The State of Clayton

It is hard to escape from the election this time of year. Turn on the television? Political ads clutter everything you watch. Go for a walk? Yard signs stare at you from every angle. Curl up on the couch to read a book? The phone rings and opinions are forced upon you in the place you call home.

Though politics often make people want to crouch down in a hole and hide, the future of America lies in the hands of the voters, the people who cannot escape. How can you get an unbiased viewpoint? What changes need to be made for our nation to prosper? In a country of 310 million, how can one voice make a difference?

The date is approaching when the nation needs to decide where the country will go. What should happen with the economy? What about Israel? The Affordable Care Act? Unemployment? Social issues? Education?

Only the American people can decide what lies ahead. With millions of citizens who do not know how they feel, or worse, do not care, it is time for us to learn, be open and decide the direction our nation is headed.

THE PAST

Four years ago, Democrat Barack Obama won over the country and the general election against the Republican nominee John McCain. After Obama took office the next January, Americans were optimistic about the promise of hope and the first African American president in the history of the United States.

However, after the honeymoon, the nation found out just how bad the problems facing us were.

After four years of ups and downs, how do Clayton students, community members and teachers feel about this upcoming election? Who should get the blame for the government’s shortcomings? The praise for the accomplishments?

Four years ago hope filled the air around the nation. Now we have a mix of confusion, excitement and worry for the future of America.

Graphic by Parker Shultz.
Graphic by Parker Shultz.

OPINIONS

Christine Stricker, a personal finance teacher and yearbook advisor at CHS, feels Obama has done a good job as president, considering how the nation was after George W. Bush left office.

“I think that [Obama] walked into the job at the worst possible time a person could walk into the presidency,” Stricker said.

Though Stricker feels Obama dealt with harsh circumstances coming into office, she thinks he has done all he could in his four year term.

“[We] are back down to an unemployment rate when he took office,” she said. “He saved the auto industry, he saved millions of jobs through the auto industry and through the bailout.”

Contrary to Stricker’s opinion, Jack Klamer, a senior, feels Obama has struggled economically and was wrong in his handling of the auto industry, feeling the president should have let the failure of the auto companies play out.

“I would definitely have said, ‘let them go bankrupt, let them restructure and let them come back all on their own,’” Klamer said. “[Obama] likes to tout his numbers, but in the end it was a lot of government spending and I’m just against that amount of spending for an industry that just needs to restructure.”

Mo Mills, a junior, does not feel the same way as Klamer about the economy.

“I recognize that the right wing feels there should be less government control, and more trickle down methods,” Mills said. “I support, for today, a more progressive [tax system], and [I think] more government intervention like social welfare and things would benefit the current situations.”

Rock Erekson, local precinct captain for the Missouri River Republican Township, has met Romney several times as a conservative advocate. Erekson feels Obama has expanded the role of government, exceeding its constitutional limits.

“Go back and read the federalist papers, read the Constitution and Bill of Rights, read the founding documents and supporting documents about how the country was formed,” Erekson said. “One of the reasons it was structured the way it was was to prevent the growth of any one section of government. The government emanates from the people and their divinely endowed inalienable rights, not the reverse.”

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SOCIAL ISSUES

Legitimate rape. These words, spoken by Todd Akin, the Republican adversary of Democrat Claire McCaskill running for a Missouri seat in the U.S. senate, sent shock waves through the country. In an interview with Charles Jaco of KTVI, Akin stated that he felt if a woman was raped legitimately, their body could prevent pregnancy, meaning an abortion should not be necessary.

Akin has apologized for and recanted his comments, but the remarks have spurred discussion about many social issues, including abortion.

Noah Engel, a sophomore at CHS, feels Akin’s comments were incorrect, both in a factual and moral sense. That said, Engel does agree with Akin that abortion is wrong, just not to the same extent. Akin feels abortion is wrong under any circumstance, which Engel disagrees with.

“[There should be] no abortion except in the case of rape, life of the mother or incest,” Engel said.

This is the same stance Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee, has taken.

Disagreeing with Romney in many respects, Stricker feels strongly against the Republican stance on social issues.

“I get frustrated that the Republican viewpoint is, ‘keep your hands off my money, but we will get involved in your personal life,’” Stricker said.

What worries CHS senior Kat Miller, co-president of politics club, about the Republican social platform is the future of Planned Parenthood, a research center that gives advice on issues such as contraception and reproduction, and also provides safe abortions.

Miller cites the fact that only three percent of what Planned Parenthood does is give abortions, and feels it is necessary to keep the research center intact.

Do you support the Affordable Care Act?
Do you support the Affordable Care Act?

Another social issue that is widely discussed is gay marriage.

Romney does not support gay marriage or civil unions, a recognized union of a same-sex couple. Obama, on the other hand, is the first president in history to go on record in favor of gay marriage.

