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Obama and Romney: Where they stand on the issues

One more look at where President Barack Obama and Republican presidential rival Mitt Romney stand on a selection of issues, in brief:

ABORTION and BIRTH CONTROL:

Obama: Supports access to abortion. Health care law requires contraceptives to be available for free for women enrolled in workplace health plans.

Romney: Opposes abortion except in cases of rape, incest or risk to the woman’s life. Previously supported abortion access. Says state law should guide abortion rights, and Roe v. Wade should be reversed by a future Supreme Court ruling.

 

DEBT:

Obama: Promises to cut projected deficits by $4 trillion over 10 years, a goal that will require Congress to raise the capital gains tax, boost taxes on households earning more than $250,000 a year, impose a minimum 30 percent tax on incomes above $1 million, and more. Failed in first-term pledge to cut deficit he inherited by half; recently completed budget year marked fourth consecutive year of trillion-dollar-plus red ink.

Romney: Promises to cut $500 billion per year from the federal budget by 2016 to bring spending below 20 percent of the U.S. economy and to balance it by 2020, but vital specifics are lacking. Favors constitutional balanced budget amendment.

 

ECONOMY:

Obama: Term marked by a deep recession that began in previous administration and officially ended within six months, and gradual recovery with persistently high jobless rates of above 8 percent until the last two months of the campaign. Mixed jobs report for October showed unemployment rising to 7.9 percent from 7.8 percent in September, but strong hiring as more people started looking for work. Obama responded to recession with a roughly $800 billion stimulus plan, expanded auto industry bailout begun under George W. Bush, inherited and carried forward Wall Street bailout.

Romney: Lower taxes, less regulation, balanced budget, more trade deals to spur growth. Replace jobless benefits with unemployment savings accounts. Proposes replacing certain provisions of the law toughening financial-industry regulations after the meltdown in that sector. Proposes changing the law tightening accounting corporate regulations to ease requirements for mid-sized companies.

ENERGY and ENVIRONMENT:

Obama: Ordered temporary moratorium on deep-water drilling after the massive BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, but U.S. produced more oil in 2010 than it has since 2003 and all forms of energy production have increased under Obama. Achieved historic increases in fuel economy standards that will save money at the pump while raising the cost of new vehicles. Achieved first-ever regulations on heat-trapping gases blamed for global warming and on toxic mercury pollution from power plants. Spent heavily on green energy and has embraced nuclear power as a clean source. Failed to persuade a Democratic Congress to pass limits he promised on carbon emissions. Set goal of cutting oil imports by half by 2020.

Romney: Pledges U.S. will become independent of energy sources outside of North America by 2020, through more aggressive exploitation of domestic oil, gas, coal and other resources and quick approval of Keystone XL pipeline from Canada. Supports opening Atlantic and Pacific outer continental shelves to drilling, as well as Western lands, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and offshore Alaska. Says green power has yet to become viable and causes of climate change are unproved.

 

FOREIGN POLICY:

Obama: Opposes near-term military strike on Iran but holds that option open if it proves the only way to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons. Declined to repeat the Libya air power commitment for Syrian opposition, instead seeks international pressure against Syrian government. Chastised Israel for continuing to build housing settlements in disputed areas and pressed both sides to begin a new round of peace talks based on land borders established after 1967 Arab-Israeli conflict. Signed law to expand military and civilian cooperation with Israel. Sought penalties against China for unfair trade but opposes branding China a currency manipulator.

Romney: Appears to present a clearer U.S. military threat to Iran and has spoken in more permissive terms about Israel’s right to act against Iran’s nuclear facilities, without explicitly approving of such a step and while saying U.S. military action against Iran would be last resort. Would identify those in Syrian opposition who share U.S. values, then work with U.S. allies to “ensure they obtain the arms they need to defeat” Syrian government. But has not proposed direct U.S. arms supplies to rebels and would rule out U.S. military action for now. Associates himself more closely with hardline Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, pledges more military assistance to Israel. Branded Russia the “No. 1 geopolitical foe” of the U.S. and threatened to label China a currency manipulator in a move that could lead to broad trade sanctions.

 

LGBT RIGHTS:

Obama: Supports legal recognition of same-sex marriage, a matter decided by states. Opposed that recognition in 2008 presidential campaign and in 2004 Senate campaign, while supporting the extension of legal rights and benefits to same-sex couples in civil unions. Achieved repeal of the military ban on openly gay members. Has not achieved repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, which denies federal recognition of same-sex marriages and affirms the right of states to refuse to recognize such marriages. Administration has ceased defending the law in court but it remains on the books.

