What's at stake in the 2012 presidential election - in photos

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The job market is brutal and the economy weak. Nearly 13 million Americans can't find work; the unemployment rate has been higher than 8 percent for more than 40 months. A divided Washington has done little to ease the misery.

The economy didn't take off when the recession ended in June 2009. Growth has never been slower in the three years after a downturn. The human toll is staggering. Forty percent of the jobless, 5 million people, have been out of work six months or more — a "national crisis," according to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. Wages aren't keeping up with inflation.

Obama wants to create jobs by keeping taxes low for everybody but the wealthiest and with public-works spending, clean energy projects and targeted tax breaks to businesses. Romney proposes further cuts in tax rates for all income levels; he'd also slash corporate rates, reduce regulations and encourage oil production.

A worker at the Ford Stamping Plant moves a stack of Lincoln MKS body sides in Chicago Heights, Ill.