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Monday, October 26, 1998 Published at 17:47 GMT


US election issues



[an error occurred while processing this directive]American political campaigns are notoriously about two things: fundraising and mudslinging. But with public scandal-weary from the Monica Lewinsky affair, candidates this year are trying to focus the issues they say matter most. BBC News Online provides a guide to the most important campaign issues.

Select an issue:

Health care ¦ Economy ¦ Tax and Social Security ¦ Immigration ¦ Campaign finance reform ¦ Abortion ¦ Education



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The high cost of private health insurance has left 40 million Americans without coverage. Some have credited Health Maintenance Organisations with helping to slow the rise of healthcare costs, but the schemes are becomingly increasingly unpopular due to limits on care and doctor choice. Congress has shied away from large-scale reform, most recently defeating a so-called "Patient's Bill of Rights," but healthcare remains a major issue with voters. Can healthcare coverage be expanded with minimal cost and regulation? Liberals believe a generous package of government-financed coverage is not only a moral imperative but would also help to control healthcare costs. Many moderates and most conservatives oppose large government initiatives.

Democrats have pressed to expand healthcare because of its appeal to women voters, viewed increasingly as a decisive bloc in elections. Republicans have floated their own, more limited healthcare proposals, but President Clinton's problems have delayed votes on two healthcare bills until after the elections.

More information:

Health care ¦ Economy ¦ Tax and Social Security ¦ Immigration ¦ Campaign finance reform ¦ Abortion ¦ Education¦ Back to intro



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The US economy has enjoyed one of the longest booms since World War II, and both Republicans and Democrats have been quick to take credit for the period of prosperity. But as the Asian contagion threatens to spread to the US, voters are becomingly increasingly concerned about the health of the economy. The dazzling Dow Jones lured millions of small investors to the stock market, but the rise has turned into a roller coaster. Banks and investment firms have announced substantial layoffs following the fallout. The robust economy had promised to sweep incumbents easily back into office, but consumers may be looking for scapegoats as the long boom goes bust.

For more information:

Health care ¦ Economy ¦ Tax and Social Security ¦ Immigration ¦ Campaign finance reform ¦ Abortion ¦ Education ¦ Back to intro



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The United States has posted its first budget surplus in more than 30 years, and according to estimates by the Congressional Budget Office, the surplus could increase to as much as $86 bn by 2001. What to do with all that money? As a rule, Republicans love tax cuts, and they want one more than ever. But with the baby boomers readying for retirement, Democrats say that the surplus should be reserved to pay Social Security pensions.

Therein lies what could be the biggest issue of the election: Do voters want more money in their pocket now, or would they prefer to see money used to repair the social safety net? President Clinton wants to delay tax cuts until Social Security is safe. The voters can decide November 3.

For more information:

Health care ¦ Economy ¦ Tax and Social Security ¦ Immigration ¦ Campaign finance reform ¦ Abortion ¦ Education ¦ Back to intro

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More than one million legal immigrants and an untold number of illegal immigrants enter the United States each year. Immigration is a hot button issue in border states. In recent years, immigrants have faced a backlash in the US, most notably in California where voters have passed proposals to curb bilingual education and stop public education, healthcare and social services to suspected illegal immigrants. The October budget agreement may stem the tide. The agreement allows almost 50,000 Haitian refugees to stay legally in the United States, increases the number of specialised foreign workers allowed in the country, and earmarks money for the Immigration and Naturalisation Service to reduce its backlog of citizenship applications.

Democrats might hail the changes as a victory; Republicans could campaign for its reversal.

For more information:

Health care ¦ Economy ¦ Tax and Social Security ¦ Immigration ¦ Campaign finance reform ¦ Abortion ¦ Education ¦ Back to intro

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Voters believe that moneyed interests have hijacked the political process, creating a pay-to-play system, and campaign fund-raising for the 1998 elections is breaking records. A Federal Election Commission survey of campaign disclosure reports found that Senate and House campaigns raised a total of $484.3 million between January 1, 1997, and June 30, 1998, an increase of 8% over the same period in 1995-96.

Candidates across the board condemn the stranglehold money has on politics, but as the money rolls in, it's politics as usual. Democrats and Republicans have called for reforms, but neither party has been willing to move on an issue that could prove damaging to them both. Meanwhile, campaign finance threatens to spoil Vice President Al Gore's bid for presidency as the the US Justice Department investigates possible violations by Gore in the 1996 campaign.

For more information:

Health care ¦ Economy ¦ Tax and Social Security ¦ Immigration ¦ Campaign finance reform ¦ Abortion ¦ Education ¦ Back to intro



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The strong Pro-Life campaign equates abortion with "murder" and "infanticide" while an equally outspoken Pro-Choice lobby maintains it is a woman's right to decide. In the last legislative session, Congress has twice passed a bill to ban a late-term abortion procedure opponents refer to as partial-birth abortion. President Clinton vetoed both, saying the bills did not provide for exceptions to protect to the life of the mother. In July, the House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to override the president. But in September, pro-life advocates in the Senate did not muster enough votes to override the veto.

Despite the deadlock, Republicans are not likely to make moral issues the centrepiece of their campaigns. Recent polls show that the a scandal-weary public, tired of months of impeach-a-tainment in the news, is more interested in solid issues such as the economy, crime and education.

For more information:

Health care ¦ Economy ¦ Tax and Social Security ¦ Immigration ¦ Campaign finance reform ¦ Abortion ¦ Education ¦ Back to intro


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Both Democrats and Republicans agree that education is an important issue, but that's where the agreement stops as was shown in recent budget battles. Each release of statistics showing US students lagging behind their counterparts around the world sets off a new round of recriminations and a search for a solution.

Republicans support school choice programs that include school vouchers, which would allow tax breaks and public funds to help low-income families to pay for private schools. Democrats, supported by the powerful teachers' unions, have opposed such proposals saying school vouchers would undermine public education.

President Clinton was successful in winning passage of a billion dollars for 100,000 new teachers, but the debate highlights differences between the two parties. While both Republicans and Democrats both want to be seen as pro-education, Republicans have pushed for greater state and local control.

For more information:

Health care ¦ Economy ¦ Tax and Social Security ¦ Immigration ¦ Campaign finance reform ¦ Abortion ¦ Education ¦ Back to intro





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