In a previous post, I discussed Obama's positions on key economic issues. In this post, I will compare and contrast the two candidates on those same economic issues. After reviewing these issues, I am confident that you will conclude that Barack Obama is a friend of working people while John McCain is a friend of big business and the wealthy elite.
On labor related issues, Obama supported the Employee Free Choice Act, federal legislation that grants workers the right to join unions free from employer harassment or intimidation. Obama voted in favor of the motion to close debate on the Employee Free Choice Act. McCain not only failed to sponsor this legislation, he voted against the motion to close debate, effectively killing the Employee Free Choice Act. (H.R. 800, Vote #227, 6/26/07)
On another labor issue, protecting striking workers, Obama has opposed replacing striking workers with permanent replacements. McCain voted against ending debate on a bill that would prohibit employers from hiring permanent replacements for striking workers (S55, Vote #189, 7/13/94).
Finally, in regard to labor issues, Obama has supported raising the minimum wage and indexing it to inflation. Obama voted in favor of raising the federal minimum wage to $7.25 an hour while McCain voted against increasing the minimum wage (SA .44 to S.256, Vote #26, 3/7/05).
On the subject oftax relief for working families, Obama supports a tax credit of $500 per individual or $1,000 per working family. In addition, Obama supports requiring the wealthiest Americans to pay a higher tax rate to finance these tax credits and other federal programs. McCain supports a summer gas tax holiday in which the federal gas tax and the diesel tax would be suspended. He also supports keeping the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, where the top tax rate was cut from 39.6% to 35.0%, giving the very wealthy a tax windfall.
In regard to the so called summer "tax holiday," this proposal has been denounced by Obama as a "gimmick." The problem with this proposal is that it has no long term effect. The tax relief is limited and temporary. What happens when summer ends? In addition, a cut in the gas tax, even if temporary, would mean that state governments would lose millions of dollars in federal funding for highway improveme nts necessary for safety and the reduction of traffic congestion.
Another issue of major importance to this year's presidential campaign is trade. Obama wants to amend the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) so that it benefits American workers by including good labor and environmental standards. McCain is a strong supporter of NAFTA, which the AFL-CIO has stated has cost 1 million American jobs from 1993-2004 (Working Families Vote 2008). McCain has made it clear that he does not support amending NAFTA to create stronger labor and environmental standards.
In regard to the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), a free trade agreement that is opposed by the labor movement, Obama voted against it while McCain voted for CAFTA (S.1307, Vote 170, 6/30/05).
Finally, in regard to protecting homeownership and cracking down on mortgage fraud, Obama supports the creation of a fund to help homeowners refinance their mortgages. The fund would be paid, in part, from increased penalties levied against lenders who act irre sponsibly or commit fraud. Obama has also introduced legislation (Stop Fraud Act) that defines mortgage fraud, increases funding for state and local law enforcement, and increases penalties for mortgage fraud.
As for his plan to deal with this problem, McCain said the following: "there is no substitute for faster economic growth. No government program is a substitute for the jobs provided by a growing economy." (Forbes, March 20, 2008) In other words, McCain's plan is to do nothing for those faced with the loss of their homes or for those who watch while the value of their homes decline. This should hardly come as a surprise to those who may recall that McCain was previously quoted as saying that he did not understand economics.