BACK on the mainland, the final countdown to the 2012 presidential election has begun.
The electorate has rarely been more polarized, and many people feel that the stakes in this election have never been higher.
These views are reflected from page one of the platforms both parties approved at their recent conventions.
The Republican’s preamble states, “Providence has put us at the fork in the road, and we must answer the question: If not us, who? If not now, when?” The Democrats counter: “This election is not simply a choice between two candidates or two political parties, but between two fundamentally different paths for our country and our families.”
Here on Guam, voters will have no say in the presidential election, but America’s choice is likely to have a significant impact on the island.
To help get a little better idea of what this might be, the Variety has taken a look at the two party platforms and identified the differences on some of the most important issues.
Basic governing and economic philosophies
It is clear that the writers of the platforms view the world in very different ways and have completely different basic ideas of how the United States should be governed.
Throughout their platform, the Republican position is strongly libertarian, and in favor of small government and unfettered capitalism. “Excessive taxation and regulation impede economic development. Lowering taxes promotes substantial economic growth and reducing regulation encourages business formation and job creation,” they say.
In contrast, the Democrats present a vision of a society centered around the middle class, with the government playing a key role in supporting it. “We Democrats offer America the opportunity to move our country forward by creating an economy built to last and built from the middle out. ... This has to be our North Star – an economy that’s built not from the top down, but from a growing middle class.”
In support of these basic positions, the Democrats and Republicans offer very different tax and deficit reduction programs.
The Democrats want to increase revenues by raising taxes on the rich, while maintaining tax relief targeted at the middle class and the poor. They promise to make budgetary cuts in a balanced way, including defense.
For their part, the Republicans favor further tax reductions, not cutting defense spending at all and relying entirely on cuts in social and entitlement programs (including SNAP and other non-defense discretionary spending) to reduce the deficit.
With more than 40,000 people now receiving food stamps on Guam, and tens of millions of dollars per year being spent on Medicaid, a drastic reduction in these programs could hit the island very hard.
Healthcare, Medicare and Medicaid structure
The Democratic platform calls for the full implementation of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), although it is not yet clear if all of its provisions would apply to Guam, especially those that fund an expansion of access to Medicaid for people with lower incomes, and the health insurance mandate.
On the other hand, the Republican platform calls for the full repeal of Obamacare on day one of a Republican presidency. It also calls for both Medicare and parts of Medicaid to be voucherized, saying, “The first step is to move the two programs away from their current unsustainable defined-benefit entitlement model to a fiscally sound defined contribution model.”
Direct mention of Guam, Compact Impact issues
The Democrats have a section of their platform entitled “Guam, American Samoa, U.S. Virgin Islands and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.” This included the Compact-Impact sensitive statement, “We ... take seriously the unique healthcare challenges that Pacific island communities face. For all those who live under our flag, we support strong economic development and will work towards fair and equitable treatment under federal programs.”
The Republican platform had no specific mention of Guam, only a section entitled “Honoring and Supporting Americans in the Territories.”
The one item the Republicans included that was specifically directed at the Pacific territories stated, “The Pacific territories should have flexibility to determine the minimum wage, which has seriously restricted progress in the private sector.” This is a huge issue now in the CNMI, where some businesses already on the edge of failure due to the catastrophic economy fear that a federal mandate to increase the minimum wage will push them over the edge into bankruptcy.
This sentence has become something of a political football, with former Gov. Carl Gutierrez claiming that Gov. Eddie Calvo’s support of the Republican platform means he wants to reduce the minimum wage here on Guam, and Calvo’s spokesman vehemently denying that he has any plans to do so.
For their part, the Democrats do not mention this issue in relation to the territories, but they do strongly support raising the minimum wage nationwide.
Buildup related issues
Neither party’s platform specifically mentions the military buildup, but both call for a strong defense posture in the Pacific. In general, the Democrats appear more open to cutting some defense spending than the Republicans, which could theoretically make less money available for the buildup, but their plan also favors President Barack Obama’s "Pacific Shift," in which Guam is likely to play a key role.
What does appear to directly relate to the buildup, however, is the Democrat’s phrase, “We will work as partners to the people of Guam on military matters.” The Republicans have nothing comparable.
In its section on Guam and the territories, the Democratic platform clearly recognizes a right to self-determination, stating: “We support full self-government and self-determination for the people of the territories, and their right to decide their future status.”
The Republicans, on the other hand, offer a much more ambiguous statement, “We welcome their (the territories') greater participation in all aspects of the political process and affirm their right to seek the full extension of the Constitution, with all the rights and responsibilities it entails.”