In less than a week, Americans will render their verdict on President Obama's first term in office. In honor of Halloween, we've rounded up five of the scariest domestic policies the nation will need to endure if Obama is re-elected.
* Economics: When Obama was pushing his $833 billion economic stimulus package, his economists helped him out by arguing that it would lower unemployment to 5.5 percent by October 2012. They warned that if Congress did not pass the stimulus, unemployment would be above 6 percent today. As it turned out, lawmakers passed the stimulus, and unemployment is now 7.8 percent. In the summer of 2009, the White House projected economic growth of 4.3 percent in both 2011 and 2012. In reality, it was at 1.8 percent in 2011 and is on the same anemic pace this year. Despite the failures of his Keynesian, government-directed stimulus policies, Obama is pushing for a similar $500 billion package in his second term.
* Regulations: Obama's ability to pass legislation in his second term will be limited by a divided Congress, but Obama will surely continue to impose his agenda by bypassing the lawmakers. Between 2009 and 2011, the Federal Register, which records government rules, grew from 68,598 pages to 82,415, according to an analysis by the Heritage Foundation -- a new record. Even more problematic is that Obama added 106 new "major" regulations, defined as rules that cost at least $100 million per year. These now constitute an additional $46 billion annual drag on the economy. If Obama gets a second term, he won't have to worry about being re-elected, meaning he'll have even more "flexibility" to use his regulatory powers. One particularly worrisome likelihood is that the Environmental Protection Agency will expand its attempts to regulate carbon under the Clean Air Act, boosting energy prices even further.
* Taxes: Obama has argued that his proposed tax increases will only hit those making more than $250,000 per year. But this doesn't account for the fact that, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation, his tax increases will also hammer 940,000 small-business owners who file as individuals. In addition, his health care law includes $1 trillion in tax increases over the next decade, many of which will directly or indirectly fall on the middle class.
* Deficits: When Obama took office, he promised to cut the deficit in half in his first term. Had that been true, the fiscal 2012 deficit would have been $600 billion. Instead, it stands at $1.1 trillion. Under his watch, total U.S. debt has increased by more than $5 trillion, to more than $16 trillion, and the nation's credit rating was downgraded. Obama has offered no credible plan to address the problem. His failure of leadership, if extended another four years, could force the U.S. government into European-style austerity measures -- drastic and immediate cuts to vital government services and huge tax increases on all income levels that stifle economic growth.
* Health care: If Obama is re-elected, it will mean that his $1.7 trillion health care law will be put into effect. Individuals will be forced to purchase insurance policies or pay a tax and will have less freedom over their choice of health care plans. Every health plan in the country will have to meet federal government approval, and every citizen will have to show proof of insurance on his or her tax form. Businesses will be burdened by a raft of new regulations, and government will have more control over personal decisions.
The election is not a question of trick or treat. It poses a clear choice for voters: either continue on the path of decline, or pick a new president to restore America's individual freedoms and economic energy.