Romney: Opposes legal recognition of same-sex marriage and says it should be banned with a constitutional amendment, not left to states. “Marriage is not an activity that goes on within the walls of a state.” Also opposes civil unions “if they are identical to marriage other than by name,” but says states should be left to decide what rights and benefits should be allowed under those unions. Says certain domestic partnership benefits – largely unspecified – as well as hospital visitation rights are appropriate but “others are not.” Says he would not seek to restore the ban on openly gay military members.

 

GUNS:

Obama: Has not pushed for stricter gun laws as president. Signed laws letting people carry concealed weapons in national parks and in checked bags on Amtrak trains. Favors “robust steps, within existing law” to address gun issues, White House says. Voices support for renewed ban on assault-type weapons but has not tried to get that done. Previously backed stronger gun controls.

Romney: Opposes stricter gun control laws. Suggested after a deadly Colorado movie theater shooting that he favors tougher enforcement of existing gun laws. As Massachusetts governor, vowed in 2002 to protect the state’s “tough gun laws,” and in 2004 signed a Massachusetts ban on assault weapons.

 

HEALTH CARE:

Obama: Achieved landmark overhaul putting U.S. on path to universal coverage now that Supreme Court has upheld the law’s mandate for almost everyone to obtain insurance.  Under the law, insurers will be banned from denying coverage to people with pre-existing illness, tax credits will subsidize premiums, people without work-based insurance will have access to new markets, small business gets help for offering insurance and Medicaid, the government program that primarily benefits the poor, will expand.

Romney: Promises to work for repeal of the law modeled largely after his universal health care achievement in Massachusetts because he says states, not Washington, should drive policy on the uninsured. Says he would protect people with pre-existing conditions, though his plan only does so for those who maintain continuous coverage, not a major change from federal protections in effect before Obama’s health care overhaul. Would expand individual tax-advantaged medical savings accounts and let savings be used for insurance premiums as well as personal medical costs.

 

IMMIGRATION:

Obama: Issued directive in June that immigrants brought illegally to the United States as children be exempted from deportation and granted work permits if they apply. Took the temporary step after failing to deliver on promised immigration overhaul, with the defeat of legislation that would have created a path to citizenship for young illegal immigrants enrolled in college or enlisted in the armed forces. Says he is still committed to it. Government has deported a record number of illegal immigrants under Obama.

Romney: Favors U.S.-Mexico border fence, opposes education benefits to illegal immigrants. Opposes offering legal status to illegal immigrants who attend college, but would do so for those who serve in the armed forces. Would establish a national immigration-status verification system for employers and punish them if they hire noncitizens who do not prove their authorized status. Would end visa caps for spouses and minor children of legal immigrants. Would honor work permits for immigrants who benefit from Obama’s new policy but not accept new applicants under the program, and promises to put in place a comprehensive immigration plan before those permits expire.

 

TAXES:

Obama: Wants to raise taxes on the wealthy and ensure they pay 30 percent of their income at minimum. Supports extending Bush-era tax cuts for everyone making under $200,000, or $250,000 for couples. But in 2010, agreed to a two-year extension of the lower rates for all. Wants to let the top two tax rates go back up 3 to 4 percentage points to 39.6 percent and 36 percent, and raise rates on capital gains and dividends for the wealthy. Health care law provides for tax on highest-value health insurance plans. Together with Congress, built a first-term record of significant tax cuts, some temporary.

Romney: Keep Bush-era tax cuts for all incomes and drop all tax rates further, by 20 percent, bringing the top rate, for example, down to 28 percent from 35 percent and the lowest rate to 8 percent instead of 10 percent. Curtail deductions, credits and exemptions for the wealthiest. End Alternative Minimum Tax for individuals, eliminate capital gains tax for families making below $200,000 and cut corporate tax to 25 percent from 35 percent. Does not specify which tax breaks or programs he would curtail to help cover costs.

