TOLEDO, Ohio – Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain battled long-distance over the economy Monday as Obama offered new proposals to aid middle-class voters, including a moratorium on mortgage foreclosures, while McCain presented himself as a fighter with a plan to restore the nation’s finances to good health.
In advance of Wednesday’s final presidential debate, McCain suggested that the nation’s problems are too complex for Obama’s relative inexperience, while Obama portrayed his opponent as more concerned with politics than with shoring up the work force with new jobs.
Obama proposed allowing penalty-free withdrawals of up to $10,000 from retirement IRAs and 401(k)s through 2009, as well as giving $3,000 tax credits to businesses that create new jobs over the next two years. He also proposed a 90-day moratorium on foreclosures for people trying to pay their mortgages and a way to lend money to struggling state and local governments.
“I won’t pretend this will be easy,” Obama told several thousand voters in this economically hard-hit region. “George Bush has dug a deep hole for us. It’s going to take a while for us to dig our way out. We’re going to have to set priorities as never before.”
McCain, on the other hand, criticized Obama for planning to raise taxes, comparing him to Herbert Hoover, who was president when the stock market crashed in 1929, ushering in the Great Depression. McCain also reiterated his plans to buy up bad mortgages and refinance them so home values don’t plummet, allow retirees to keep their money in retirement accounts longer in order to rebuild their savings and cut taxes to spur competition and new jobs.
“If I’m elected president, I won’t spend nearly a trillion dollars more of your money, on top of the $700 billion we just gave the Treasury secretary, as Senator Obama proposes,” McCain said. “Because he can’t do that without raising your taxes or digging us further into debt. I’m going to make government live on a budget just like you do.”
A McCain campaign official said the Republican candidate is expected to unveil new policy prescriptions for the economy today.
Recent polls show Obama is widening his lead in key battleground states such as Pennsylvania and Ohio, while McCain has been forced to play defense in the traditionally Republican states of Virginia and North Carolina.
In Virginia Beach, McCain insisted that Obama is getting ahead of himself.
“Senator Obama is measuring the drapes, and planning with Speaker (Nancy) Pelosi and Senator (Harry) Reid to raise taxes, increase spending, take away your right to vote by secret ballot in labor elections and concede defeat in Iraq,” McCain said. “But they forgot to let you decide. My friends, we’ve got them just where we want them.”
Obama offered a tart retort: “Senator McCain may be worried about losing an election, but I’m worried about you losing your job and you losing your life savings.”