the choice 2000
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issues briefs
Editor's Note:

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.

· campaign finance reform

· defense & foreign policy

· education

· environment

· families & children

· health care reform

· social policy

· social security & medicare

· tax policy

· editor's note

campaign finance reform

'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?

Defense and Foreign Policy

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 security?
· how does the US keep its military ready for the 21st century challenges?
· 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 school?
· 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?

family & children

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 affordable?
· should there be mandatory child safety locks on guns?
· how can children be protected from objectionable material on TV and the Net?

health care

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?

social policy

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 years.  more

· should restrictions be put on abortion rights, and if so what should they be?
· how should online privacy be guarded?
· should churches and other faith based organizations be allowed to provide social services?

social security/medicare

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 check.  more...

· 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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