Although there's a year left before the elections, campaigning by aspiring Presidential Candidates is in full swing. They are trying to woo voters in primary states to their camps, especially in Iowa and New Hampshire. While campaigning, the issues that need to be discussed include the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the health of the economy, Climate Change, Healthcare, and the Social Security System.
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The War in Iraq is by far the biggest issue on most voters' minds. The fact that over 3,000 American troops have died since the start of the war and we still haven't achieved our goals of setting up a true stable democracy in that Iraq irks all American voters alike. This feeling is compounded by the apparent failures of the Iraqi Government to unite all factions of the country. According to a recent poll, 25% of Americans feel that the troops should be brought back home immediately with over 60% demanding full military withdrawal in one year.
The rise of dangerous men, like Moqtada Al-Sadr, and the growing influence of neighboring countries have all contributed to a less stable Iraq. Moqtada Al-Sadr, the radical Shia cleric, has the single largest bloc of members in the national parliament. Together with his 'Mehdi Army', some grass root support and his political influence, he has built a definite influence on how the future of Iraq is played out. Neighboring countries have all contributed to a weaker Iraq by promoting their own interests. On the north, Turkey is threatening to attack the Kurdish part of Iraq whereas both, Iran and Saudi Arabia have been accused of supplying and training terrorist organizations operating in Iraq. With over 180,000 American troops in the country and after a projected cost of over $1 trillion dollars in military expenditures, the Government has very little to show for it.
Coming up with a balanced and workable plan for Iraq is and should be the priority for all candidates. This should include building a more stable and modern Democratic State which is tolerant towards all sects, religions and ethnicities. Similarly, all candidates should be looking back to bring the troops home as soon as possible although, candidates differ significantly in their views on what needs to be achieved before troops can be brought back.
The War in Afghanistan and the broader War against Terrorism are issues that have found their place at the heart of American politics, Capturing Osama bin Laden, the great Sheikh, would be a major theme repeated by almost all candidates. Even though it has been almost six years since American troops toppled the Taliban regime, Osama bin Laden is still out there and regularly sending propaganda audio and video messages like the one before the 9/11 Anniversary this year.
The resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan and the tribal area of Pakistan are another big issue. Fighting these local and foreign 'Jihadis' and Taliban sympathizers along with curtailing the rampant drugs trade should be and will be a major issue in the next Presidential Elections. Continuing to prevent major terrorist attacks within our borders and outside (against our troops) will also be emphasized, especially Republican Candidates. The realization that we still have an un finished job in Afghanistan is a thorny issue for voters, especially the more conservative ones. The fact that the military is expanding its base in that country, after being there for six years, is something to reflect upon. Bringing development to Afghanistan's war-torn population should be a top priority for all presidential candidates. Doing so, will serve three basic purposes: it will reduce the drug's trade quite significantly, it will lessen the support and sympathy for Taliban and Al-Qaeda and finally, it will form the foundations of stability in a country which has rarely seen any of it for two centuries.
Securing our borders and "defeating Al-Qaeda" will be phrases repeated countless times over the next twelve months by all hopeful candidates, especially the conservative candidates like John McKain and Fred Thomson. The reorganization of Al-Qaeda network and their link to other independent extremist organizations in the muslim world are a major concern. Recent attacks by Al-Qaeda linked organizations in places from Algeria to Philippines have shown the global reach of these groups. "Al- Qaeda in Iraq" has become a major nuisance for the Iraqi government, American troops and the local population alike. Their ruthless and extreme disrespect for life has become a visible factor for life over the last four years. Apart from this the recent spates of suicide bombings in Pakistan and Afghanistan have all been linked to local Taliban and Al-Qaeda sympathizers.
Immigration is bound to be another big issue in the 2008 Presidential Elections as there are over 67 million registered Hispanic voters in the country at the time of the last presidential elections. The idea of building a fence on the Southern border is an idea that has been hailed by the conservatives but strongly opposed by the Hispanic population. Then there is the issue of what to do with the 12 million illegal immigrants already in the country. While some candidates have called for a complete amnesty for these people, other candidates believe that doing so will create a bad example for the future.
