Barack Obama and John McCain put forward two very different approaches to the economic meltdown last week.
Obama told a crowd of 3,000 in Toledo, Ohio: “I’m proposing a number of steps that we should take immediately to stabilize our financial system, provide relief to families and communities and help struggling homeowners. It’s a plan that begins with one word and that’s on everyone’s mind, and it’s spelled J-O-B-S.
“We can’t wait to help workers and families who are struggling right now – who don’t know if their job or retirement will be there tomorrow; who don’t know if next week’s paycheck will cover this month’s bills,” Obama said. “We need to pass an economic rescue plan for the middle class and we need to do it not five years from now, not next year. We need to do it right now.”
He added several new components to his comprehensive economic plan:
• a 90-day moratorium on home foreclosures,
• a temporary tax credit for businesses that create full-time jobs in the U.S. over the next two years,
• a “jobs growth fund” for local municipalities to keep jobs that might otherwise have to be cut for budgetary purposes,
• immediate tax rebates, and immediate tax cuts for working-class families,
• extended unemployment benefits and elimination of taxes on those benefits,
• allowing people to withdraw up to $10,000 from their 401(k)s without penalty through 2009,
• and a mortgage tax credit.
Obama called on Congress to pass the plan as soon as possible. “If Washington can move quickly to pass a rescue plan for our financial system, there’s no reason we can’t move just as quickly to pass a rescue plan for our middle class,” he said. “If Congress does not act in the coming months, it will be one of the first things I do as president of the United States of America.”
Congress is expected to return soon after the election to consider a second economic stimulus package that could include extended unemployment benefits, new infrastructure projects and tax rebates. McCain either opposed or was absent for votes on earlier stimulus packages.
The McCain campaign blasted Obama’s proposals, saying they would require “massive tax increases.” McCain’s campaign has buckled under the weight of growing anger among workers about the economic hardship they face and his long-time links to the economic policies pursued by the Bush administration.
Even fellow Republicans criticized McCain for ignoring the economy and focusing fruitlessly on personal attacks against Obama.
So, McCain reset his campaign tactics yet again, and tried to attack the Bush administration’s economic policies, most of which he has backed in the Senate.
“The hour is late, my friends, our troubles are getting worse, our enemies watch. We have to act immediately. We have to change direction. We have to fight,” McCain said at an Oct. 13 campaign stop in Virginia.
But the venue for his speech was revealing. Virginia is a normally reliably Republican state that GOP candidates have never had to defend. It hasn’t backed a Democratic presidential candidate since 1964. Yet polls now show Obama ahead there.
Later that day McCain held a rally in North Carolina, which hasn’t voted for a Democrat for president since 1976. It is now rated a tossup.
Although McCain had promised to unveil his own economic proposals at those rallies he did not do so. The following day, he did put forward a rehash of earlier ideas like unspecified tax cuts (he supports Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthiest), a sweeping freeze on federal spending that would devastate essential safety net programs and services, and renegotiation of distressed mortgages.
Citing McCain campaign statements that “if we keep talking about the economy, we’re going to lose,” Obama declared, “Well, Sen. McCain may be worried about losing an election, but I’m worried about Americans who are losing their jobs and their homes and their life savings. They can’t afford four more years of the economic theory that says we should give more and more to millionaires and billionaires and hope that the prosperity trickles down to everyone else. We’ve seen where that led us and we’re not going back. It’s time to turn the page.”