 

TERRORISM:

Obama: Approved the raid that found and killed Osama bin Laden, set policy that U.S. would no longer use harsh interrogation techniques, a practice that had essentially ended late in George W. Bush’s presidency. Largely carried forward Bush’s key anti-terrorism policies, including detention of suspects at Guantanamo Bay despite promise to close the prison. Expanded use of unmanned drone strikes against terrorist targets in Pakistan and Yemen. The deadly attack by militants on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in September raised questions that persist about the quality of U.S. intelligence and about why requests for added security there were denied before the assault.

Romney: No constitutional rights for foreign terrorism suspects. In 2007, refused to rule out use of waterboarding to interrogate terrorist suspects. In 2011, his campaign said he does not consider waterboarding to be torture.

 

WAR:

Obama: Ended the Iraq war,  increased U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan then began drawing down the force with a plan to have all out by the end of 2014. Approved U.S. air power in NATO-led campaign that helped Libyan opposition topple government. Major cuts coming in the size of the Army and Marine Corps as part of agreement with congressional Republicans to cut military spending over a decade.

Romney: Proposes increase in military spending. Endorses 2014 end to U.S. combat in Afghanistan. Would increase strength of armed forces, including number of troops and warships, adding almost $100 billion to the Pentagon budget in 2016. In addition, criticized congressional Republicans for negotiating a deficit-cutting deal with the White House that will mean automatic and massive cuts in Pentagon spending next year if federal budget deal is not reached in time.

Associated Press writers Ben Feller, Matt Apuzzo, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Stephen Ohlemacher, Alan Fram, Dina Cappiello, Ken Thomas, Jim Kuhnhenn and Christopher S. Rugaber contributed to this report.

 

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545,000 request absentee ballots in Wisconsin

The Wisconsin Government Accountability Board reports that before the sun even came up on Election Day – that’s today – more than 545,000 voters had requested absentee ballots. That number includes more than 392,000 people who voted in clerks’ offices.

“It is clear absentee voting plays an important role in the election, with more than half a million people making requests during a shorter time period,” stated Kevin J. Kennedy, Wisconsin’s chief election official. “Absentee voting in clerks’ offices finished up Friday, giving clerks more time to be better prepared for Election Day on Tuesday.”

As of early Nov. 5, at least 545,060 voters had requested absentee ballots, according to Wisconsin’s local election officials who track them using the Statewide Voter Registration System. There were 392,912 ballots requested in clerks’ offices and 152,148 ballots requested by mail and other methods.

The absentee ballot numbers for Wisconsin are not complete because only military and permanent overseas absentee ballots are required to be tracked in SVRS.

However, about 350 municipalities, including most major cities, track some or all absentee ballots in addition to military and overseas ballots in SVRS.

Comparable pre-election numbers from four years ago are not available.

In 2008, 21 percent or 633,610 of the 2.99 million ballots cast were absentee ballots. Kennedy said it is still too early to say whether absentee voting will exceed 2008 numbers.

In-person absentee voting in the clerk’s office ended on Nov. 2. Mail-in absentee ballots must be postmarked by Election Day and received in the municipal clerk’s office by 4 p.m. this coming Friday in order to be counted.

Elections division administrator Nat Robinson urged the majority of voters who are going to the polls today to be prepared by visiting the My Vote Wisconsin website, where they can find their clerk’s location and contact information, as well as see a sample ballot and check their voter registration status.

On the Web…

 http://myvote.wi.gov 

Racine, Wis. students to get out the vote

An estimated 500 high school students in Racine, Wis., will join a citywide effort urging voters to take to the polls on Election Day. 

Youth Empowered in the Struggle-YES, the student arm of Voces de la Frontera, is organizing the event, which will include participation from Horlick, Case, Park and Walden high schools.

Students on Nov. 6 will be wearing bright T-shirts that state, “Your Vote is Your Voice.” They’ll cover the city in vans driven by parents, teachers and other community volunteers, according to a news release. The students will be going from door to door to talk with voters and also offer rides to the polls.

YES leader and Racine high school student Bryanna Scott said, “Our message is simple: When you vote, consider our future. As a 17-year-old student at Horlick High School, the reason why I participate in the get out the vote every election is because voting not only gives us a voice, but it makes us all equal. Since I am underage and I can’t vote, I have taken the liberty to exercise my first amendment right of freedom of speech, to go encourage others who can vote to go and cast a vote for me.”

GOP star Marco Rubio featured in anti-gay robocalls

Rising Republican star Marco Rubio is the featured voice on a robocall urging voters to cast ballots against marriage equality – and candidates who support equality – on Election Day.

