Economy, health care key issues for swing-state voters

This year’s presidential race between Democratic incumbent President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a Republican, is being hailed as the most important since the 1960 battle between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon.

A sound, job-producing economy and health care are key issues in the Obama-Romney race. Colorado is a swing state in this election, and both candidates are fighting to earn the state’s nine electoral votes. Many Coloradans are divided over the two issues.

Both candidates want to improve the country’s economy by changing the ways citizens are taxed. Obama wants to keep in place some tax cuts that were made during the administration of George W. Bush, but just for individuals who earn less than $200,000 a year and married couples who earn less than $250,000 a year. People who make more money would see their taxes go up.

Romney wants to keep the Bush tax cuts in place for everyone and make a “permanent, across-the-board 20 percent cut,” according to That would bring the top individual tax rate of 35 percent down to 28 percent.

Obama’s No. 1 goal for the coming four years is to decrease the number of people who are out of work. Throughout his term as president, his administration added 4.6 million jobs, according to a recent USA Today article. The president has not kept his promise to bring the level of unemployment to 5.4 percent. Unemployment currently stands at 8.3 percent, a statistic that does not sit well with many people.

Erin Lielkoks, a senior at Grand Junction High School, is among those Americans.

“I feel discouraged,” Lielkoks said. “My job contributes to my family’s livelihood. It’s part of the government’s responsibilities to help make sure that I can take care of my family, and by not being able to find a job, that’s not happening.”

Obama wants to increase American jobs “by eliminating tax breaks for U.S. companies that ship jobs overseas and creating incentives for businesses to bring jobs back to America,” according to

According to, Romney wants to build America’s workforce in two ways. First, he wants to retrain American workers “to ensure that they have the education and skills to match the jobs of today’s economy.” Second, a Romney administration would have an immigration policy that would be of interest to immigrants who are highly skilled.

“The United States needs to attract and retain job creators from wherever they come. Foreign-born residents with advanced degrees start companies, create jobs, and drive innovation at an especially high rate,” according to the website.

Along with the nation’s economic woes, health care also has been hotly debated ever since the president introduced his Affordable Care Act (known as Obamacare) and the House of Representatives and Senate narrowly passed it in 2010. Though the Supreme Court deemed the act constitutional in March, House Republicans passed a bill that repealed it. That bill, however, did not pass through the Senate, and so the law remains in place.

Republicans, Romney among them, have expressed disapproval of Obamacare.  “What the court did not do on its last day in session,” Romney said of the March 28 decision, “I will do on my first day if elected. I will act to repeal Obamacare.”

The president’s position, though, is that the Affordable Care Act increases citizens’ access to health care, makes health care more affordable, and ends abuses by insurance companies such as capping or dropping coverage when people become ill, according to the president’s official website.

Caleb Gartner, a GJHS senior who calls himself a moderate (a mix between the two parties) has positive thoughts on the act. Without it, he would be denied insurance because of a pre-existing health problem.

“It helps keep families trying to cover major medical expenses from going bankrupt,” he said. “Obviously, there are downsides to it. Nothing’s perfect, especially when insurance is involved. A good compromise leaves everybody unhappy.”

Gartner will be of age to vote on Nov. 6.  He will be among the Coloradans weighing these and other issues as they cast “swing-state” votes that will be closely watched on election night.

Zachary Barger is a student at Grand Junction High School and is reporting on election issues for The Daily Sentinel in conjunction with Kids Voting of Mesa County.


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