Though Klamer is conservative fiscally, he does feel Obama’s stance on gay marriage and other social issues has helped him gain a following of younger people.

“I think Obama has done all the social things that he has needed to do to really keep his youth party base, such as … come out in support of gay marriage,” Klamer said.

Engel, who, like Klamer, still supports Romney, also aligns himself more with Obama in terms of gay marriage.

While Klamer based his decisions of who to support on economics, Emily Widder, a CHS senior, feels social issues are a deciding factor in who she supports this presidential election season.

“[Even] though I may disagree with some of [Obama’s] economic policies, I think social policies are probably the most important for me and I definitely align more with Obama rather than Mr. Romney,” Widder said.

In terms of the future, Jean Carnahan, former senator and Missouri first lady, wonders what the next four years will bring.

“Are we going to really do something about women’s rights and human rights and civil rights? Are we going to continue to support those things?” Carnahan said. “We just have to decide which way we are going to go with as a nation.”

FOREIGN POLICY

Since Obama took office in 2009, United States troops have left Iraq, Osama Bin Laden has been killed, tensions between Iran and Israel have grown, Hosni Mubarak, longtime president of Egypt, was overthrown and a U.S. Ambassador was killed in Libya.

On Sept. 11 of this year, it was reported that massive protests broke out in the middle east over an offensive video on the Muslim faith. Protesters attacked the U.S. embassy in Libya, killing the U.S. Ambassador. It was soon discovered that the attack was a planned act of terror rather than spontaneous protests.

Erekson feels Obama has done a poor job in handling the current situations in Libya.

“I am still saddened and shocked that an ambassador of the United States of America would be [as] unprotected as they were,” Erekson said.

Since the attacks, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said she is responsible for the protection of the embassy.

Current Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan (daughter of Jean Carnahan), who has elected not to run for re-election this November, is also interested in the situations in China.

Romney has talked about how China has manipulates their currency, taking advantage of manufacturers in the United States. Obama feels he has helped reduce the manipulation of currency in China.

“Some dynamics of world affairs are changing,” Carnahan said. “To be able to lead a new approach to that is going to be important, and engaging the Chinese and not fighting with them is going to be an important part of that.”

A defining moment of Obama’s presidency was the killing of Osama Bin Laden, the leader of Al Qaeda. Bin Laden was responsible for the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centers on September 11, 2001.

Obama ordered the attack, which was carried out by an elite group of Navy seals.

However, there is a general Republican sentiment that overall Romney will be “tougher” in terms of foreign policy, similar to Ronald Reagan.

EDUCATION

Perhaps the issue that will most affect students at CHS over the next four years is education policies.

Student loans have been a looming question this coming election, with many Americans wondering whether or not they are the proper way to deal with the financial cost of attending college.

Obama is in favor of the loans. Mitt Romney has also stated his support, but the Paul Ryan budget plan would drastically cut the loans. Romney selected Ryan as his vice presidential nominee.

Matthew Berrios, a CHS sophomore, feels that loans are an important and necessary measure for the United States.

“I believe student loans are really effective for the continuity of a good nation,” Berrios said. “That’s because I think a nation is based on how educated their people are and if they have good educated people they have good jobs … It really helps everyone socially, politically and economically.”

Emily Longman, a senior, is not as sure about student loans as Berrios is.

“I think they are generally not the best choice for most people, depending on their situation, because they have fairly high interest rates and leave a lot of students struggling just to catch up with their payments when they are just starting a job,” Longman said. “It certainly can be a good investment, but should only be used as a last resort.”

Another issue causing controversy is the future of No Child Left Behind, a government program deciding the future of schools by using standardized test scores.

Established by Bush, the program has stayed intact throughout the Obama presidency.

With students at CHS only a few years away from beginning their own college experiences, educational changes may drastically affect their lives in a direct way.

HEALTHCARE

Some hate it, some love it, many have no clue. Coined “Obamacare,” the Affordable Care Act has evoked many strong opinions from Republicans and Democrats alike.

The Affordable Care Act requires every American to buy health insurance and provides financial help for those who cannot afford it.

The controversial part of the bill is the tax penalty given to a person who does not buy insurance.

Over the summer, Republicans brought the Affordable Care Act to the Supreme Court to decide whether or not it was constitutional. The conservative leaning court suprisingly voted in favor of the bill’s constitutionality with five justices supporting it, including Chief Justice John Roberts, a Bush appointee.

Washington University Associate Professor of Political Science Andrew Rehfeld feels the Supreme Court was correct in saying the Affordable Care Act was constitutional.

Rate the Obama presidency. One being the best, five being the worst.
Rate the Obama presidency. One being the best, five being the worst.

Rehfeld said how the bill is posed may change how people view whether or not it is constitutional.

