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McCain and Obama Trade Jabs Over Economic Strategies

Presumptive presidential candidates Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain offered contrasting approaches to mend a sluggish economy this week, with Obama emphasizing an active government role in providing assistance and McCain calling for lower taxes and spending cuts.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    The presumptive nominees for president make their case for how to help the struggling economy. Gwen Ifill has our coverage.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Setting the stage for a battle sure to continue into the fall election, John McCain and Barack Obama are trading blows over how to address what voters say is their number-one concern: the state of the faltering economy.

    Speaking before a small business group in Washington today, McCain said Obama would raise taxes and drive the economy even further into the ground.

    SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), Arizona: No matter which of us wins in November, there will be change in Washington. The question is: What kind of change? Will we go back to the policies of the '60s and '70s that failed? Or will we go forward?

    Will we enact the largest single tax increase since the Second World War, as my opponent proposes, or will we keep taxes low — low — for families and employers?

    Under Senator Obama's tax plan, Americans of every background would see their taxes rise: seniors, parents, small business owners, and just about everyone who has even a modest investment in the market.

    He proposes to eliminate or drastically increase the Social Security's earnings cap, the Social Security earnings cap small business people in this room are very familiar with. And that would dramatically increases the taxes on you and employers.

    He proposes to eliminate the secret ballot for union votes and to raise the minimum wage and then index it, which is a sure way to add to your costs and to slow the creation of new jobs.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    McCain has proposed extending President Bush's tax cuts, lowering the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent, and allowing companies to write off some new investments.

    Obama, who has proposed tax cuts for the middle class, but tax hikes on capital gains and for wealthier Americans, spent the morning at a hospital in St. Louis. He told reporters afterward McCain is misinterpreting his economic plan.

    SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), Illinois: Let me be clear. My tax reform plan would cut taxes for 95 percent of workers.

  • I’ll repeat that:

    My tax plan will cut taxes for 95 percent of workers, because we need to put money back into the pockets of struggling middle-class families and close the egregious tax loopholes that have exploded over the last eight years.

    My plan eliminates capital gains taxes entirely for the small businesses and start-ups that are the backbone of our economy, as opposed to John McCain's plan, which would tax these businesses.

    Now, I've said that John McCain is running to serve out a third Bush term. But the truth is, when it comes to taxes, that's not being fair to George Bush.

    Senator McCain wants to add $300 billion more in tax breaks and loopholes for big corporations and the wealthiest Americans, and he hasn't even explained how to pay for it. He hasn't come remotely close to figuring out how he would pay for it.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    McCain has said he would pay for it by cutting spending, an approach Obama says would still fall short of the money needed to make up for the tax cuts.

    Who's right? We ask representatives from both campaigns. Here for John McCain is policy adviser Nancy Pfotenhauer. She is the former president of the Independent Women's Forum.

    And here for Barack Obama is Jared Bernstein. He is a senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute.

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