Ten Huge Issues Being Ignored in the Presidential Campaign

Zack Beauchamp
Think Progress / News Report
Published: Wednesday 19 September 2012
“While the candidates themselves occasionally talk about these issues, there’s a number of critical concerns that get no attention, including some of the worst problems (in terms of the harm they cause to people’s lives) in the United States and the world.”
Article image

The media focus on political minutiae in the presidential campaign can often crowd out the substantive issues that the winner will have to deal with once taking office. And while the candidates themselves occasionally talk about these issues, there’s a number of critical concerns that get no attention, including some of the worst problems (in terms of the harm they cause to people’s lives) in the United States and the world. To address this lamentable state of affairs, ThinkProgress has compiled a list of eight of the most significant problems being severely underserved by the campaign and American political discourse more broadly. In no particular order:

MASS INCARCERATION AND THE DRUG WAR

Writing in the New Yorker, Adam Gopnik termed “mass incarceration on a scale almost unexampled in human history…perhaps the fundamental fact [of American society], as slavery was the fundamental fact of 1850.” Indeed, as Gopnik notes, there are more black men are in prison today than were enslaved then and more total people in prison than there were in Stalin’s gulags at their largest. The result of this wave of imprisonment was structural inequality so severe that it was called “the new Jim Crow” by a famous book of the same title, as the strict limitations placed on convicted felons have rendered millions black Americans second-class citizens. One of the principal causes of the rise of mass incarceration is the War on Drugs, which has failed abysmally at limiting the use of dangerous drugs but succeeded wildly at aiding and abetting racial inequality in the United States and the murderous drug trade abroad. The Justice Department recently doubled down on these policies by initiating a massive crackdown on medical marijuana in states that have legalized the drug’s medicinal use.

THE HOUSING MARKET

Though it’s well-known that the housing bubble collapse precipitated the financial collapse, the subsequent woes of the housing market have received comparatively little attention. John Griffith, Julia Gordon, and David Sanchez, in a recent report for the Center for American Progress, call the current housing market “one of the biggest drags on our recovery,” writing that “The historic decline in home prices since 2006 has cost Americans more than $7 trillion in household wealth, forced millions of families out of their homes, and left nearly one in four homeowners owing more on their mortgages than their homes are worth. Private investment in housing is a fraction of its historic norm, translating to billions in lost economic output and millions of missing jobs. And more than five years into the crisis, the U.S. mortgage market remains on life support as the federal government guaranteed more than 95 percent of home loans made last year.”

THE INDIA/PAKISTAN CONFLICT

As the United States exits Afghanistan, tensions are likely to flare up again between the two nuclear-armed states over concerns about terrorism and relative influence in the country. The status of the contested Jammu-Kashmir province also remains unresolved. Former Pakistani director of Arms Control and Disarmament Affairs, Feroz Hassan Khan, concluded in a paper published by the US Army War College that “this region seems to be the one place in the world most likely to suffer nuclear warfare due to the seemingly undiminished national, religious, and ethnic animosities between these two countries.”

OVERFISHING

Fish stocks have been in free-fall since 1989, and the reason for that is clear: humans are killing fish so quickly that “large ocean fish” stocks have been reduced to ten percent of their pre-industrial peak. This pace, which could destroy every fishery in the world by 2048, isn’t just of interest to animal rights activists, as the fishing industry plays a critical role in both feeding the world’s poor and the American economy. Marine ecologist Daniel Pauly goes further, worrying that the effects of the “end of fish” on the ocean ecosystem could imperil its stability altogether, undermining one of the central bases of life on earth.

INTERNET PRIVACY

We routinely put our vital information online without thinking, but it’s becoming increasingly unclear that such information is protected from government and corporate spying. As products like Facebook become essential services, tech companies are employing shady privacy and security procedures that make it very easy for data to be leaked to third-party sources without your consent. Moreover, FBI and similar government agents can gain access to private electronic information through national security surveillance powers.

AMERICA’S SECURITY STATE AND SHADOW WARS

Though Guantanamo Bay, the PATRIOT Act, and warrantless wiretapping were thought to be vestiges of the Bush Administration in 2009, the Obama Administration hasn’t rolled them back, threatening to make the supposedly emergency-only national security state a permanent institution. In recent years, the the security state at home has been supplemented by an escalating shadow war against terrorist organizations in several countries around the world, waged principally by Special Forces and a secretive drone program. These stepped-up counterterrorism policies may be weakening al-Qaeda and associated movements, but it’s not clear if the potential costs in terms of privacy violations, blowback, and deaths of innocent civilians are well understood, let alone worth it.

