Between tax codes, unemployment, health care, and the troubling question of how to prevent a war with a nuclear Iran, the American presidential candidates have had ample time to outline, discuss, and argue over what they plan to do about each of these issues should they win in November.
As emphasized in my last article, there is a widening divergence between what our politicians choose to say about these issues and what they are actually planning on doing about them. Therefore, rather than continuing to analyze what they are saying, I have decided to discuss a few things that they are not talking about.
The Housing Market: The indicator of economic recovery that hasn’t recovered
The lack of discourse on the state of the housing market has been quite glaring considering the amount of air time each candidate has given to dubious statistics and five point plans to save the economy. While the housing market was indeed rescued from a bottomless free fall back in 2009, prices are still down 31% from their height in 2006 and nearly 12% of all mortgages are either in delinquent or are in the process of foreclosure.
This issue is of dire importance not only to the election but to the health of the American economy. Evidence points to a high percentage of foreclosures and underwater mortgages in such key swing states as Ohio and Florida, which might explain the candidates’ reluctance to bring up a subject that might alienate potential voters. What’s strange is that neither candidate has been forced to discuss the housing market, considering that the economy has proven to be an inexhaustible topic of debate this campaign season. It seems that allowing for low-interest refinancing of lower and middle-income homes when coupled with judicial regulations against low-quality subprime mortgages might be our only logical option. However, Romney’s five-point plan makes no mention of housing. Obama did introduce legislation in February that would have allowed for low-interest refinancing, though the bill failed to pass the conservative Congress and he has since failed to discuss how he would work to get any such legislation passed through our stubborn Congress in the future.
Climate Change: Not just for your local Green Party meetings
The lack of lip service paid to climate change indicates that environmental issues are considerably less sexy than in previous years. Last week, the closest we came was a misleading discussion of the President’s role in lowering gas prices. Because the simple plea to consider the health and safety of our grandkids does not seem to be doing the trick, maybe reframing this argument in terms that seem more immediately pressing like international security and the economy will bring the environment back into the spotlight.
For several years now, scientists and military officials have warned lawmakers of the potentially destabilizing effects of climate change and an over-reliance on oil in the developing world. The decreasing availability of finite resources, whether it be oil or otherwise, will lead to increasing geopolitical rivalry and conflict. Much is to be said about the role of American oil-consumption in the funding of extremism and authoritarianism around the world. We hear a lot of talk about “getting tough on China” but when are we going to get tough on Saudi Arabia? Even if the security slant makes this whole thing a little too “out of sight, out of mind”, consider it in the domestic sphere. Rising sea levels in southern Florida alone is projected to cost billions in damages. Meanwhile, dramatic shifts in weather patterns saw the Midwest through a devastating drought last year, which drastically increased the price of food on a global scale. Whether you’re concerned about droughts in the Midwest or floods in India, about water wars in southern California or those in the distant Levant, climate change is an objectively important issue facing our world, even if the candidates don’t seem to think so.
The Right to Bear Arms: Guns don’t kill people. People kill people… with guns.
Gun control seems to be the most glaring omission from our candidates’ political discourse. Out of these three examples, gun control is the only one in which they have maintained their silence despite being asked a direct question about it during last week’s town hall debate.
Audience member Nina Gonzalez tried to crack this silence when she asked a pointed question about each candidates’ plan to limit the availability of assault weapons on our streets. However, as is often the case in politics, the simplest questions receive the most convoluted responses. Both candidates wasted a lot of breath on what could have been a one-word answer: nothing. Neither Obama nor Romney are planning on introducing new legislation to reinstate the 1994 ban on assault rifles, nor are they talking about imposing regulations making it more difficult for potential madmen to buy enough rifles and ammunition to overthrow a small country. Rather, both candidates pedantically and euphemistically reframed the discussion in terms of education as a means of changing our “culture of violence.” Putting this grave sin of omission in context, gun violence accounts for roughly 11,500 homicides in the United States. This year alone, more residents of Chicago have died due to gun violence than have American soldiers in war-torn Afghanistan. None of this has been enough to warrant a serious discussion on the domestic arms market by either candidate.
What needs to be done? Congress needs to strip the NRA of their most powerful argument and reduce their efficacy in halting policy reform. The fact that our founding fathers felt the need to carry around bayonets nearly 250 years ago does not warrant the proliferation of automatic assault rifles on our city streets today. People might feel passionate about their need and right to protect themselves, but only because the very existence of such weapons makes the world more dangerous. Furthermore, funneling money into Washington through the gun lobby in order to frighten anti-gun legislators does not constitute free speech. If Romney is elected, we can best be sure that nothing in terms of gun policy will change. If Obama is re-elected, who knows. Maybe taking on the gun lobby is a “second-term President” sort of project.
– Alana Jesse