We’re delighted to announce the winners of The Nation’s seventh annual Student Writing Contest. This year we asked students to send us an original, unpublished, 800-word essay detailing what they think is the most important issue of Election 2012. We received close to 1,000 submissions from high school and college students in forty-two states. We chose one college and one high school winner and ten finalists total. The winners are Tess Saperstein of Dreyfoos School of the Arts in Boca Raton, Florida, and Andrew Giambrone of Yale University. The winners receive a cash award of $1,000 and the finalists $200 each. All receive Nation subscriptions. Read all the winning essays today. —The Editors


As I search for a part-time job this summer, I keep getting the same reply: sorry, we’re not hiring. Few places need workers, and a teenager with only one prior job is easily bypassed when competing with 30-, 40- and even 50-year-olds for minimum-wage jobs. Aren’t these jobs supposed to be easy to get? These places are usually on a constant lookout for new employees as others leave, but is no one leaving? Is the economy so bad that everyone is clinging to the lowest of jobs as tightly as they can?

In Obama’s three and half years as president, the economic recession has hardly improved. Housing prices are beginning to increase after continually decreasing. The GDP is slowly rising and the unemployment rate has been stable at 8.2 percent. But the economy isn’t improving fast enough and Romney is eying Obama’s job. Although he is impersonal, inconsistent and elitist, a majority of Americans think Romney would do a better job of improving the economy. I’m baffled by this, even as a 17-year-old who honestly feels guilty for not keeping up with politics as much as I think I should. How could people put their trust in someone who has laid off thousands of people, moved American businesses overseas and evaded millions in taxes? How can they support a presidential nominee who so clearly does not support them?

Most Americans want greater privacy from the government and to pay less taxes, but they also want the security provided by institutions like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. These two ideals are on opposite sides, and thus a compromise must be met, which Obama is trying hard to do. Filibustering is preventing anything from getting done. As Democrats offer stimulus packages and regulation, Republicans are delaying the voting process until there is no time left. Filibustering had once been used only rarely, but has now become constantly abused. Even bills that Republicans support are being delayed and expiring.

Republicans are deliberately doing this to kick Obama out of the presidency with little being accomplished, and this immature trick has cheated the whole country out of what could have been an economic recovery already. Romney wants a business-centered government, much like in the Roaring Twenties. He believes in the “trickle-down” theory, as espoused by Reagan, which puts money in the hands of the wealthiest 1 percent that, theoretically, will slowly but steadily trickle down to all parts of society. Of course, this has not worked in the past, and there is no reason to think it will work now.

As in the Great Depression, what our country now needs is an alphabet of reforms. Roosevelt’s New Deal put millions of people to work. Though unable to pay workers a great salary, it helped otherwise unemployed people by feeding them and raising their spirits. This Keynesian Theory of economics helps the greatest number of people, the middle class, which surely needs it as the gap between the wealthy and poor is continually growing. What Obama needs to push for now is raising the minimum wage to inflation levels, which would help not only teens like me but also plenty of adults and even parents, and raising taxes on the top 1 percent. With this, our country could begin to reduce its huge deficit and bridge the income inequality gap.

Common wisdom says that the economy is always the most important issue in a presidential election, and I think that it is especially true this time around. I’m scared of what will happen to the American and global economies if Mitt Romney becomes president. I know other people are scared, too, but I hope that they will look at the facts and realize that a candidate beloved by the corporations is not the solution. I hope that President Obama can convince people that he is the best choice for fixing the economy. If people can work together and decrease the income gap between the rich and the poor, then we still have a chance to be a great country. This is my country. I want to work for it, and for it to work for everyone.