FACTORY FARMING

Several billion animals live and get killed on factory farms, concentrated animal-raising plants where sentient creatures are forced to live their entire lives in tiny, often poorly maintained pens. The treatment of the pigs, cows, and chickens on factory farms is horrific — the pens are so tight that animals develop sores, the stress of confinement produces psychiatric disorders that result in self-harming behaviors like gnawing on metal bars, and proprietors conduct painful, medically unnecessary tail amputations simply because they want to. Factory farming also hurts humans; the “farms” are ideal breeding grounds for infectious diseases and do serious damage to the local and global environment.

SEGREGATION BY RACE AND CLASS IN EDUCATION

Despite Brown v. Board of Education, there is a pronounced trend toward resegregation by race and class in American schools. Poor students, especially black and Latino ones, are being shunted into a separate-but-unequal school system while wealthy students attend parallel, superior institutions. The effect of this, as Chris Hayes documents in his book Twilight of the Elites, is to create a self-perpetuating class cycle where the wealthy use their advantage to secure that their children get access to the best possible schooling, making it significantly easier for said children to become wealthy and successful and do the same for their kids. The less well off, by contrast, have only very limited ability to break into the upper echelons of American society through education, helping to cement broader trends toward inequality in the United States.



Get Email Alerts from NationofChange
ABOUT Zack Beauchamp

ZACK BEAUCHAMP is a Reporter/Blogger for ThinkProgress.org. He previously contributed to Andrew Sullivan’s The Dish at Newsweek/Daily Beast, and has also written for Foreign Policy and Tablet magazines. Zack holds B.A.s in Philosophy and Political Science from Brown University and an M.Sc in International Relations from the London School of Economics. He grew up in Washington, DC.

Top Stories

19 comments on "Ten Huge Issues Being Ignored in the Presidential Campaign"

oldhat

September 21, 2012 11:40am

2 item left out 1 debt and 2 china expansion

oldhat

September 21, 2012 11:39am

some general thoughts

mass incarcernation -- what want beheading like muslims
housing -- you want another bubble it has flattened out
farm factory - you want price to go up?
ed seg -- easy vouchers but the left need these untrained unemployable so it can win elections

Dr. Zeki Ergas

September 20, 2012 1:17pm

it's obvious, crystal-clear that we need global systemic change, or a new paradigm, or a new civilization with new values. Otherwise it's clear that humanity is doomed, and the planet is doomed. Inequality has become the biggest social problem. The fact that there are billionaires on the one hand, their numbers are growing exponentially, and poor and very poor people in the other is an aberration, totally incomprehensible. We must start be having reasonable limits on income and wealth. Maximum net income should not be more than at the most ten times than the minimum income. Nobody should have, at the most, more than $ 20 million. At least half of the goods and services produced are useless. We need to learn to live frugally, it's healthier mentally and physically. endless economic growth is an absurdity. Financial economy must be regulated very strictly. The market economy should be drastically reduced, the commons economy drastically increased. Happiness should be the aim, not accumulation of wealth and luxury...

BozoAdult

September 21, 2012 2:13am

Well said, Dr. Ergas. Of course the filthy rich right wing would label you a communist.

We need a maximum wage. And regulations on the vulture capitalists.

belleville

September 20, 2012 8:53am

Another and I think the Major Issue is; Republicans won't budge and Democrats don't push it far enough. This issue is the Federal Income Tax Code. In over 60 of the first 70 years of the Federal Tax Code we had over 30 Tax Brackets in order to reach all ranges of income. Not like today with only 6 brackets that extend to only upper middle class by topping out at $380,000. I would love to see 20 brackets to $20Million and a top marginal rate of 60%. Now that is "Fair & Balanced".

BozoAdult

September 21, 2012 2:10am

And include capital gains as regular income!

JoeWeinstein

September 20, 2012 1:04am

Another key overlooked issue is truth: or, rather, the increased shamelessness of overt lies and inconsistencies. One example is THIS article. Its title proclaims 10 issues, and its text speaks of 8 issues.

