initially set at 65 when the program started under former President Franklin Roosevelt in 1935; in other words, the first 65-year-olds to collect Social Security were children of Civil War veterans.

Romney’s changes will affect only future generations of seniors, so seniors today can continue to count on their benefits. The alternative to adapting Social Security with the times is to let it go bankrupt.

For America’s younger generation, few issues have been as turbulent as education. Romney credits much of his success to his education and wants to ensure that quality education is available to all youths in the U.S.

It is Romney’s belief that all parents should have the ability to send their children to a quality school; this is currently a privilege that many parents cannot afford. To achieve this goal, Romney would devote more funds to eligible students so that their parents could choose to send them to any public or charter school they wish. Where permitted by state law, this program would also send low-income students to private schools.

Of course, Romney would also like to reform “No Child Left Behind” so that parents may better examine individual school performance.

Higher education affordability is an issue everyone in our generation faces. Romney plans to simplify the financial aid system by consolidating duplicate programs. More information will become available to students and parents about the available options regarding debt, repayments and future earnings, allowing students and parents to make well-informed decisions about higher education.

Romney would also deregulate higher education to allow for more innovation and competition, as well as the chance for institutions to enter the market, which refers to both loans and education.

Romney offers more than good oratory when it comes to social issues; he has a plan to set America back on track in the long term. Throwing money at problems including Social Security and education only makes everyone feel better for about five minutes. The past four years are evidence that real reforms must be made to underlying issues if America hopes to experience real change. President Romney will bring real reforms.

Brittany Terzakos, College Democrat Representative

Throughout the election cycle, there has been such laser-like focus on the economy from both sides that it’s easy to forget the other issues impacting society that millions of Americans hold dear. In fact, one of the starkest differences between President Barack Obama and his Republican counterpart, former Gov. Mitt Romney, is on one of the issues most important to our community here at Geneseo: education.

The first step toward a strong economy and long-term debt reduction is a reliable and educated workforce that can best its foreign competitors. The premise behind this is simple: A country without an educated citizenry quickly loses jobs in fields like scientific research, green technology and even so-called back-office jobs like paralegal services.

This results in fewer people earning income, less tax money to fund future government programs as well as pay off the debt and a vicious cycle that leads to more cuts where funding is needed most. That’s why it’s so shocking that former President George W. Bush’s administration left education policy on the back burner and allowed the U.S. to fall to an international ranking of 25th in math and 17th in science, according to a recent Harvard University study.

This is where the Obama Administration made the politically difficult – but correct – choice. In order to make this clear, it’s necessary to contrast its plan to that of Romney’s. Instead of joining the “end the deficit” spending mantra that Romney and his running mate Rep. Paul Ryan repeat constantly, Obama has focused on a plan that seeks long-term benefits over short-term gains.

Romney plans to tighten Pell Grant access, ending a number of programs essential to those reliant on financial aid and making it a challenge for students like myself to attend college in the first place.

Romney’s education cuts would devastate schools like Geneseo. In order to fill the gap, students would either have to pay at least double or triple their current tuition, or universities would have to cut their programs by a third. Imagine what would happen to the costs of books, the student-to-professor ratios in classes, the diversity of classes and other such facets of university operation – not to mention the additional layoffs in an already weakened economy.

The president, on the other hand, has spent the last four years strengthening educational institutions in our country. He has doubled the size of Pell Grants, allowing people to continue to be the first in their families to go to school. He’s taken student loans out of the hands of private banks and created a loan program that enables graduates to cap their payment at 10 percent of their monthly income, allowing students to go to school without worrying about debt.

Obama battled republican opposition and prevented the student loan interest rate from doubling this summer from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent. He’s even worked with Congress to expand the American Opportunity Tax Credit that has helped 7.4 million families send their kids to school. 

When we discuss social issues, education should come first. As Obama has unequivocally stated, personal decisions like gay marriage and abortion are not issues that the federal government has jurisdiction over.

That means that when we talk social issues, we should talk about the issues our government does control – like our ability to receive an education and join the workforce, strengthening our economy and our nation in the long run. On issues like these, the choice is clear: Barack Obama leads the country forward.