Republican vs. Democrat — Healthcare, Education and the Environment


(R) Mina Nguyen (OA), Contributing Writer

Education Policy

Access to education should not be hindered by where you live or what your parents make. As Senator McCain said in the last debate, “Education is the civil rights issue of the 21st century.” McCain’s education plan does more than throw money at the problem, it proposes actionable policies centered around choice and accountability. Under his plan, public education comes to represent a public responsibility to fund a child’s education wherever parents choose to send their children – public schools or private. This contrasts with an Obama plan that commits $18B toward incremental changes to the existing system.

McCain’s plan provides portable school vouchers so parents can choose among public and private schools. By empowering parents with choice, the plan fosters healthy competition which helps distinguish performing schools and teachers. Intellectual and financial capital flows to resources that can best put it to use. Just about the only matter of choice the two candidates agree on is the opportunity for parents to choose early education for their children. But while McCain supports cleaning up the existing Head Start system to support high-performing programs, Obama advocates spending $10B on voluntary pre-school programs.

The McCain plan restructures instructor incentive compensation systems to attract and reward top performing teachers. And unlike Obama’s plan which seeks to negotiate performance pay programs with teachers unions, McCain would reallocate 60 percent of the current $3 billion in federal spending on teacher quality programs to finance direct payments to high-performing teachers who took jobs in failing schools or engineered superior student performance improvements.

Healthcare Policy

The McCain healthcare reform plan outlines four objectives: choice, affordability, quality, and portability. These objectives rest on the underlying belief that a vibrant, well regulated marketplace of competing providers will provide taxpayers with highest quality of care at the lowest cost possible. This contrasts with an Obama plan that seeks to move the country towards a single-payer, socialized medical system that removes choice from individuals and places it in the hands of a government bureaucracy.

The cornerstone of the McCain plan is a $2,500 individual ($5,000 for families) tax credit that people can direct towards the health insurance plan of their choice. Whatever portion of the credit that remains unspent can be deposited into a portable health savings account controlled by the individual. This tax credit plan will be supplemented by a broad array of initiatives designed to cut healthcare costs and increase affordability. As president, McCain has pledged to reform Medicare and Medicaid payment systems, pass medical liability reform to combat runaway malpractice costs, and shift the focus of our research and infrastructure investments from treatment to prevention.

The Obama campaign has sought to mischaracterize McCain’s plan, arguing that taxpayers would have no control over their benefits because tax credits will be sent directly to the insurance companies. Under the McCain plan, people get to choose the insurance provider and plan against which their tax credit will be applied. The actual transfer of funds mirrors the simple and efficient direct payment model of the existing Federal HOPE Education program- a program Obama supports. ÿAnother mischaracterization is that this plan will impose a new tax on healthcare benefits. The McCain health care tax credits will indeed replace the current tax exemption for employee sponsored health insurance (ESI). People can choose to either participate in their employee sponsored plan or utilize a more competitive outside plan. The stated goal is to take the tax benefit away from companies and give it back to individuals.

Environmental and Energy Policy

Zach Clayton (OI), Contributing Writer

Senator McCain’s energy plan, the Lexington Project, is an “all of the above” approach to produce more power, break dependence on foreign oil, fund alternative technologies, and address climate change. ÿSpecifically, McCain has promoted incentives to stimulate clean tech innovation, such as a $5,000 tax credit for any customer who purchases a zero emission car. ÿHe has proposed a $300 million prize to promote research that will result in a battery a step function ahead of existing hybrid batteries. ÿHe has proposed a tax credit on 10% of research and development wages, which will encourage innovative technologies. ÿ
While the promise of clean tech, green tech, and alternative energies is high, we are still years away from scaling many of the highest potential innovations. ÿIn the meantime, Senator McCain’s proposal of constructing 100 new nuclear plants is a cleaner alternative to coal powered generation. ÿHis plan to drill on the outer continental shelf, which has 77 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas, will further ensure steady access to a supply of a cleaner fossil fuel. ÿSenator McCain is also committed to reducing the environmental impact of the United States’ energy consumption. ÿIn particular, he supports a cap-and-trade system to reduce emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.

Most importantly, while Senator Obama has stated he wants to revise the United States’ free trade agreements, a protectionist step backwards, Senator McCain is longstanding supporter of free trade. ÿHe opposes subsidies, tariffs, and price supports that focus exclusively on corn-based ethanol. ÿWe have seen the havoc that $100 oil wreaks on consumers’ wallets and businesses’ bottom lines. ÿA steady, affordable, clean supply of energy is essential to the country’s economic prosperity. ÿAny politician who doesn’t take a comprehensive, “all of the above” approach to addressing these challenges will fall short.


