Voter Guide 2012: Obama and Romney on the Issues

Sept. 7, 2012 - Download PDF Version

The two presidential candidates have put forth very different proposals on nearly every issue, and now it's up to voters to choose the path our country will take for years to come. From Medicare to education to budget deficits, here's where the candidates stand on 12 key issues:



The Issue

Barack Obama

Mitt Romney

Job Creation

The private sector is adding jobs at a slow rate, while government budget cuts bring layoffs.

Proposes $350 billion over several years for job creation through public works projects and other means.


No new initiatives.


Looming budget cuts would reduce public investment in education from pre-kindergarten to research universities.

Read more here:

Proposes increasing discretionary funding for education by around 2 percent in fiscal 2013, or roughly $1.5 billion.

Believes education is a state issue. Proposes cutting all domestic discretionary programs (including education) by 5 percent upon entering the White House.

The Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”)

Health reform legislation includes the unpopular mandate to buy insurance as well as the popular provision guaranteeing that Americans with pre-existing medical conditions won’t be denied insurance.

Read more here:

Obamacare will add 30 million Americans to the ranks of the insured. It will cut $119 billion from projected deficits by 2019, in part by levying a tax on “Cadillac” health insurance plans.

Would repeal Obamacare but proposes many of the same policies at the state level, including subsidies to buy private insurance and an insurance “exchange” to allow comparison between plans.


Medicare is the federal health insurance program for elderly and disabled Americans. Due to the rise in health care costs as well as demographic changes, Medicare accounts for an increasingly large share of the federal budget.

Read more here:

Generates savings through administrative changes, including mandating efficiencies in private health insurance to save $500 billion over 10 years.

Proposes no changes for current seniors, while future retirees would receive a fixed amount of money to purchase private health insurance.


Medicaid is the health insurance program for low-income Americans and is jointly funded by the federal government and the 50 states. As health care costs rise and fewer Americans have employer-provided health care, Medicaid has grown as a share of federal and state budgets.

Read more here:

Expands Medicaid to all Americans below 133 percent of the poverty line. (Eligibility currently varies widely by state.)

Would convert Medicaid to a grant program to sharply reduce federal spending on health insurance for low-income Americans, reducing the number of Americans covered by Medicaid and allowing states discretion over if or how to implement the program.

Social Security

Social Security provides cash benefits to retirees and the disabled. After 2033 and with no changes, the program will be able to pay around 75 percent of scheduled benefits. Some changes to the program are necessary to guarantee full benefits to retirees and the disabled after 2033.

Read more here:

Supports raising the maximum income level subject to Social Security taxes. (Currently workers pay Social Security taxes on their first $110,100 of wages.)

Would gradually increase the retirement age and reduce benefits for wealthy retirees.

Bush-era Tax Cuts

The Bush-era tax cuts are scheduled to expire on Dec. 31, 2012. The tax cuts benefit nearly every American taxpayer but offer the most generous benefits to the wealthiest Americans.

Read more here:

Proposes allowing the tax cuts to expire for families making more than $250,000 and individuals making more than $200,000.

Would cut tax rates below Bush-era levels, with the deepest benefits accruing to the highest earners.

Corporate Taxes

The official top income-tax rate for corporations is 35 percent. On average, however, corporations pay an effective tax rate lower than that as a result of deductions and loopholes in the tax code.

Read more here:

Maintains current tax rate and levies Financial Crisis Responsibility Fee on the largest financial institutions.

Would reduce the official top corporate income-tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent.



Tax Loopholes

Loopholes and deductions in the corporate and individual income-tax code will cost the federal government more than $1 trillion in lost revenue in fiscal 2012.

Read more here:

Ends some tax loopholes for corporate offshore operations, and ends some preferences for fossil-fuel companies.

Supports closing loopholes but does not specify which ones.


War funding is on the decline, though the Department of Defense base budget nearly doubled in the decade since Sept. 2001.

Read more here:

Cuts 2.5 percent from the defense base budget in fiscal 2013 and then projects growth in subsequent years.

Would prevent defense budget cuts but reduce Pentagon civilian staff.

Automatic Spending Cuts (“Sequestration”)

Due to legislation passed in Aug. 2011, automatic spending cuts are scheduled to cut $55 billion from domestic programs and another $55 billion from the military beginning in Jan. 2013.

Read more here:

Replaces sequestration with higher taxes on wealthy Americans and other deficit-reduction initiatives.

Would reduce sequestration to a 5 percent across-the-board cut to all domestic programs while preventing any cuts to the military.

Projected Budget Deficit in FY2022

Many economists urge lawmakers to avoid deficit reduction while the economy is weak, but to reduce deficits as the economy recovers.

Read more here:

$704 billion

Does not provide this information, but expresses support for Rep. Ryan’s (R-WI) budget, with a projected deficit of $287 billion in FY2022.

Candidate positions from and

Budget data from White House Office of Management and Budget, and the House Budget Committee.

National Priorities Project is a nonprofit, nonpartisan federal budget research organization.