In an effort to be useful to voters trying to draw clear distinctions between the candidates, FRONTLINE selected the top policy issues in this year's election. We further limited our view mainly to those issues in which the candidates seemed to have significant disagreement. In cases where one candidate has made a policy proposal where the other hasn't addressed the issue at all, we generally did not highlight that proposal. The coverage here is not exhaustive, but, we hope, it's helpful. Note that each issue brief contains extensive links to more resources on the web.
Don't see your issue on this page? Think the candidates should be talking about some issues which they are not? Read our Editor's Note. Then let us know what you think.
'Soft money'--unregulated donations contributed to political parties that circumvents contribution limits to individual candidates--is the watchword of this year's campaign finance reform debate,
with both candidates promising reform even as they raise record amounts. It is estimated that both parties will raise over $500 million in soft
money this year, twice as much as in 1996. more...
· should soft money be banned?
· should elections be publicly funded?
Except in times of war or an overseas crisis, Americans vote on domestic
issues--not foreign affairs-- and this year is no different. There are few significant differences
in the candidates' policy prescriptions on defense issues: the few that do
exist tend to be differences in degree rather than content. With some
exceptions, the same is true of foreign policy. more...
· what level of missile defense and nuclear weaponry will best protect US
· how does the US keep its military ready for the 21st century
· what should be the new administration's foreign policy priorities?
For most Americans, this is the issue to watch in Campaign 2000. In poll after
poll, education reform is consistently given highest priority by voters, who
say they are frustrated by poor academic standards,
crowded classrooms, lack of discipline and low morale in the nation's
schools. Public schools enrolled a record 53 million children this year, but
parents are increasingly opting out. One quarter of all school age children
attend private, magnet and charter schools, while three percent are home-schooled. One thing seems clear: schools are in for a fundamental change no matter who
occupies the White House this fall. more...
· should parents be allowed to use taxpayer funded vouchers to pay for private
· should schools be held responsible for student performance?
· how can higher education be made more accessible to Americans?
Four decades after the start of the environmental movement first put the issues on the policy agenda, a majority of
Americans today rate the environment as one of the most important voting priorities. For the
first time in a presidential campaign, a major party candidate--Al Gore, author of the 1992
bestseller Earth in the Balance--is an avowed environmentalist, and the Green Party
is putting up a serious candidate, Ralph Nader. Even so, candidates' environmental credentials have become harder to evaluate and the issues
have become harder to define. more...
· what is the best way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reduce dependence
on foreign oil?
· what is the best way to clean up brownfields and balance land preservation with logging and drilling?
Families and children are perennial themes in American political campaigns; this year, focus has been trained especially on two-income families, whose prevalence has fundamentally changed the debate. (Al Gore frequently refers to them with a special coinage--working families--but George W. Bush is no less interested in proving his commitment to them.) While
only 11 percent of married women with young children worked outside the home in
1948, about sixty eight percent do so today. Since employers in the United
States provide less parental leave and other benefits than in any other
industrialized nation, there is increasing stress in family life. more...
· should the marriage penalty in the tax code be eliminated?
· how much should the government do more to make quality childcare
· should there be mandatory child safety locks on guns?
· how can children be protected from objectionable material on TV and the
With respect to health care reform, not much has changed since the early nineties, when the Clintons promised to
make universal health coverage the top administration priority. Those plans
were roundly attacked by special interests and rejected by Congress. Today, voters are still concerned by what the perceive to be a crisis in the health care
system. Though some 100 million people are covered by health
insurance offered by HMOs, Americans voice dissatisfaction with the country's
health care delivery saying that the trend towards lower cost care through HMOs has meant much poorer
quality of care. more...
· should patients be allowed to sue HMOs?
· should there be universal coverage for the uninsured?
· what should be the future direction of Medicare?
· should tobacco be regulated as an addictive drug?
Abortion has not dominated the debate this year as it has in some past campaigns, though the approval of the abortion pill RU 486 in September 2000 has brought the issue back into the limelight. Few Americans have strictly pro-choice or pro-life views, and most of the debate this year has centered on what restrictions if any are appropriate on the original 1973 Roe V Wade rights. The next president will nominate as many as four new Supreme
Court justices, and the present court has a thin 5 to 4 pro-abortion majority,
so this election could well decide the fate of Roe v Wade for the next several
· should restrictions be put on abortion rights, and if so what should they
· how should online privacy be guarded?
· should churches and other faith based organizations be allowed to provide
Keeping social security solvent is proving to be one of the most urgent and
contentious issues in campaign 2000. It is estimated that the system which has
provided millions of older Americans "security against the hazards and
vicissitudes of life", to quote its founder Franklin Roosevelt, will be
exhausted by 2037. Today forty percent of recepients , most of them older
women, would fall below the poverty line without their monthly social security
· should social security be partially privatized?
· should the number of beneficiaries be reduced to ensure solvency?
· what should be the future direction of medicare?
With the first budget surplus in thirty years on their hands, lawmakers now
have the unique opportunity to disagree on how best to spend it. In large
part, this year's debate on tax cuts is about how to spend the projected
budget surplus. For thirty years, the budget deficit, which Ross Perot called
"the crazy aunt we keep in the basement," loomed over both good economic times
and bad. But the next president will be faced with an unprecedented situation:
a projected surplus of $4.2 trillion through 2010. Even if the $2.3 trillion
social security tax component is put in a 'lock box' and left untouched, that
still leaves the government taking in $1.9 trillion more than it spends. more...
· should the budget surplus be used for a tax cut? How big and for whom?
· should e-commerce be taxed?
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