There are just four days left until Election Day. Chances are, you've already made your mind up about who you want to run the United States of America — or alternatively, you're crying like this little girl: "I'm tired... I'm tired of Bronco Bama and Mitt Romney!" After being bombarded with millions upon millions worth of attack ads, personal phone calls, and semi-threatening donation emails, you'd be forgiven for wanting to give up on this election altogether.
But here's why you shouldn't: Despite all the exaggerations, false promises, and flat-out lies told by both presidential candidates, who you vote for next week will make a tangible difference. Don't believe me? Here are the stories of two hypothetical Americans, a young recent grad and a self-made millionaire, that show what their lives could look like depending on where their ballots are cast. Maybe reading through these, the decision looks easy, and maybe — as I intended — it doesn't. In any case, your voice matters, so get out there and vote!
Scenario #1: Caitlin is 22 years old, has just finished her degree at a liberal arts university, and has some student loan debt. She doesn't have a job yet, but she has several internships under her belt and cash saved from a retail job. She's planning on moving in with her boyfriend to save money while she starts the job hunt, to the chagrin of her loving, working-class parents, who would rather she move back home.
President Obama: Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare), Caitlin will be covered by her parents' health insurance plan while she looks for a job — until she turns 26. Some brands of birth control are covered on the insurance without co-pays, and Caitlin will also have her preventative services covered, including pap smear tests and cancer screenings. If Caitlin would prefer for her parents not to know that she's taking birth control, she could easily head over to Planned Parenthood, which receives Title X funds under Obama.
In terms of paying off her student loans, Caitlin could have her loan payments capped at 10 percent of her income, thanks to Obama's Executive Order. (It begins July 1, 2014, with some availability in 2012.) However, because Caitlin likely won't be taking a high-income job, she will get less of a break than well-off students, according to one study.
Mitt Romney: If elected, Romney promises he will repeal ObamaCare on Day 1 of his presidency. Romney says that "when you get out of college, if I'm president you'll have a job." So Caitlin would theoretically be covered by the employer that she doesn't have yet. In reality, according to Think Progress, Romney's health-care plan will hit "young adults between 19 and 29 the hardest, with an estimated 41.4 million uninsured under his plan." Even without insurance, Caitlin could get screenings and birth control at Planned Parenthood... if it still exists. Romney promises to gut Medicaid and Title X Family Planning funds, which would force many clinics to close. Not to mention if she ends up with an unwanted pregnancy, Romney supports overturning Roe vs. Wade. Whether he'll uphold that promise of course, remains to be seen, but even George W. Bush said during his 2000 debate that he wouldn't try to overturn the ruling.
Wish Caitlin luck if she's trying to raise a child and pay off her student loans: Romney's plan, "A Chance for Every Child," could be "a financial disaster for thousands of college students and graduates" because it has no feasible plan "to reduce the cost of college and lower skyrocketing tuition," according to U.S. News and World Report. The plan could also scrap income-drive payment plans and loan forgiveness.
Scenario #2: Walter is 55 years old, physically fit, and a self-made millionaire from drilling for oil in Texas. Walter has no children, and has lived for more than a decade with his male partner.
President Obama: Under Obama's plan, Walter would receive a relatively tiny tax break of $5,353, according to the Obama administration's calculations, which is based on information provided by the independent Tax Policy Center. It would be harder for Walter to conduct business under Obama: States would not be in control of drilling on federal lands, and the Obama administration plans to tighten environmental regulation of hydraulic fracking for natural gas (though it remains to be seen how strong Obama's anti-fracking commitment actually is.) Additionally, if Walter wants to move in to offshore drilling, he's going to run into some serious federal roadblocks: The Obama administration has cut the number of new permits and leases for offshore oil and gas drilling by more than half.
But under Obama, Walter would have a better chance of being able to marry his partner. Obama has said that he thinks "same-sex couples should be able to get married," although he hasn't yet taken action on a federal level. If married, Walter would save $8,295 under Obama.
Mitt Romney: Walter would keep a lot more of his money under Romney: A whopping $245,551, according to the Obama tax calculator. And that doesn't include the new income Walter could make by taking advantage of Romney's promise to end 100 years of federal control over drilling on government lands. Even national parks could be fair game. Romney also plans to expand offshore drilling and would leave fracking decisions up to the states — so Walter wouldn't run into nearly the same number of federal environmental regulations as he would under Obama.
Given that Walter doesn't have any medical conditions, and doesn't need to rely on Medicare or Medicaid due to his high income, he would be just fine under Romney's healthcare plan. But while Romney would be great for Walter's pocketbook, he still wouldn't give him that fundamental American right: To put on some fancy clothes and say "I do."
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
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