(D) Adam Chepenik (OI), Contributing Writer

Education Policy

The Democratic Presidential nominee’s education policy proposal is robust. Unlike John McCain’s plan which would leave education efforts underfunded, Senator Obama would inject an additional $18 billion a year into the school system to bolster the failing No Child Left Behind act, make math and science education a national priority, and offer a $4,000 tax credit to offset skyrocketing higher education costs. ÿHe would also diligently work to streamline the financial aid process and create an environment to recruit, prepare, retain, and reward teachers.
The Obama-Biden team plans to achieve these goals by implementing a zero-to-five plan with a unique emphasis on early care and education for infants. ÿThey would also expand and improve the quality of Head Start and close low performing charter schools. ÿAnd, to better prepare students for college, Senator Obama would create a national “Make College a Reality” initiative that has the bold goal to increase students taking AP or college-level classes nationwide 50 percent by 2016. ÿ
Obama’s education goals are only matched by his record of advocacy in the space. ÿIn the Illinois State Senate, Obama promoted early childhood education by creating the State’s Early Learning Council. And as a member of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions committee in the U.S. Senate, Barack helped pass legislation to increase the maximum Pell Grant award to $5,100.

On the other hand, John McCain supports a plan to improve and equalize education by offering parents a “voucher” option of using taxpayer money to send their children to private schools. ÿThis plan will fail because it would overcrowd private schools and be too complex to administer. ÿWe need a President willing to fix the problems in our schools instead of one who fractures the system even more by enabling people to opt out and create new problems.

Healthcare Policy

This nation’s current healthcare system is highly inefficient, inequitable, wasteful, and ineffective in slowing the twin epidemics of uninsurance and underinsurance. ÿBarack Obama would solve those problems by providing affordable, accessible healthcare for all Americans, building on the existing healthcare system, and using existing providers, doctors and plans to implement it. ÿ

Unlike the McCain-Palin plan, which wants to tax employees for healthcare benefits paid by their employer and would leave an estimated 65 million people uninsured, the Obama-Biden healthcare plan provides a solution for everyone. ÿIf you receive health insurance through your employer, you can keep it and benefit from nearly $2,500 in annual cost reductions; otherwise, you can join a government-sponsored plan at a reasonable rate.

The Obama-Biden plan has several other characteristics worth mentioning. ÿFirst, under their plan, insurance companies would be required to cover pre-existing conditions so all Americans regardless of their health status or history can obtain comprehensive benefits at fair and stable premiums. ÿSecond, Barack would create a new Small Business Health Tax Credit to help small businesses provide affordable health insurance to their employees. ÿThird, Senator Obama would establish a National Health Insurance Exchange with a range of private insurance options as well as a new public plan based on benefits available to members of Congress that will allow individuals and small businesses to buy affordable health coverage. Most importantly, Barack Obama will pay for his healthcare reform effort by rolling back the Bush tax cuts only for Americans earning more than $250,000 per year and retaining the estate tax at its 2009 level. ÿUnlike Senator McCain’s effort, the Obama plan ensures all citizens will have access to the healthcare they need.

Environmental and Energy Policy

Although the troubled economy has overshadowed environmental issues in this election, tackling energy issues and climate change is essential to securing our country’s future. ÿSenator Obama has a comprehensive new energy plan for America. ÿFirst, he would provide short term relief to American families by enacting a Windfall Profits Tax whose proceeds would be used to provide a $1,000 emergency energy rebate to American families. Second, he would strategically invest $150 billion over a decade to catalyze private efforts to develop alternative sources of clean energy and create 5 million “green collar” jobs. ÿThird, Obama would reduce oil imports by getting 1 million plug-in hybrid cars on the road by 2015, increasing fuel economy standards, and establishing a national low carbon fuel standard. ÿFinally, as a firm believer that the U.S. must take aggressive action now to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases, he would create a market-based cap-and-trade program to reduce carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050. ÿ

John McCain promotes offshore drilling to solve our foreign dependency on oil; however, we cannot drill ourselves out of our energy problems and drilling off the eastern coast could potentially destroy a tourism industry dependent on pristine beaches and clean coastal waters.

Most importantly, Barack Obama has been a leading advocate for environmental issues. Senator Obama successfully fought to get the Environmental Protection Agency topublish long-overdue rules for how contractors involved in the renovation and remodeling of homes should deal with lead paint hazards. ÿHe introduced the Healthy Communities Act to identify and address problems in communities that are at high risk from environmental contaminants. ÿAnd he introduced two bills that would significantly reduce the amount of mercury deposited in oceans, lakes, and rivers, which in turn would reduce the amount of mercury in fish.