Column: Look Past Haze Of Hype To Candidates' Positions On Issues

This story was written by Tiffany Campbell, The Daily Athenaeum

For all of the hype the 2008 presidential election has carried for nearly the past two years, both the media and the candidates have done a poor job of publicizing what they are specifically focused on: change.

Americans saw in the recent debate how that quintessential election word is immediately surrounded by a cloud of circular reasoning and vague answers when candidates are confronted with it. If a specific answer is ever given, it becomes too much of a liability, a target for attack and in some way isolates what could be a key faction of voters.

Because of that political fear, the public has yet come to a clear understanding of each candidates platform. Over the past few months since the primaries, the only things America has become familiar with are the names, faces, stereotypes and jokes associated with the candidates.

On one hand, society has Sen. John McCain on his deathbed declaring war against the Middle East with his babbling Alaskan beauty queen at his side. On the other hand is old man Joe Biden hiding his battered pride from an early primary defeat while taking care of his opponent, the newbie Sen. Barack Obama, whose last name is one letter away from belonging to Al-Qaeda.

These idiotic ideas, though entertaining, need to be overlooked. It is simply a distraction leading voters to decide, mainly based on party lines, who might resemble a president the most, or who has the greatest likelihood of surviving four more years.

To see beyond the haze, focus first. Pick an issue and research to examine the candidates previous voting records on it and their future plans. Lets apply the approach to an example healthcare.

The current system relies mainly upon employers to provide health insurance to their employees. U.S. tax code supports this insurance because the employers contributions to premiums is not considered as taxable income. Most Americans under age 65 are covered under this type of insurance. However, for those who do not receive health care through their employers, obtaining individual insurance can prove to be very difficult and costly. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 45.7 million Americans did not have health insurance in 2007.

Obamas plan to address this issue involves regulating insurers to prevent discrimination against pre-existing conditions, subsidies to aide individuals and families with lower incomes buy insurance and public insurance plans whose competition with private insurance companies could result in lowering the cost of health insurance.

Unlike the plan proposed by Sen. Hillary Clinton, Obamas does not provide universal coverage. Still, projections for his plan show that millions of Americans would be able to reasonably afford health care under this system and severely decrease the number of uninsured.

McCains plans to eliminate the tax break for employers providing insurance. With the elimination of employers incentive, the current foundation of health care coverage is eliminated; many companies would end their coverage. McCain would deregulate insurance further, allowing insurance companies the freedom to deny those whose health was deemed too high risk.

His plan does allow a tax credit for those no longer covered. Individuals would receive $2,500, and $5,000 would be given to families to be used to buy health insurance. Keep in mind, the average family health plan costs over $12,000. Nonetheless, studies show that the number of uninsured might decline marginally under his plan because a arge number of people would be obliged to buy individual insurance.

But, unlike Obamas which targets helping individuals unable to afford a health plan or with health problems, McCains plan targets another audience. His plan targets the much neglected healthy individuals with high incomes.

To further clarify what his plan involves, an article publicized under McCains name explains, Opening up the health insurance market to more vigorous nationwide competition, as we have done over the last decade in banking, would provide more choices of innovative products less burdened by the worst excesses of state-based regulation.

From that, one can gather McCains plan for health care will mirror what deregulation did for banking.

With that said, my brief discussion of this issue is complete. But also, it is each individuals responsibility to look outside political humor and party prejudices to identify the critical issues and observe how electing either candidate would potentially affect the country.