Romney vs. Obama on Consumer Interests

Posted October 4, 2012 in Consumer Law by

Ah, the presidential campaign — an opportunity for President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney to engage in a high-minded debate about ideas of substance and how to best lead America to a prosperous future. Or, spend all their time telling the public that the other is shockingly unfit for office and a terrible person, to boot.

Both the president and his challenger have been maddeningly unspecific on many of their substantive policy proposals and what paths they would actually follow if elected or reelected to office.

“Instead of spending their precious time trying to manipulate our sympathies, both campaigns and their candidates should be focusing on the serious questions that need answering,” writes Eliot Spitzer, an attorney and former governor of New York.

Despite the candidates’ dodging, from their party platforms, statements and past actions we can garner clues about what might result on a number of issues of import to consumers depending on who resides in the White House in 2013 and beyond:

Guns: Obama has not pursued any firearm restrictions since he’s been in office. He has signed laws that expand the rights of gun owners by allowing them to carry in national parks and on Amtrak trains. His spokesman stated, however, that the president supports renewing the Clinton-era federal assault weapon ban, which expired in 2004.

Former Gov. Romney opposes any additional gun laws and regulations and states as an official campaign platform that “he will fight the battle on all fronts to protect and promote the Second Amendment.”

Marijuana: As a candidate Obama said he wasn’t going to prioritize prosecution of medicinal marijuana users. As president he has raided more medical dispensaries than President Bush did in eight years.

Romney has made clear his opposition to medicinal marijuana, suggesting that the practice is a red herring toward overall legalization. “I am opposed to it,” he said during a town hall even in New Hampshire. “And if you elect me president, you’re not going to see legalized marijuana. I am going to fight it tooth and nail.”

Foreclosures: The president advanced a limited aid program for homeowners facing foreclosures, encouraging lenders to modify loans in lieu of other options, such as having the government take over distressed loans. As of May, about 1 million out of 4.3 million consumers who applied for help received it. Obama has since increased incentives for lenders to participate but his slow and limited response has been criticized for retarding economic recovery.

Romney has pledged to “facilitate creative alternatives to foreclosure for those who cannot afford to pay their mortgage” while providing absolutely no details as to how he would do so.

Immigration: Here Obama pledged and failed to achieve comprehensive immigration reform. In lieu of any major legislative changes, the administration had deported 1.4 million people since 2009 through June of this year, a rate of 150 percent of that of the Bush administration. On the other hand he did create a policy to de-prioritize deportation of undocumented immigrants who don’t have criminal records, and said that immigrants who were brought to the country as children in most cases will not be kicked out.

Romney supports a traditional hard-on-immigration platform, encouraging states to act on their own to find undocumented people and calling for a stronger fence along the Mexico border. The platform opposes any path to citizenship for people who came to the nation illegally and is against perks like in-state tuition for them.

Health Care: President Obama advocated for and signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which will extend health insurance to as many as 33 million people who don’t currently have it. Included in the law are consumer-friendly provisions like keeping children on their parents’ insurance up to age 26 and banning insurers from refusing to enroll people because of preexisting conditions. The bulk of the law will be in place by 2014.

Although Romney enacted the model for Obamacare when he was governor of Massachusetts, he has pledged top repeal and replace the 2010 federal law. How exactly he would do that has been prone to frequent changes of position.

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