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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But nothing will happen without White House leadership.

For millions of retired and disabled workers, Social Security is almost all they have to live on. Monthly retirement benefits are $1,237; average disability benefits, $1,111.

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Syria:

Syria's conflict is the most violent to emerge from last year's Arab Spring. Activists say at least 23,000 people have died over the last 18 months.

Obama wants Syrian President Bashar Assad to leave power. But he won't use U.S. military force to make that happen.

Romney says "more assertive" U.S. tactics are needed, without fully spelling them out.

The future of Arab democracy could hinge on the crisis. After dictatorships fell in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen, critics say Assad's government has resorted to torture and mass killings to stay in power.

Its success would deny the U.S. a major strategic victory. Assad long has helped Iran aid Hamas and Hezbollah, destabilizing Lebanon while threatening Israel's security and U.S. interests in the Middle East.

But extremists among the opposition, Assad's weapons of mass destruction and worries about Israel's border security have policymakers wary about deeper involvement.

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Taxes:

Almost every U.S. taxpayer faces a significant tax increase next year, unless Congress and the White House agree on a plan to extend a huge collection of tax cuts expiring at the end of the year.

And there's a huge debate over how to overhaul the tax code to make it simpler, with lower rates balanced by fewer deductions.

Obama wants to extend Bush-era tax cuts again, but only for individuals making less than $200,000 and married couples making less than $250,000.

Romney wants to extend all those tax cuts and enact new ones, dropping all income tax rates by 20 percent. Romney says he would pay for that by eliminating or reducing tax credits, deductions and exemptions. But he won't say which ones would go.

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Presidential Election