“If you frame it as ‘you are making us purchase x’, whatever x is, it does look less constitutional than if you frame it as ‘we are going to tax everyone in order to provide everyone with a service,’” Rehfeld said.

When the Affordable Care Act was deemed constitutional, tensions ran high from both parties.

The Affordable Care Act is certainly seen as one of Obama’s major achievements as president. And Romney has stated that he hopes to repeal ‘Obamacare.’

Alex Hawkenberry, a sophomore who has neutral views on politics, agrees with the intent of the Affordable Care Act, but is unsure of whether the timing was right.

“I think that America needs health care, but it may cause unnecessary spending,” Hawkenberry said. “Now may not be the time, but in the long run it is necessary.”

Jean Carnahan agrees with the Affordable Care Act.

“Healthcare certainly is one of the most important things, and we have a chance now to provide healthcare for people,” Carnahan said.

She feels that though Republicans have been fighting the bill “tooth and claw,” and Obama’s healthcare plan is one of the things that has stood out most in his term as president.

People have often compared the Affordable Care Act to Romney’s healthcare plan in Massachusetts. David Stokes, the Clayton township committeeman for the Republican Party, feels the difference was with the level of government the act was carried out on.

“I believe that states have rights to do things within their own states that the federal government has no right doing,” Stokes said. “I would not support something like Romneycare for Missouri, but the people of Massachusetts voted it and that’s up to the people of Massachusetts.”

Erekson agrees, feeling states should do what is best for each individual state.

Like so many issues of the past four years, Obama’s healthcare plan comes down to one thing: how much of a role the government should have.

THE ECONOMY

Overall, the economy, particularly the deficit, is the biggest issue of this election season. There is a general consensus that who wins the election will do so because of their economic policies.

Romney believes his past business experience will help him if he reaches office and that he can balance the budget.

Currently, the United States is around 58 trillion dollars in debt. In November of 2008, the debt was around 50 trillion dollars.

Romney has a five-point plan for what he feels will solve the nation’s economic troubles. The plan states that North American energy independence, more trade with Latin America, maintaining a balanced budget, training programs for workers and, finally, help for small business are the things that need to happen for the nation’s economy to be turned around. Romney feels that an overall reduction of taxes would help the state.

Obama hopes to strengthen the middle class, focusing on a progressive tax system to ensure that middle to lower class people are not paying more in taxes than higher class people.

Robin Carnahan agrees with Obama.

Akin or McCaskill: who would you vote for?
Akin or McCaskill: who would you vote for?

“I agree with that philosophy. I studied economics in college. I understand that the difference in those economic philosophies and I think his priorities are right,” said Robin Carnahan.

Stokes, on the other hand, feels Obama has done a very poor job at handling the nation’s deficit.

“I think he has just put us more and more in debt and expanded regulations to control our life right and left,” Stokes said.

Ultimately, the economy is what will decide the election. With our debt raising, both candidates feel they have a solution. It is up to the American people to decide whose policy they agree with.

MISSOURI SENATE

At a local level, senator Claire McCaskill has served Missouri for the past six years as one of Missouri’s two senators. The other seat, occupied by Republican Roy Blunt, is not up for re-election. Erekson has been unhappy with McCaskill’s term as senator.

“I think she is fairly straightforward speaking but I disagree with the policies she has endorsed and voted for,” he said. “I think she has been very, very closely aligned with Obama and I disagree in many ways and fundamentally with Obama and his policies.”

Kat Miller, co-president of Politics Club at CHS, disagrees, feeling McCaskill, a Democrat, has been a good fit as senator for of Missouri, a moderate state.

“I feel throughout her term she has done a very good job of crossing party lines to be good at dealing with issues. So in terms of being like, ‘Oh I am going to vote along democratic lines so I can keep the party happy’ she has not done that,” Miller said. “She knows that Missourians are really moderate and reasonable in most cases.”

One issue that has come up in McCaskill’s term is that of gun control. McCaskill remembers when she was younger, explaining how her father would hunt for food. She says she strongly believes in the second amendment, the right to bear arms. She feels certain rules and policies may need to be examined, but good protection from our police department is most necessary, and the right to bear arms must come first.

“At the end of the day we need strong law enforcement and we need to protect people’s second amendment rights,” McCaskill said.

Akin was not available for comment, electing to leave before going to the media room after the debate at CHS. Both candidates had previously agreed to meet with the media after the debate.

LOOKING AHEAD

The next terms in both the senate and presidency are sure to be challenging. Romney and Obama are deadlocked in the final stretch of a heated campaign. Polls have come out showing both candidates ahead, leading many to have no idea what to think.

Although people have a hard time escaping this time of year, Americans must recognize that it is their own future they are deciding. We must not only accept the politically centered world we live in, but also embrace it.