INDEPTH: US ELECTION 2004
Issues 2004: Where the presidential candidates stand
CBC News Online | Aug. 24, 2004
Rewind 24 years. Oil prices were spiking as tensions rose in the Persian Gulf. Islamic militants were holding 24 Americans hostage in Iran. The economy was wobbling as inflation and interest rates went nowhere but up. Taxes were climbing and jobs were disappearing.
Ronald Reagan was making his first run for the White House. He implored Americans to ask themselves if they were better off in 1980 than they were four years earlier, when his opponent Jimmy Carter had won the presidency.
George W. Bush
Fast forward to today. Are Americans better off than they were four years ago?
In 2000, Sept. 11 was just another late summer day. Inflation and interest rates had fallen off the radar screens. The price of gasoline and home heating oil were close to historic lows. Sales of new cars and trucks especially sport utility vehicles were at record levels. The economy was humming. But storm clouds were on the horizon.
In August 2004, oil prices threaten to surpass $50 a barrel, economists are revising downwards their expectations for economic growth, jobs are being created, but far fewer than expected.
President George W. Bush has delivered on his promise to cut taxes but his budget has left the U.S staring at its biggest-ever deficit.
Americans are divided over their involvement in Iraq. A steady stream of soldiers are returning home in body bags almost a year-and-a-half after Bush declared major hostilities were over. American intelligence has come under scathing criticism after a Senate committee report concluded that assertions that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction were "either overstated or were not supported by the underlying intelligence reporting."
The report does not assert that the White House pressured analysts to make the evidence fit its own war policy. The second part of that report, which focuses on whether senior Bush administration officials misrepresented the analysis presented by the intelligence agencies, is not expected to be released until after the election.
Americans are also concerned about security within their borders. In the wake of Sept. 11, Bush created the Department of Homeland Security to help deal with the threat of attacks against Americans on American soil. Part of its job is to advise Americans on the "significant threat of terrorist attack." Frequent upgrades of the threat from "elevated" to "high" combined with advice to go about their daily lives as usual have left some people confused.
The following are some of the major issues facing Americans in this election year, and the major candidates' positions on them:
George Bush: Pursuing the war in Iraq was the right thing to do because it's clear Saddam Hussein had the capability and intent to produce weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Bush initially opposed United Nations involvement in Iraq, but he's now warming to that idea.
John Kerry: Has accused Bush of exaggerating the threat of WMD. However, he supported the invasion of Iraq and would be ready to send more troops. Kerry favours a U.S.-led NATO force to take responsibility for security. Would substantially reduce number of U.S. troops in Iraq during his first six months in power. Also pledges to rebuild relations with countries he says have suffered because of the war in Iraq.
Ralph Nader: Is calling for an end to the "U.S. corporate takeover of the Iraqi economy." Nader asserts that a "faulty and fabricated rationale" led to the war. He's calling for Arab/Muslim peacekeepers to replace American forces.
The 'War on Terror'
Bush: Has tripled funding for security initiatives. Created the Department of Homeland Security. Pushed for 2001 Patriot Act, which boosts official powers to monitor citizens and detain terrorism suspects.
Kerry: Proposes putting the National Guard in charge of homeland security. Favours amendments to the Patriot Act, to increase the rights of detainees.
Nader: Calls for the repeal of the Patriot Act. Charges that the "war on terror" has eroded civil liberties and due process of law, and exposed American Muslims to arbitrary surveillance.
National Missile Defence
Bush: Wants some elements of national missile defence system to be deployed sometime this year.
Kerry: Opposes national missile defence. Supports arms control and non-proliferation of weapons.
Nader: Opposes national missile defence. Wants military spending to be substantially reduced.
Taxes and Spending
Bush: The U.S. is on track to record a budget deficit of $445 billion in 2004. It's never been that big before. Bush has proposed steps to cut the deficit in half by 2010 but he wants Congress to make permanent the tax cuts he made in 2001-2003. He argues the tax cuts have helped to keep the economy going. His deficit reduction proposal includes holding spending increases to four per cent. He cites the increased costs of security since Sept. 11 and the financial demands of the war in Iraq as the major causes of the record deficit.
Kerry: Cut the deficit in half within four years by increasing revenue and slowing spending growth. Would increase revenue by repealing tax cuts for those earning more than $200,000, closing various loopholes and raising the cost of mining and drilling on federal land. Would decrease spending by limiting increases to the rate of inflation. Spending for things like social security entitlements, defence, homeland security and education would be exempt from the limits.
Nader: Would make "rich people" and businesses pay more tax. So-called sin industries alcohol, tobacco and gambling and polluters would pay much higher taxes as would makers of "extreme luxuries." Job creation through public infrastructure projects.
Bush: Supports market-based solutions to improve air quality opposes the Kyoto Protocol. Instead of mandatory reductions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions Bush favours reducing emissions by providing economic incentives to the gas and electricity industries.
Kerry: Would sign back on to Kyoto. Favours goals and incentives to reduce dependence on fossil fuels.
Nader: Opposed to subsidizing energy interests. In favour of promoting sustainable energy.
Bush: Opposes importation of prescription drugs from Canada until the federal government can guarantee their safety.
Kerry: Supports the rights of states and individuals to buy cheaper prescription drugs from Canada and other countries.
Nader: Supports the rights of states and individuals to buy cheaper prescription drugs from Canada and other countries.
Bush: Opposes abortion except in cases of rape, incest or to save a woman's life.
Kerry: Supports a woman's right to an abortion. Calls for more "family planning" resources.
Nader: Supports a woman's right to an abortion.
Bush: Backs a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. Opposes adoption by gay couples.
Kerry: Opposes gay marriage. Supports benefits and rights for gay couples, including adoption rights.
Nader: Backs same-sex marriages and adoption rights to ensure full equal rights for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people.