Our Editorial: Candidates differ on domestic policy

From climate change to gun control, domestic policy issues are dominating this year’s presidential campaign. It is where candidates even of the same party project the most differences, and the partisan contrast is even more stark.

The primary issues — education, health care and immigration — will be addressed in upcoming parts of this series. But there remains a lot of other domestic subjects that are fueling the campaign debate.

Climate change is a good example. While all of the Republican candidates oppose President Barack Obama’s initiatives to limit carbon emissions by restricting the use of fossil fuels, and both the Democrats support them, there are distinctions in their views on global warming.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio agree climate change is real, but Cruz and Rubio say it is not the result of human activity.

Kasich differs, but like the others he opposes federal emission limits, preferring instead that states and private industry work out solutions.

Businessman Donald Trump declares climate change a hoax, and Dr. Ben Carson says it is “irrelevant.”

Both former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Democratic candidates, espouse aggressive policies to combat global warming, including carbon taxes.

Cruz and Rubio, reflecting a concern of their generation, oppose expanded federal control over the Internet, including the net neutrality law that says Internet providers should not charge different prices for different services. And both would limit taxes on Internet activity.

On spending, the Republican candidates all support a balanced budget, but Cruz would mandate it by law.

While living within the country’s means is a worthy goal, there is a danger in so rigidly matching spending and revenue, particularly in times of war or recession. Passing a balanced budget amendment could just as easily result in big tax increases as it does spending cuts.

Spending restraint is not on the agenda of either Sanders or Clinton. She is proposing a $275 billion infrastructure package to improve roads, bridges and water lines. He topped that last week in Michigan by asking for $1 trillion in new infrastructure spending. Neither offered details for paying for the work.

Gun control opponents have a friendly field of Republicans to choose from.

Trump would ban some assault weapons and extend waiting periods for firearm purchases. Carson would limit gun purchases only for violent criminals and the mentally ill.

Sanders and Clinton have battled on this issue in debates. While he has opposed waiting periods for purchases, he would ban several types of so-called assault weapons.

Clinton attacks Sanders for not supporting the repeal of liability protections on gunmakers and sellers — an effective ban on gun sales — but he has recently moved closer to her on that issue.

On the social concerns, all of the Republicans describe themselves as pro life, and most would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Cruz supported a Texas law requiring doctors preforming abortions to have admitting provisions at a nearby hospital; the measure was struck down by a federal appeals court. Sanders and Clinton oppose restrictions on abortion.

Gay marriage is now the settled law of the land, according to Kasich, Rubio and Carson.

Cruz contends last year’s Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage should apply only in the four states, including Michigan, specifically named in the lawsuit. Trump would let the states decide marriage laws.

Individual candidates stand out on certain issues.

Kasich is a strong advocate of corrections reform, including less prison time for nonviolent offenders and more job training and rehabilitation services for inmates. Ohio has become a model of prison reform under his leadership.

The governor would also curb collective bargaining rights for union workers.

Cruz is pushing a constitutional amendment that would end the lifetime appointment of Supreme Court justices, in part in retaliation for the gay marriage ruling.

Carson favors medical marijuana use.

Sanders would effectively nationalize the banking system by breaking up the large financial institutions and forcing banks to make loans to certain groups, including small businesses.

He’d also ban corporations and nonprofits from making unlimited campaign contributions. Clinton, the best funded candidate in the race, also supports restrictions on donations.

Both Clinton and Sanders are pressing to raise the minimum wage; she would hike it to $12.50 an hour and Sanders to $15, levels that most certainly would depress hiring of younger, entry level workers.

For the issue-by-issue stance of all the candidates, check outWhat the Candidates Believeat pbs.org/newshour.

Focus on primaries

This is one in an occasional series examining issues in the upcoming presidential primary election.