2008-06-10 01:32:49 UTC
Obama hammers McCain, Bush on economy, gas prices By CHARLES
BABINGTON, Associated Press Writer
Democrat Barack Obama on Monday seized on heightened concerns about
the economy, tying John McCain to the Bush administration's recent
record of soaring gasoline prices and slumping employment.
Launching a two-week economics tour in a state the GOP usually
considers safe, Obama warned that McCain's policies on taxes, spending
and energy would continue the nation's slump, which some fear is
already a recession. He called for new taxes on oil companies and
wealthy individuals, along with $1,000 tax cuts for most working
With the presidential general election now fully engaged, McCain
pushed back, saying Obama's bid to end the administration's tax cuts
for upper-income earners would only worsen the economy. He is airing
TV ads in key states on the Iraq war, which he sees as a better issue
this fall. But he took questions on the economy from donors in
Virginia on Monday, and planned a speech Tuesday to small-business
owners in Washington.
With many voters blaming Bush for the economic woes, Republican
candidates for federal and state offices are scrambling to distance
themselves from the bad news without abandoning core principles such
as low taxes and modest government intervention in activities like
banking and lending.
Democrats are trying to cut off any escape routes.
The centerpiece of McCain's economic plan "amounts to a full-throated
endorsement of George Bush's policies," Obama told about 900 people in
North Carolina is not a state ordinarily pursued by Democratic
presidential nominees. But it gave Obama a crucial victory in his
primary battle against Hillary Rodham Clinton, and he hopes to put it
in play this fall — or at least force McCain to spend time and money
In the audience was former presidential rival John Edwards, who lives
nearby. His wife, Elizabeth Edwards — who refrained from endorsing
Obama when her husband did so last month — also attended.
Obama offered no new policies in his speech, which he read from
teleprompters. Rather, he used the occasion to emphasize his economic
differences with McCain and summarize earlier proposals. They include
raising income taxes on wealthy individuals, granting a $1,000 tax cut
to most others, winding down the Iraq war, tightening credit card
regulations and pumping more money into education, alternative fuels
and infrastructure such as roads and bridges.
Obama took part of his speech from headlines across the nation, noting
that the average price of gas just hit $4 a gallon for the first time.
The news followed an unusually sharp spike in the unemployment rate on
Repeatedly linking McCain to Bush, Obama said, "our president
sacrificed investments in health care, and education, and energy and
infrastructure on the altar of tax breaks for big corporations and
Obama criticized McCain for originally opposing Bush's first-term tax
cuts but now supporting their continuation. He said he would place a
windfall profits tax on oil companies while McCain would reduce their
"At a time when we're fighting two wars, when millions of Americans
can't afford their medical bills or their tuition bills, when we're
paying more than $4 a gallon for gas, the man who rails against
government spending wants to spend $1.2 billion on a tax break for
Exxon Mobil," Obama said. "That isn't just irresponsible. It's
In a conference call with reporters, Doug Holtz-Eakin, an economic
adviser to McCain, said of the claim: "I presume that they're
attributing that to the basic, across-the-board corporate rate cut
that's necessary to keep the American corporate sector competitive in
the global economy and jobs in America."
At a fundraiser in Richmond, Va., McCain noted that he supports a
temporary suspension of the federal tax on gasoline, which Obama
dismisses as a gimmick that will not bring down prices.
"Talk to somebody who owns a couple of trucks and makes a living with
those trucks," McCain said. "Ask them whether they'd like to have some
relief — 18 1/2 cents per gallon for gasoline and 24 1/2 cents for
diesel. They say it matters."
The two differed somewhat on energy production as well. Obama called
for greater government investments "in a renewable energy policy that
ends our addiction on foreign oil, provides real long-term relief from
high fuel costs and builds a green economy that could create up to
five million well-paying jobs that can't be outsourced."
He did not mention nuclear power, although in the past he has said he
would not rule out a greater role for nuclear energy.
McCain was more gung-ho about nuclear power and expanded domestic
drilling for oil and natural gas. When a donor in Richmond summed up
his advice as, "nuclear, and drill wherever we've got it," McCain
responded: "You just gave my speech. Thank you, my friend."
McCain added, "Long-term, we've got to become used to nuclear, wind,
solar, tide, all of the alternate energy, including a battery that
will take a car 100 miles or 200 miles" before being recharged.
"Nuclear power, for all kinds of reasons, needs to be part of the
solution," McCain said.
Obama said he would pay for all of his new proposals from sources
including the higher taxes on the wealthy and an end to the Iraq war.
His aides said he will provide more details as the campaign goes on.
The AFL-CIO, the nation's largest labor organization, plans to help
Obama by having its members protest Bush and McCain at gas stations
around the country. Starting in Indianapolis, union members will hold
signs saying "Bush & McCain Love Big Oil" and complain about a McCain
tax proposal they say would give the five largest oil companies $3.8
billion in tax breaks.
Associated Press writers Matt Apuzzo, Jesse Holland and Ann Sanner
contributed to this report.