Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Presidential Election

October 5, 2012

WHY IT MATTERS: Issues at stake in election

A selection of issues at stake in the presidential election and their impact on Americans, in brief

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Neither Obama nor Romney has had much to say about guns during the campaign. Obama hasn't pushed gun control measures as president; Romney says new gun laws aren't needed.

It's getting harder to argue that stricter gun laws are needed when violent crime has been decreasing without them.

But the next president may well fill at least one Supreme Court seat, and the court is narrowly divided on gun control. An Obama appointee could be expected to be friendlier to gun controls than would a Romney nominee.

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Health care:

America's health care system is unsustainable. It's not one problem, but three: cost, quality and coverage.

The U.S. has world-class hospitals and doctors. But it spends far more than other advanced countries and people aren't much healthier. And in an aging society, there's no reliable system for long-term care.

Obama's expansion of coverage for the uninsured hits high gear in 2014. Obama keeps today's Medicare while trying to slow costs. He also extends Medicaid.

Romney would repeal Obama's health care law but hasn't spelled out what he'd do instead. On Medicare, he favors the option of a government payment to help future retirees get private coverage.

The risk of expanding coverage: Health costs consume a growing share of the stressed economy. The risk of not: Millions continue uninsured or saddled with heavy coverage costs as the population grows older.

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Immigration:

An estimated 11.5 million illegal immigrants are living and often working in the United States. Figuring out what to do with them has confounded Washington for years.

Lax enforcement could mean more illegal immigrants competing with citizens for jobs and some social services, without necessarily paying income taxes. A too-tight policy could mean farmers and others in industries that rely on the cheaper labor of illegal immigrants are left begging for workers, passing higher costs on to everyone else or going out of business.

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Presidential Election