Election Guide 2008: What Matters Most to You?

AP Photo / Evan Vucci ; AP Photo / Alex Brandon


You can be passive and stay home, like 179 million other Americans did in 2004, or you can go out and make a difference. Why bother, you ask? Your voice is more important than ever. Upward of 17 million Latinos are eligible to vote. Combine that number with a massive presence in key swing states, and it’s clear that our community could pick the candidates for this fall’s general election—and even decide the presidency itself. So your mission is clear: Read up on our most pressing issues—and what major-party candidates are saying about them- then go VOTE!

By Kenrya M. Rankin

EDUCATION Quick: Name someone who dropped out of high school. Chances are you didn’t have to think long; one Latino student drops out every 37 seconds of each school day. And the ones who are still in then classroom aren’t doing much better, as half our children attend the country’s poorest schools, battling large class sizes and thin resources. The system that’s supposed to save them? No Child Left Behind (NCLB), which many parents—and politicians—feel falls far short of its name. It uses outmoded statistical measures to evaluate schools, then doesn’t provide the funds to improve those that fail, choosing instead to use public education budgets to shuttle kids to private schools. And it gets worse: This past November, President Bush vetoed a $151 billion bill that would have beefed up Head Start and reading and math instruction.

Obama: Would expand early childhood education; increase pay for successful teachers who mentor new teachers; reform and fund NCLB.

Clinton: Would pay teachers better, reform NCLB and invest $10 billion in universal preschool.

McCain: No mention of education on his website, but he has supported voucher programs in
the past and voted for private tutors instead of smaller class sizes.

Huckabee: “I am a strong supporter of public school choice. We should provide bonuses and
forgive student loans for high-performing teachers to work in low-performing schools.” Let states set own standards under NCLB.

IMMIGRATION This is by no means a new debate—it goes all the way back to the Naturalization Act of 1790! Today, it centers on the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants who have either overstayed their legal visas (4.5 million to 6 million) or entered the United States illegally (6 million to 7 million) to find work. The government is currently building a 700-mile fence along the U.S.–Mexico border, though only 56 percent of the undocumented are actually from Mexico. Some candidates are pushing for immediate deportation, while others advocate for a path to citizenship that includes learning English, passing a criminal background check and paying back taxes for wages earned under the table (a program supported by 51 percent of citizens surveyed by ABC News/Washington Post).

Obama: “We’ve got 12 million undocumented workers here. ...Their kids are going to
school. Many of the kids were born in this country and are citizens. It’s absolutely vital that we give them the opportunity to travel a pathway to citizenship.”

Clinton: Strengthen borders, collaborate with Mexico, provide federal assistance to state and local governments on the border, penalize companies that exploit undocumented workers and provide “a path to earned legal status for those who are here, working hard, paying taxes.”

Wants to secure borders and create a temporary worker program where “you can get a tamper-proof visa after your job has been proven that it cannot be filled by an American citizen."

Huckabee: Wants illegal immigrants to “pay the penalties, step up and accept responsibility for not being here legally.”

HEALTH CARE Don’t you dare get sick: Sixty-two percent of Latinos (15 million) are walking around without health insurance. In fact, we’re more likely to be uninsured than any other major ethnic group in the United States. Our children bear the worst of it; they are nearly three times as likely to be uninsured as white kids. Rising health-care costs are mostly to blame: Americans spent $2 trillion on health care in 2005 alone—that’s $6,700 per person, a cost that is covered in countries that provide government-subsidized, universal health care, including Spain, Chile and Cuba. And the president recently vetoed legislation that would insure 10 million children for free through the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).

Obama: Insurance for all children, paid for by rolling back Bush’s tax cuts. Provide affordable coverage (similar to that enjoyed by Congress) for those without access to affordableinsurance.

Clinton: Supports choice of plans, portability of coverage from one job to next and affordable coverage by offering tax credits that will limit health-care costs to a set percentage of total income.

McCain: Supports a $2,500 tax credit ($5,000 for families) for insured, expanded health savings
accounts and the freedom to purchase insurance across state lines to maximize choices.

Huckabee: Reform medical liability, adopt electronic record keeping, make insurance portable,
give tax credits for low income families and expand health savings accounts to everyone.

WAR September 3, 2006—the day the number of American deaths in Iraq surpassed the number killed in the attacks on 9/11. Now, it’s nearly five years after the March 20, 2003, invasion of Iraq, and Latinos are increasingly decrying the war as unnecessary: 76 percent think it was wrong to fight in the first place, and 66 percent want troops to come home now, according to a survey conducted by the Pew Hispanic Center last year. But that hasn’t stopped the Armed Forces from spending millions on Hispanic recruitment efforts, as they seek to more than double the enlisted Latinos to 22 percent of total enlistment by 2025 to nearly match the projected 25 percent Latino slice of the population. The Pentagon is even offering fast-tracked citizenship to illegal immigrants to make it happen.

Obama: In 2002, said: “I don’t oppose all wars. What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What
I am opposed to is a rash war.” Favors immediate withdrawal, to finish by end of year.

Clinton: “We need to quit refereeing their civil war and bring our troops home as soon as possible.” Voted yes to authorize possible military force in 2002; would now start bringing troops home
in her first 60 days.

McCain: “I remain fully supportive of [the president’s] determination not to leave Iraq until the
freely elected government of that country and its armed forces are able to defend their country from foreign and domestic enemies.”

Huckabee: Admits certain policies may have been shortsighted, but says this war is one we
can’t afford to lose.

ECONOMY Talk about getting the short end of the stick: In 2006, the median Hispanic household income was $14,600 less than non-Hispanic white families, and more than 20 percent of all Latinos were living in poverty—a percentage that shoots up to 27 percent for Latino kids. Zooming out to see all Americans, the number of the poor (36.5 million) has increased by 5.4 million since Bush was elected. At press time, the unemployment rate was 4.7 percent for the general population but 5.6 percent for Latinos. Adding insult to injury, Hispanics are twice as likely as whites to get high-rate mortgages, which often lead to foreclosures when monthly payments are higher than people can afford or rates spiral out of
control after the first year.

Obama: Invest $5 billion in transitional jobs and programs, eliminate transportation disparities in poor neighborhoods, raise minimum wage, expand the Earned Income Credit for full-time workers making the minimum wage, create up to 14,000 new units of affordable housing a year.

Clinton: Reduce cost of energy and achieve energy dependence, provide college aid, protect families from predatory lenders and help avoid foreclosure, create jobs, increase minimum wage, balance federal budget and provide retirement security.

McCain: Would cut taxes, welcome international business competition and train displaced

Huckabee: “I am running to completely eliminate all federal income and payroll taxes. The Fair Tax will replace the Internal Revenue Code with a consumption tax. We’ll be taxed on what we decide
to buy, not what we happen to earn.”

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