From reproductive rights to education to the future of Black families, political writer KELI GOFF pushes past the rhetoric to find out which presidential candidate—President Barack Obama or Gov. Mitt Romney—supports the policies that are best for you.
Abortion has long been the most controversial reproductive rights issue, but this election debates over abortion (which President Obama believes should be legal and Gov. Romney does not) have been eclipsed by debates over birth control. Though children born outside of marriage now comprise more than half of American births to women under 30 (and 73 percent of Black births), out-of-wedlock births remain strongly linked to poverty. The Affordable Care Act, the health care law President Obama spent much of his first term getting passed, mandates that insurers must now cover contraception without copays.
Gov. Romney has stated that he would repeal so-called Obamacare, labeling it a government takeover that has added a trillion dollars in new health care spending, and questions when was the last time a government program actually lowered costs. He has denounced the birth control mandate as an infringement on the religious liberty of employers who oppose contraceptives. For Black women birth control can mean the difference between poverty and accessing the American dream. The President’s reproductive rights record is as encouraging as Romney’s is troubling.
In some states dropout rates among young Black males exceed 60 percent. Since men who have dropped out of high school are 47 times more likely to be incarcerated, and the children of incarcerated men are five times more likely to end up in prison, education is a key issue, and one of the few on which President Obama and Gov. Romney agree more than they disagree. The President recently announced the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans to propel Black students for high school graduation, college completion and productive careers.
Although Gov. Romney and President Obama championed the charter school movement, they firmly disagree on vouchers. President Obama opposes the use of “vouchers” or federal funds to subsidize alternatives such as private school education. Romney not only supports them but as president would put $25 billion in federal funds to enable students the choice to attend any school (public, private, online or charter) they wish. With so many families of color facing disheartening educational opportunities, this is one issue on which Romney and the GOP get higher marks.
STRENGTHENING BLACK FAMILIES
Bolstering all families starts with economic stability. A 2010 study found that the median wealth of single women of color is $5. Even more troubling, African-American women were 256 percent more likely than White men to receive subprime loans, meaning Black women were among those hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis. President Obama has received mixed marks for his administration’s efforts at foreclosure aid (including instituting a brief moratorium on foreclosures and establishing a foreclosure prevention fund). When it comes to family dynamics, President Obama often recalls growing up with his single mother and so has made promoting family and fatherhood a policy priority through the Fatherhood Initiative and Fatherhood Buzz tour of barbershops. Both men are clearly committed to strengthening American families. It just appears policywise, President Obama is more in tune with those voters who may define “traditional family” differently.
As the father of five sons and 18 grandchildren, Gov. Romney stresses the importance of having a home where faith, love of country and determination are woven into every American household. He blames President Obama for the foreclosure mess and said during the GOP primary that he would opt for a do-nothing approach: “Don’t try and stop the foreclosure process. Let it run its course and hit the bottom….” Appearing before the NAACP, Romney said, “If you understood who I truly am in my heart and if it were possible to fully communicate what I believe is in the real, enduring best interest of African-American families, you would vote for me for president.” He also took the opportunity to talk about preserving “traditional marriage,” an attempt to draw a sharp contrast with his opponent, who supports same-sex marriage.
Keli Goff is the author of The GQ Candidate (Atria/Simon & Schuster).