Social Security System & Demographic Changes:
Reforming the Social Security System should be one of the top priority in the next elections. The system is expected to go into deficit in the next few years. The demographic changes expected in the next ten years are going to have a profound impact on the American economy, politics and culture. Specifically attributed to the aging of the "baby boomers", this change will exert further pressures on the limited resources of the Federal Government and other private institutions. This will also have am impact on the percentage of people in the country who are working. As more Americans retire, immigration rules would have to be relaxed in order to maintain the employment pool. This is essential for the future growth and strength of our country.
The health of the economy has traditionally been the single most important issue in presidential elections. Today, the American economy faces a number of short-term, medium-term and long-term risks
The recent down turn in the housing market has resulted in over two million expected foreclosures this year. The decrease in house prices, together with 'fancy' mortgages have been the primary contributors for the high number of foreclosures. The recent credit crunch and sub-prime meltdown has decreased the amount of credit available in the market. The result has been the sharp up-surge in bond prices and decrease in stock prices. The issue is certainly going to be a major factor in the decision of the voters; especially the struggling home-owners who are finding it difficult to keep up with their mortgage payments.
A further consequence of this "credit crunch" has been the inability of the banks to fund the expansion of business. This reduction in available credit for businesses and consumers raises the possibility of a recession. All presidential candidates should come up with solid plans to deal with these short-term issues. One possible solution could be expanding the role of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.
Another big issue in the next presidential election should be reducing the federal budget deficit. Overall Government borrowing has exceeded nine trillion dollars. From a budget surplus of two hundred billion dollars in 2000, we have turned to a position of $350-400billion in deficit. There is only one solution to this, increasing taxes and decreasing government spending. Cutting spending is not an easy pill to swallow for most politicians. Similarly, raising taxes rises more than just a few eyebrows. Most voters are not ready for a hike in taxes or cut in government spending. Even so, putting the house back in order has to be a top priority and campaign issue for all candidates.
Cheap imports from around the world have been great for American consumers but bad for US dollar and caused job losses. A weak dollar could have a detrimental affect on the state of the economy. If foreign investors come to the conclusion that, because of the depreciating currency, there is not enough return on their investments in the US, they are bound to move their money some where else. This includes the $1 trillion held in bonds held by foreign governments. The issue requires a closer scrutiny and should be an issue in the upcoming elections.
Boosting American competitiveness should be at the heart of the economic agenda of presidential campaigns. This involves a lot of work in different areas. For example, 50% of the students passing out with a master's degree in electronics from American universities are foreign (Texas Instruments CEO). This calls for relaxing immigration regulations for highly skilled professionals and boosting the American Education System.
Several measures need to be taken to reform the Educational System. The overwhelming need to boost the interest of high school children in mathematics and science should be a high priority. This can be achieved be retraining and improving the quality of mathematics and science teachers (TI CEO) in high schools. Apart from this the allocation of school loans in the federal budget should be increased. Further, improving the quality of education available in public schools needs to be further improved. Acts like "No Child Left Behind" should be further stressed by the presidential candidates.
Health care is one of the biggest problems that the country has to face up to. It has resulted in reduced competitiveness for the American worker and put the long-term health of the economy at risk. Americans annually spend a total of $3 Trillion on healthcare. Although we pay more for healthcare than any other nation, we do not get the best of health care. Other countries have succeeded in providing better healthcare service for a lesser price tag to their citizens. The roles of Big Pharma, Insurance companies and hospitals have all got to come under closer scrutiny since the efficiency of our healthcare system is low.
Apart from this, over 40 million Americans are uninsured. Getting these people under some kind of insurance protection is essential for maintaining a harmonious society. The healthcare issue is further complicated by the demographic changes taking place in the country. As the number of old people increase; the overall healthcare costs are bound to go up.
Climate change is another big issue that needs to be stressed upon by the presidential hopefuls. The growing threat posed by global warming and its impact on humanity are stark. On the other hand, the immediate cost to the economy of cutting green house emissions also represents a major challenge for presidential candidates. Climate change should also be an issue in the next election because of its significant long-term impact.
The low savings rate in America is also an important issue for the American economy. The fact that the country as a whole has been recording a decline in overall savings for the last two years is a serious challenge. The last time this happened was during the Great Depression. Increasing the savings rate and not significantly hurting consumer spending at the same time should be a major issue for the presidential elections.
Apart from all these, traditional issues like abortion, gay rights and the role of religion will all play a part in the next Presidential race. Candidates will present their views as centrists and moderates on most issues of such nature; however some would choose to be labeled as conservative or liberal as well.
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