Thursday, October 16, 2008

US - Tax and energy dominates last debate

In the last presidential debate both candidates seemed relaxed as they battled each other in a war of words over their respective policies. While McCain spelt out his intentions peppered with criticism of Obama, his opponent in general outlined his proposals without personal and political attacks. In particular John McCain raised issue of Barack Obama’s perceived connections with Bill Ayers and that of voter registration organisation ACORN. John McCain said, “I don’t care about an old washed up terrorist, but we need to know the facts about ACORN and Ayres”. Obama dismissed connections of both parties to his campaign. “Lets get the record straight, when I was 8 yrs old Ayres was involved in despicable acts” Obama said. But although he conceded to having served on the board of a community anti-poverty group, the Woods Fund of Chicago, between 2000 and 2002, with Ayres, Obama insisted that the former anti-war activist was not “involved in my campaign and won’t advise me in the White House”.

The personal attacks at Republican rallies were also discussed but McCain defended his own position. “I’m proud of the people who come to our rallies and obviously we get some fringe peoples ... And I have repudiated people if they’ve been out of line” McCain said. He was referring to recent meetings where some members of the audience had aired strong opinions against his opponent. One woman had expressed concern that Obama was an Arab, but was put right by McCain who defended the Democratic candidate, “No ma’am, he’s not. He’s a decent family man whom I have disagreements on a number of fundamental issues” [You Tube].

But it was the financial crisis that dominated much of the debate. “Americans are hurting right now and they’re angry, and they have every reason to be angry” Obama said, “But we need short term and long term fixes”. He blamed the Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac debacle as the main cause of the mortgage problems in the US. “We are experiencing the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression” Obama declared. If structured properly tax payers would get their money back from the $750 billion rescue package, he added. But he said, “We must make sure CEOs do not benefit from the proposals”. He said it was important to focus on jobs, including overseas jobs and help families with a middle-class tax cut. Both candidates talked of helping home owners but there were still strong opposing opinions on tax policies.

McCain insisted that Obama’s tax plans would affect business. “Small business income tax would affect entrepreneurs”, McCain said, “business tax must be cut to encourage businesses”. But Obama disputed claims made by McCain. “Ninety five percent of families would get a tax cut”, Obama said, and in a reference to ‘Joe the plummer’, he said, “I want to give them a tax break now”. Joe Wurzelbacher came to prominence after tackling Obama’s tax policy at a rally in Ohio [BBC].

But McCain continued to criticise Obama‘s tax policy. "Joe wants to buy the business that he's been in for all these years. Worked 10, 12 hours a day. But he looked at your tax plan and he saw that he was going to pay much higher taxes," John McCain said. "And what you want to do, to Joe the plumber, means more like him have their taxes increased, and not be able to realise the American dream."

Both candidates saw the importance of solving the financial crisis. “Once we get through this economic crisis we can’t go back to the old ways of living beyond our means” Obama said, adding that both parties should work together to solve the problems facing America “if were going to solve two wars and the worst financial crisis in living history”. He went on to say that both parties must learn to “disagree without being disagreeable”.

Speaking about their respective running mates, both heaped praise on them. Obama described Joe Biden as “one of the best public servants who has served this country” who has “helped fight for the little guy”. Sarah Palin was described by McCain as a “Role model to women, and a reformer”. He went on to describe her strengths. “When she saw corruption she resigned and she faced down oil companies” McCain said, “we need a breath of fresh air”.

On energy both candidates seemed to argue over very similar policies. Both talked of energy independence which McCain said would bring increased employment. “I think we can reduce our dependence on foreign oil by building nuclear plants right away” McCain declared, something which Obama has all but rejected. But both talked of increasing the use of alternative energy; wind, tide, solar, geo-thermal and clean coal technology. There was also disagreement over timescales and from whom America should buy oil. Obama said “In ten years we can reduce our dependence on Venezuelan and Saudi Arabian oil” but McCain said he could reduce America’s reliance on foreign oil much sooner.

On trade both candidates were at loggerheads. “I believe in free trade but we must enforce rules against China and South Korea” Obama said. But McCain insisted Obama wanted to “restrict trade and increase taxes”.

Health care and education were also divisive issues. Obama said more money was needed for preventive care while McCain talked of health and fitness programmes to help reduce the rising obesity in America. He also insisted that Obama wanted to bring about health care bureaucracies as seen in England. However Obama responded by saying McCain would tax health care policies. He insisted people of America would benefit better from his proposals. He wanted people to choose the type of health care they wanted and not one imposed by Senator Obama.
Abortion also split both candidates but Obama said that while the two disagreed on the right to abortion they should come together in providing better education to the youth on contraception. Preventing unintended pregnancies, providing adoptive options and help for single mothers who want to keep their unborn child would reduce the need for abortions, Obama said.

With more money spent per capita for education in the US than anywhere in the world both candidates were asked how they would reform the educational system. “We’ve got to get our education system right and we’re going to have to invest in an army of new teachers with higher standards, accountability and make college education more affordable” Obama said. But while McCain said education in the US should be improved he added that “Throwing money at the problem is not the solution”. He proposed an “Increase in student loan availability and a realistic payback plan”. He added that “Spending more money isn’t always the answer” and that reform was needed along with providing vouchers for education.

In the final summing up McCain insisted the issue of trust was all important in the upcoming election and urged Americans to vote for him. Obama echoed the issue of trust and insisted that the government had failed the people. “Washington’s unwillingness to tackle problems has resulted in the [financial] crisis America is facing right now” Obama said. “Were going to have to invest in America’s future. It’s not going to be easy and it’s not going to be quick”, but he added, “I promise you, I will work tirelessly for the future of our children”.
[BBC / Sky News / CNN /]

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