BozoAdult

September 21, 2012 2:09am

Oh, baby! You nailed it, Joe! Truth.

wildthang

September 19, 2012 4:53pm

There is also all the disembodied spirits of people harmed by our illegal wars and acceptable collateral damages and our own soldiers lives and limbs misused.
Might Makes Right may trump international law but there is a higher natural law this super-powers cannot control.
There is the similar and related vampire blood sucking of our own and the world economy.
And there is the preemptive enforcement version of preemptive war that means our secret security system could do much more than just invade peoples privacy. They could tamper with your life without you even knowing it if you turn up on a suspicious persons list and the check you out and don't like a thing about you they see. Kind of like Ward Churchill saying a disparaging word about people working for some WTC financial institutions after 9/11 or some other such casual event.

anono

September 19, 2012 1:44pm

No worries folks! We're just like the trees, bees and ants. There's nothing we can do when the stars start to fall from the sky. The natural course of events will be what they will be. We all end up dust. Enjoy the ride while you're on it.

BozoAdult

September 21, 2012 2:06am

As Kansas said, we actually are "dust in the wind'.

CTMaloney

September 19, 2012 1:05pm

The GREATEST ISSUE OF OUR TIME is global warming plus ocean acidification plus ocean rise plus shifts in agriculture plus species loss plus plus plus-- and world population to be 9 billion, then 12 or 15 or 20 billion by century end. But that won't happen. Something else well. That something else depends on what our leaders talk about and actually do.

ChetDude

September 19, 2012 11:44am

You (barely) touched on it...

The CAUSE of these symptoms is the mindless growth ponzi-scheme paradigm that is increasingly hacking into the Natural support structures of the Eaarth to feed the dying capitalist "economy"...

We are ALL going to be poorer because we are degrading the web of life and warming the Eaarth for a few more bucks...that ironically go primarily to the .01%...

Until we address the basic problem of too many humans over exploiting Mother Eaarth, we're going nowhere...

JESwindell@aol.com

September 19, 2012 11:38am

How can climate change not be at the top of this list? Even if the human role in this should be less than the science indicates, the costs in adjusting to unavoidable change are going to be enormous. If worst cast projections turn out to be correct, how can we pay for moving the entire eastern seaboard inland as sea levels rise? Mid-range projections will be felt unevenly around the globe and likely the source of armed conflict. Unexpected appearance of new diseases or the spread of known disease into newly exposed peoples could overwhelm medical resources. Who is going to prepared for these things? Who will face the reality?

John Swindells

ChetDude

September 19, 2012 11:43am

You just beat me! :-)

CrazyComposer

September 19, 2012 10:38am

One other issue that is being ignored completely by the GOP (and almost virtually by the Dems) is that of poverty in the United States. With so many people living below the poverty line you would think that the "War on Poverty" (begun by Lyndon Johnson in 1964) would be doubled-down upon so that by "year x" it could be totally eradicated. We've heard, at past conventions, about ending "child poverty", but that's really only a portion of the problem - if children are living in poverty it's because their parents are as well. Helping the "middle class" isn't going to eliminate poverty - focusing on the working class, making sure that people are able to get jobs with a "living wage" - to work with dignity - that's what will help eliminate poverty. That and affordable housing in safe neighbourhoods - and schools that aren't the product of segregation by race and economic discrimination. That will help win the war on poverty ... but not if nobody is willing to talk about it, or even mention the word.

Norman Allen's picture
Norman Allen

September 19, 2012 10:31am

Why is no one talking about the $32 trillion offshore accounts? Who own them? Why is the money parked outside of the US Banks? Why is the AG not investigating and IRS analyzing the information? Why is it not a huge part of the campaign topic? Why is the media (corporate and independent) silent about it?

pitch1934

September 19, 2012 9:42am

Romney made a very telling remark in his secretly recorded video. He said basically the the whole nationis is in trouble if the blacks and latino's start voting as a democratic block. In other words, the black and latino populatin cannot be trusted to run this country's business. Racism lives on in the repugnant party.

mamabashums

September 19, 2012 9:12am

It is mysterious that the national debt is not mentioned or is it that the national debt is being used for political purposes only. hOW DOES THE DEBT GET PAID BACK TO CHINA? WHEN DOES IT GET PAID AND HOW OFTEN. Cant we renegotiate at a lower interest and make early payments. I would ask the wealthy to all make early payments to the chinese this way the wealthy can make a direct impact in our national debt so all new taxes above a certain income would go to early payments to the chinese. The republicans want to eliminate the debt so heres a way to do that. Just to help eliminate the debt put a tax on gas 10 cents per gallon and use that to early payment to the chinese.
And by the way add a 10 cents to every hamburger sold and 1 dollar to every pizza sold for early payment to the chinese. There I have solved the national debt together we can do that what do yah say hmmm.