The issues are many. Here are a few:
TAXES: Obamas tax plan would lower taxes for 95% of all taxpayers, virtually eliminate income tax for 10 million working Americans and for seniors with incomes lower than $50,000, and Obama proposes to let the Bush administrations tax cuts for the wealthy expire and be returned to middle and low-income taxpayers in the form of tax credits to pay for health insurance.
McCain proposes further cuts in the corporate tax rate (10%) and to extend Bushs tax cuts for those at the top of the economy.
Obamas tax record in the Senate includes the Stop Fraud Bill and the 2007 Patriot Employer Tax Act, which provided tax credits to companies increasing workforce in the United States.
EDUCATION: Obama supports universal voluntary pre-school for all children, expanding head start, proper funding for No Child Left Behind, teacher service scholarships, improving science and math curriculums, and the American Opportunity Tax Credit to make college affordable for all students.
McCain supports school vouchers, has no college level programs and has not supported extending Pell Grants.
Obama led the fight to increase Pell Grants to $5,100 and introduced legislation to support summer learning and teacher residency programs.
ETHICS: Obama has a deep record on ethics legislation including bills to end no bid contracts, restricting corporate jet travel by legislators, requiring disclosure of contribution bundling by lobbyists, and has refused campaign contributions from lobbyists and PACs.
McCain, despite his rhetoric, voted against lobbying reform and has intensified his fundraising with lobbyists.
HEALTH CARE: Obamas public health care plan is similar to the federal employees plan, which covers all essential medical services including preventive, maternity and mental health services, and covers all children. For those choosing private insurers, Obama proposes a National Health Insurance Exchange to monitor private plans, ensure they are fair and accessible and to evaluate the plans. To control costs Obama would reimburse employer health plans for catastrophic illness costs above threshold, lower prescription drug costs by permitting overseas purchases and negotiating with drug companies.
McCains plan calls for federal assistance for states to create high-risk pools to contracts with insurers and provide $2,500 individual tax credits. McCain has no plan that requires coverage for children.
Obama has co-sponsored several bills including the Healthy Kids Act and SCHIP reauthorization as well as legislation on womens health issues in both Illinois and the US Senate.
MILITARY: Obama calls for an orderly transition of responsibility in Iraq from the United States military to the Iraqi government. He calls for a shift of focus to Afghanistan where Al Qaeda and the Taliban thrive.
McCain, while acknowledging the resurgence of Al Qaeda and the Taliban still argues for more troops in Iraq.
Obama has a strong record on Veterans Affairs and has passed legislation to cut red tape for veterans at VA hospitals, passed legislation to help homeless vets, introduced legislation to improve outreach to National Guard and reserves.
McCain skipped the vote on the bill to provide better education benefits to vets in May, 2008, and has consistently voted against increasing funding for veterans health care.
The differences in the two candidates are real. There is reliable information on these issues. We do not need to be misled and it is our responsibility as voters to become informed and make informed choices when choosing our next President and Vice President.
One final note: some brilliant community organizers John Adams, John Hancock, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, founded our nation. Community organizing is the basis of a true democracy.
Sara Gay Dammann has been a writer and freelance journalist for the New York Times, Detroit News, Chicago Tribune, Time-Life and other publications. She has lived in Charlevoix for more than 40 years where she and her late husband, Tom Dammann, a nationally-known newspaperman, raised their children.