The calls are being paid for by the National Organization for Marriage, with the Catholic Church is the biggest backer of the anti-gay campaigns in Washington, Maryland, and Maine and Minnesota.

But NOM isn’t just focused on those states with its anti-gay election effort.

NOM, in a statement just days before the election, said it working with “its partners” at “launching a major push to reach and mobilize 10 million voters with a positive message for marriage.”

The latest campaign – in English and Spanish – has a budget of $500,000 and the robocallers are dialing households in Maine, Maryland, Washington State, Wisconsin, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

The calls feature Rubio, a Cuban-American U.S. senator from Florida who rose to prominence on the tea party wave and had been rumored to be a possible running mate for Mitt Romney, as well as far-right activist James Dobson and former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee.

NOM president Brian Brown said the campaign is “the largest national mobilization of traditional marriage voters in history. Our aim is to reach 10 million voters or more. We are proud to work with state-and national-based partners in the four states that have marriage referenda on the ballot –states where we believe the polls are trending in our favor –and in three presidential swing states, Wisconsin, Ohio and Pennsylvania, that many pundits are surprised to find now in play.”

IRS asked to investigate Catholic bishops

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington wants the federal Internal Revenue Service to investigate the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for allegedly engaging in prohibited political activity in violation of its protected tax status.

The complaint filed recently notes press reports indicating a number of bishops are using their positions to advocate against the re-election of President Barack Obama and sermons this weekend likely will involve other political activity.

CREW says that in Illinois, Bishop Daniel Jenky, who has compared Obama to Josef Stalin and Adolf Hitler, is requiring priests in his diocese to read a statement accusing the Obama administration of an “assault upon our religious freedom simply without precedent in the American political and legal system.” Jenky says that Catholic voters who fail to heed his warning have no hope of salvation.

Said CREW executive director Melanie Sloan in a news release, “This weekend, the Catholic bishops plan to use every tool in their arsenal, including warning parishioners that they may go to hell, to promote the candidacy of Gov. Mitt Romney.  While the bishops are free to hold their own opinions, tax law is clear that this sort of political activity is prohibited.”

The group, in its complaint, also raised concerns about the political activity of Nicholas Di Marzio in New York, David Ricken in Wisconsin, Edward J. Burns in Alaska and Paul Loverde in Virginia.

CREW said they also have warned of the evils of the Obama administration, followed by an exhortation for Catholics to vote.

To qualify for tax exemption under IRC 501(c)(3), an organization must not participate or intervene in any political campaign on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office. The publication or distribution of written or printed statements on behalf of or in opposition to a candidate is also prohibited. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, as a 501(c)(3) group, and, according to CREW, “is clearly prohibited from opposing a candidate as it is clearly doing with its  presidential election.” 

Sloan continued, “In completely unqualified terms, the IRS should immediately tell the Conference of Catholic Bishops that the conduct of its members is beyond the pale. If the Catholic bishops would like to continue receiving the tremendous tax benefits on which they rely, they should follow U.S. law and stay out of American politics.”

Also of interest: Anti-gay campaigns flush with Catholic Cash 

http://www.wisconsingazette.com/national-gaze/anti-gay-campaigns-flush-with-catholic-cash.html

Marriage equality group launches phone-from-home campaign

Marriage Equality USA, starting Nov., 3, is partnering with state campaigns in Washington, Maryland, Minnesota andMaine on the “Phone from Home” program. The drive will continue through Election Day.

“The key to winning marriage equality is contacting our supporters to turn out at the polls on Election Day,” said MEUSA executive director Brian Silva in a news release. “The Phone from Home program enables our dedicated volunteers from coast-to-coast to make simple but powerful Get Out the Vote calls from their own homes to remind fair-minded voters how critical it is that they get out and vote.”

Added MEUSA media director Stuart Gaffney, “We are on the verge of making marriage history this November with marriage rights on the ballot in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington. That’s why it’s exciting to see so many volunteers signing up at www.20MillionMore.org – by spending just a few hours of time making calls from home, we are laying the groundwork today so that wedding bells can ring out tomorrow.”

The program provides training, scripts and the technology to enable volunteers to make calls from home using just an internet-enabled computer and phone.

In Maryland, Maine and Washington, voters are deciding whether to legalize gay marriage. In Minnesota, voters are deciding whether to ban same-sex marriage in their state constitution.

On the Web…

www.20MillionMore.org