Obama, McCain Agree: They Disagree on Economy
There's at least one thing Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain agree on.
"When it comes to the economy, John McCain and I have a fundamentally different vision of where to take the country," Obama told a crowd Monday in North Carolina.
McCain echoed that sentiment the next day in a speech to small-business owners in Washington, D.C. "On tax policy, health care reform, trade, government spending, a long list of other issues, we offer very different choices to the American people," McCain said.
The two presidential candidates are spelling out those economic choices this week.
At his North Carolina speech, Obama was introduced by a lifelong Republican who now finds herself looking for a change.
"We were lower middle-class," said Pamella Cash-Roper, a 54-year-old nurse. "Now we're not even lower middle-class, I'm as low as it can get. When the price of milk and the price of gas are almost the same, we need to start looking at something."
Obama wants to reverse President Bush's income tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, while giving a tax credit of up to $500 for low- and middle-income workers. The senator has proposed spending tens of billions of dollars on new roads, bridges and alternative energy projects. And perhaps his most ambitious initiative would help subsidize health care so nearly all Americans could afford it.
"We have tried it their way for eight long years. And it has failed. It is time to try something new," the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee said Monday.
"For eight long years, our president sacrificed investment in health care, in education, in energy and infrastructure on the altar of tax breaks for big corporations and wealthy CEOs — trillions of dollars in giveaways that proved neither compassionate nor conservative," Obama said.
North Carolina was the first stop for Obama on a two-week economic road trip that will also take him to such battleground states as Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida.
His Republican rival, McCain, has acknowledged that the economy is going through a tough time, and the Arizona senator outlined his own very different economic plan at the National Small Business Summit in Washington.
"As president, I intend to act quickly and decisively to promote growth and opportunity," McCain said. "I intend to keep the current low income and investment tax rates. I intend to keep them, not repeal them."
McCain also wants to cut corporate taxes. His proposals were well received by the audience of small-business owners.
"Right now at this stage of the economy, we need to support the growth of small business. So we do not need to do a tax increase on small business," said Mark Sincavage, who owns a commercial excavating company in Pennsylvania.
McCain has tried to characterize his Democratic opponent as a big-government liberal.
"Under Senator Obama's tax plan, Americans of every background would see their taxes rise," McCain said. "Seniors, parents, small-business owners and just about everyone who has even a modest investment in the market."
Obama's proposal to raise dividend and capital gains taxes would be widely felt. But the vast majority of the increase would be borne by the wealthy. According to the Tax Policy Center in Washington, the richest 5 percent of Americans collect more than half of all dividends and more than 85 percent of all capital gains.
At heart, this is a debate over how big a role the federal government should play in steering the nation's economy and deciding how its spoils are shared. Obama criticized McCain's approach as too hands-off.
"It's little more than the worn dogma that says we should give more to those at the top and hope their good fortune trickles down to the many who are hard-working," Obama said.
McCain insists he doesn't want to starve the government, just make it more efficient. "Government should be on your side, not in your way," he told the small-business owners.
One thing seems certain: As long as the sputtering economy stays high on voters' minds, these issues are likely to dominate the presidential race.
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