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Student issues spark political discourse before presidential debate

Special to The Battalion

Published: Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, October 3, 2012 02:10

As the election nears, students are starting to feel the heat brought on by it. With such a large campus, opinions about national, local and social issues clash and student issues are in the mix.

The primary issue that needs to be dealt with, no matter who is elected, is the fiscal cliff, said political science professor B. Dan Wood. The fiscal cliff refers to the Bush Tax cuts that are set to expire on Dec. 31, as well as the fiscal stimulus tax cuts for the middle class initiated by President Barack Obama and the reduction in the payroll tax. If there is no congressional action prior to Dec. 31, Wood said all Americans, rich or poor, will face a large tax increase.

“If Obama is re-elected, he has pledged to allow the cuts to expire for the wealthy, but not for the rest of the nation,” Wood said. “In other words, he wants to keep taxes low for the poor and middle class. In contrast, Romney has pledged to protect the cuts for the wealthy and everyone.”

Wood said he hopes that a balanced solution can be decided on, where a combination of tax increases and spending cuts can put the country on a path toward fiscal soundness. He also said since the Republican House has uniformly signed Grover Norquist's “no new taxes pledge,” they have restricted themselves, so it’s a dangerous situation to deal with in the fall.

“If Obama wins, he may be facing the same ‘no to everything’ House as he has for his entire administration,” Wood said. “We might hope that Democrats regain control of the House so that a balanced solution can be found. However, this does not seem likely.”

Political science professor Harvey Tucker said it doesn’t make much of a difference how students vote in November because results of very few elections in Texas are in doubt.

“Only a few Texas A&M University students who are going to vote in November have not yet decided how they will vote,” Tucker said. “The opposite is the case as well; almost all have decided how to vote but only half or fewer will vote.”

Sophomore philosophy major Sam Taylor, who is a member of the Aggie Democrats, said he thinks it’s important for students to vote in the election because many topics in the race include issues that affect students’ education, including the rising cost of earning a college degree. Last year, Taylor attended American University, a private college in Washington, D.C., for one semester and said his family would have had to pay $200,000 if he chose to stay there.

“Education is so expensive and going to a private university made me realize that, which is why I transferred here,” Taylor said. “But even if it’s less expensive to go to A&M, it’s still ridiculous to pay so much because to get ahead, you need a degree.”

To help alleviate the cost of college, Taylor said the government needs to provide more assistance to those who want to go to college because so many students are still paying off their student loan debts 15 to 20 years after they graduate.

“The government should help alleviate these loans for students,” Taylor said. “We need more aid like the Pell Grants to encourage more people to go to college because many people want to go to college but can’t afford it.”

On the other end of the political spectrum, sophomore business major Zoë Christiansen said the government exacerbates the issue of college expenses. She said it’s another way of redistributing wealth for those who have parents who can afford to pay for college.

“We need more merit-based grants and scholarships instead,” Christiansen said. “We need to recognize the fact that not everyone is made for college and also focus on those who wish to go to technical college.”

Aside from issues concerning education, other topics such as the economy, need to be taken into consideration, Christiansen said.

“Social issues, like gay marriage, shouldn’t be emphasized by the federal government, and we need to focus on economic issues and fixing our country first,” she said.

Taylor, on the other hand, said he thinks social issues should be widely addressed. Gay marriage should be legalized, and the government should accept the time period we’re living in, he said. But aside from social issues, Taylor also said the country needs an economic change.

“I would like to see everyone pay the same amount tax and see the governments get rid of all loopholes in the tax code,” Taylor said. “I'd like to see rich pay more because they can afford to, while impoverished shouldn't have to suffer as a result.”

When it comes to the future presidency, Tucker said the president will have different options depending on whether his party controls the entire Congress, one chamber or neither chamber.

“At this point, it seems possible that either Republicans or Democrats could control either chamber after the elections,” Tucker said.

Christiansen said she’ll be voting for Mitt Romney in the fall, not necessarily because she believes in what he does but that she doesn’t want his counterpart to win.

“I don't want another term with Obama, so I'm basically voting against Obama instead of voting for Romney,” Christiansen said.

Unlike Christiansen, Taylor said he supports Obama because he’s handled situations very well, including dealing with foreign policy and his support of social issues.

“Obama has made compromises and that’s what most important,” Taylor said. “In the end, a president’s job is to please his constituents no matter who he is.”


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