Teen Style: Breaking down candidate issues for teens

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— As the election draws closer, it can be difficult to disentangle the various political positions of the presidential candidates. Below is a list of the issues our country is facing, along with descriptions of the candidates' stances with regard to those issues, in the hope that it might help those who have yet to see such a list laid out clearly. All information pertaining to the opponents' stances has been gathered from the candidates' Web sites, unless otherwise specified.

- The Iraq war: The war in Iraq has been a topic of heated argument for years and is one of the more important issues in the race for president. On one side is John McCain, who believes that maintaining our military presence in Iraq and supporting the country's government is the right thing to do. On the other side is Barack Obama, who is in favor of a phased withdrawal from the country in which our troops are extracted over a period of time until only a small force remains.

- The economy: Arguably the most relevant and discussed issue in the presidential race, and one that has risen to this status in only a few weeks, the national economic crisis is evident in everything from inflation to city budget cuts to unemployment rates. It also, surprisingly, is a subject on which the candidates seem to share at least some common ground: For example, both presidential hopefuls, who also are senators, voted in favor of the recently passed $700 billion bailout bill (information from www.senate.gov).

- Illegal immigration: McCain and Obama acknowledge a growing population of illegal immigrants in the U.S., and both say they will secure the border, if elected. They also believe the immigration system is flawed and in need of repair. The candidates differ in the amount of international influence their reform plans will have; while McCain's plan concentrates on our nation's problems, Obama's plan covers Mexico's issues, as well, with a proposal to stimulate the country's economy in an effort to decrease the number of border crossings.

- The environment: Obama hopes to reduce greenhouse emissions by 80 percent by 2050, and McCain has a target of 66 percent by the same date. The senators also have plans to increase the amount of energy drawn from renewable sources and encourage an increase in "green" jobs. McCain, like Obama, plans to institute a cap-and-trade program that supports environmental friendliness in businesses.

- Education: With regard to the No Child Left Behind Act - which, among other things, set national student performance standards and aimed to improve the quality of education in general - McCain believes expansion of the law is necessary. Obama considers implementation and funding, as well as the act itself, to be insufficient. McCain stresses the ability of the parent to choose the school they want the student to attend. Obama's plan will support those who still are learning English in school. The candidates agree that the college financial aid process must be simplified.

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