Next Four Years: Promises Made by the Presidential Candidates,
Some teenagers think neither candidate speaks to their concerns.
Mike Dooley, a senior at Needham High School in Massachusetts, says that while both men talk about the war in Iraq, or domestic issues such as gay marriage, "the real divisions in our country are more insidious, and more damaging."
"The economic gulf is widening, between the haves and the have nots -- between those who live comfortably in middle class communities and those who struggle to find work and to get by day to day without health care or higher education," he says.
Of course there are independent candidates such as Ralph Nader and other parties such as the Green, Conservative, Independent, Right to Life, Socialist, and Libertarian Parties, but none have built up enough support to win the election.
So what kinds of promises are President Bush and John Kerry making about the next four years if they are elected? While it is impossible to fully understand the candidates' positions in quick glances, here are brief summaries of their stances with links to the candidates' pages and issue overviews from Public Agenda, a research group that aims to provide citizens with unbiased information.
Have you taken more tests recently? One political issue that directly affects young people is education. Both candidates have offered various plans to help students pay for college, but they differ on how to help students finish high school.
President Bush created the No Child Left Behind Act to force schools to identify and help students who are falling behind. Under the law, public schools are required to set achievement standards, and conduct annual tests of third- through eighth-grade students in reading and math. Schools that fail to improve have to pay for students' private tutoring, and transportation to attend another school. The president also supports vouchers to help parents afford private schools.
Both candidates have too many environmental initiatives to list here, but basically, President Bush favors a more business-friendly environmental policy, and John Kerry gets high ratings from environmental activist groups.
President Bush has refused to join the Kyoto global warming pact that calls on all countries to cut greenhouse gas emissions, saying it would harm the U.S. economy. He says his policies will be based on sound scientific evidence and wants to spend more on hydrogen fuel technology. The president also backs "environmentally sensitive" oil exploration in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
John Kerry wants to sign up for the Kyoto pact. He also promises to invest in hydrogen-based energy technology and other clean, renewable fuels, including ethanol. The senator opposes oil exploration in the Arctic Refuge because he says it would have a negative impact on the environment and has promised much more aggressive enforcement of the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts.
President Bush opposes abortion except in cases of rape or incest, or when a woman's life is in danger. He also signed into law a ban on late-term "partial-birth" abortion.
John Kerry supports a woman's right to choose, though opposes third-trimester abortions unless for health reasons. The candidate has said he would appoint only pro-choice Supreme Court judges.
President Bush has asked Congress to amend the Constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman only, but says states can pass laws allowing civil unions that give gay partnerships legal benefits similar to those of marriage.
John Kerry opposes a constitutional amendment and supports civil unions for gay couples, but he stops short of backing marriages for gay couples.
President Bush has proposed tax credits for low income people so that they can buy their own health insurance and has introduced a prescription drug benefit for elderly people.
Sen. John Kerry proposes opening up the existing health care program for federal government employees to all adults, and giving money to states to help them reduce the number of uninsured children.
Almost everyone agrees that the government program that provides pensions for retired workers is in trouble, and that if changes are not made, it may not be there when today's high school seniors reach retirement age-- currently 67.
President Bush has
proposed allowing younger workers to control how part of their Social
Security taxes are invested, a policy called privatization because it
would move funds to non-government institutions such as the stock market.
John Kerry on education
Public Agenda Education
President Bush on
Kerry on the Environment
Public Agenda Environment
Public Agenda Abortion
NewsHour Gay Marriage
Public Agenda Gay
NewsHour Health Care
Public Agenda Health
NewsHour Social Security
Public Agenda Social