This is the 'big-choice' election, say the politicians and the pundits: today, Americans have to decide between 'big government' Barack and 'free market' Mitt. Yet a vast array of key political, social and economic issues, relating to domestic and foreign affairs, have been virtually ignored over the course of this months-long, multi-billion-dollar election campaign - either because the two main candidates agree on them or because they dare not do anything about them.
Here are ten things that won't change tomorrow morning - or, after the inauguration, in January 2013:
1) GLOBAL WARMING
Whether it's President Obama or President Romney, the United States will continue to be one of the world's largest emitters of CO2, with 17.3 tonnes in per capita emissions. Neither candidate has offered any substantive policies or proposals to wean Americans off their planet-killing addiction to fossil fuels. "For the first time since 1984, climate change wasn't mentioned in any of the presidential debates," writes George Monbiot in today's Guardian.
No country on Earth imprisons more people per capita than the United States - a quarter of the world's prisoners are incarcerated across the pond, despite the US being home to just 5% of the world's population. Neither Obama nor Romney has any plans to reform penal policy - or, for that matter, end the disastrous 'War on Drugs' which has helped drive up the American prison population to its current, record-breaking level.
Americans are the most heavily-armed people in the world per capita, with around 270 million guns in circulation (Yemen comes a distant second). Guns are used to shoot more than 100,000 Americans a year and are held responsible for around 30,000 deaths. None of these facts are going to change during Obama's second term or Romney's first term.
Whether it's Barack or Mitt, Wall Street bankers won't stop getting their massive, multi-million-dollar bonuses (under Obama, in fact, the top 1% secured 93 cents out of every new dollar of economic growth). Meanwhile, the number of Americans living in poverty is expected to continue its climb upwards. Romney has said he's "not concerned about the very poor" and, as Gary Younge reports, "In all of his state of the union speeches [Obama] mentioned poverty just three times: last year's was the first since 1948 to not mention poverty or the poor at all."
5) CIVIL LIBERTIES
Neither candidate will repeal the Patriot Act (signed by Bush), which violates Americans' rights to privacy and protection against unreasonable search and seizure; neither candidate will repeal the National Defense Authorization Act (signed by Obama), which gives the US president the power to indefinitely imprison American citizens without due process.
Neither candidate has a plan to shut down the controversial prison camp at Guantanamo Bay. Obama has failed to do so over the past four years - while Romney has called for a doubling in the size of 'Gitmo'.
Neither Obama nor Romney will dare touch the $3bn-plus annual subsidy from the United States government to the state of Israel - despite the latter's ongoing and illegal occupation and colonisation of Palestinian land. The third presidential debate saw the two men compete for the 'I love Israel more' award.
Neither candidate is willing to soften the crippling economic sanctions on Iran, which have led to food and medicine shortages on the streets of Tehran and been described by Columbia University professor and former US National Security Council staffer Gary Sick as ”the equivalent of a blockade... an act of war.” Both men have also pledged to take military action to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
US drone strikes are estimated to have killed between 475 and 885 civilians in Pakistan since 2004 - including 176 children. Both Obama and Romney are big fans of drones.
Whoever wins tonight, US troops will continue to fight and die in the killing fields of Afghanistan between now and the end of 2014.
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