November's presidential election offers Americans one of the starkest choices in years. On this, at least, President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney can agree.
Obama says voters will choose between "two fundamentally different visions of where we take America."
Romney promises a countervision of "growth and jobs and economic vitality."
Obama sees government as the catalyst for economic growth, a safety net for the neediest, a protector against free-market excesses and a safeguard for the environment.
That philosophy led to his stimulus and auto-bailout programs and his support for legislation tightening federal financial regulation. In the future, he wants more government spending on education, highways and bridges and promoting renewable energy.
In other words, Obama wants a government that is active on behalf of its citizens, but Romney and running mate U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin think it should get out of the way.
Borrowing a page from former President Ronald Reagan, Romney brands government the problem — not part of the solution. He says overreaching government stifles growth, innovation and productivity. He would slash individual and corporate taxes, lighten federal regulations and trim budget deficits mostly through deep spending cuts.
The candidates harbor many 180-degree differences:
Obama would raise taxes on households earning more than $250,000 a year and raise taxes on those making more than $1 million.