Education, Inequality and Contraception Provide Reasons to Vote Obama
by Adrienne Edwards | University of Pennsylvania
I was three days shy of my 18th birthday on the date of the 2008 presidential election. In my first election as a voter, the issues feel more close to home and more pressing than ever- especially the rising cost of education, rising income inequality and the systems that perpetuate it, as well as social issues like the conversation about contraception. I’ve been baffled by the GOP candidates, and although Barack Obama isn’t the perfect candidate, he’s the candidate to which I am most drawn.
As a current college student and an aspiring graduate student, the rising costs of education are particularly startling to me. The model for educational debt in a recession is broken. Education in the past had a high return on investment, and thus, educational loans could be justified. However, when there are low odds of employment, the model of borrowing off future gains to pay for current education traps students in a world of debt they may never pay off.
We live in a country with a structure that makes it implausible to have free higher education, so for now we have to work on creating a system that can balance some student financial responsibility for education with less student debt.
The GOP candidates appear to advocate a hands-off policy on educational loans. Although they haven’t taken a clear stance on the issue, it seems Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul all prefer to lessen government involvement and let market competition lower costs of education. The problem is that education is becoming an inelastic good; studies show it is crucial to typical interpretations of success. Students see it as necessary and don’t respond actively to price changes or varying interest rates in loans.
If the government does nothing, loan companies could increase rates rapidly and take advantage of students. President Obama has increased access to Pell Grants that especially help low-income students afford college. To further protect young people’s finances, President Obama also enacted a law protecting college students from some credit card companies’ predatory practices.
As a native New Yorker, I followed the growing Occupy movement and the subsequent re-attention to the gap between the rich and the poor. While I respect the strengths and weaknesses of the Occupy movement, I’m concerned with societal disregard and disdain for low-income people. The poor aren’t poor because they lack a work ethic or discipline or for any other faux-sociological reasons some politicians make up. Governments should seek to help the poor and keep the standard of living at a minimum level.
On the issue of those with low income, many of the Republicans candidates spoke about responsibility and proposed cuts in spending that would erode safety nets. The notion that increased responsibility on the part of the poor will better their circumstance is false; more responsibility does not equal or correlate to more income or better career opportunities. The government should not aim to forever support the bottom 1 percent, but the President should recognize there are many people just one missed check or one health emergency away from falling on very hard times. There should be support for those that briefly need it.
Further, many of the GOP candidates are advocating continuing tax cuts, arguing that this will help small business owners and eventually “trickle-down” to the wider American public. Yet, instead of increasing the supply of funds that benefits the larger economy, tax cuts instead have created examples like Warren Buffet, one of the wealthiest people walking this planet, paying a smaller percentage of taxes than his assistant. While President Obama has done a notable amount of spending during his term and failed to usher in tax increases that he sought, he has protected social spending measures which benefit the broader population.
Lastly, the level of gross misinformation and misunderstanding around social issues such as women’s rights alarm me. As a voter, I want my government to have values, but not regulate everyone into one way of life. The idea that there need to be limits to contraception coverage lest the moral fiber of this country disappear, or that contraception shouldn’t be covered by health insurance plans, even though some plans go as far to cover Viagra, represents absurdity at its finest. As long as candidates consider it acceptable to force vaginal penetration on those wanting to terminate a pregnancy (as in Virginia), but not acceptable to provide an avenue for more women to prevent such pregnancies through birth control, I won’t vote for them.
The government shouldn’t have more say in my or any other female’s reproductive decisions than our doctors do. It’s unclear how Mitt Romney feels about birth control itself, but he supports the religious exemption of the birth control mandate, and thus supports limiting access to birth control for those who work for religious institutions. Although Pres. Obama has limited access to contraceptives against the advice of the FDA, he also introduced the mandate for birth control’s coverage.
I identify as a voter with progressive politics, and although President Obama has made several blunders within his first term, I will support his re-election.Adrienne Edwards is a voices contributor for Next Gen Journal. She is currently studying Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at the University of Pennsylvania.