Obama slams McCain on economy, says U.S. debt would double under Republican

Democrat Barack Obama slammed his Republican opponent for the presidency Monday, claiming John McCain would more than double U.S. debt by continuing Bush administration economic policies he called the "most fiscally irresponsible in history."
In his first campaign appearance since Hillary Rodham Clinton suspended her bid for the White House, Obama focused on the economic woes _ home mortgage foreclosures, staggering energy costs and growing unemployment _ that Democrats hope to use to wrest control of the White House from Republicans.
Obama began a two-week tour of Republican strongholds and swing states aiming to draw sharp distinctions between himself and McCain, the Arizona senator and Vietnam war hero. Obama is banking on building a victory by snatching votes in traditional Republican regions. McCain, likewise, is working to undo Democratic control in America's so-called blue states.
"If John McCain's policies were implemented, they would add $5.7 trillion to the national debt over the next decade. That isn't fiscal conservatism, that's what George Bush has done over the last eight years," Obama, the junior Illinois senator, said in Raleigh, North Carolina, a state that has not voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1976.
Obama offered no new policies in his speech.He used the occasion to emphasize his economic differences with McCain and to summarize earlier proposals, including raising income taxes on wealthy Americans, 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.
McCain pushed back, saying Obama's bid to end the Bush administration's tax cuts for upper-income Americans would only worsen the already struggling economy.
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 taxes.
"This (the U.S. economic crisis) was not an inevitable part of the business cycle that was beyond our power to avoid. It was the logical conclusion of a tired and misguided philosophy that has dominated Washington for far too long," Obama said from a lectern flanked by two American flags and a blue backdrop inscribed with the word "change."
And in a nod to the U.S. generation known as the baby boomers, those born in the prosperous years after World War II and now reaching retirement, Obama vowed not to tinker with Social Security government retirement benefits.
"While John McCain wants to pick up where George Bush left off by trying again to privatize Social Security, I will never waver in my commitment to protect that basic promise as president. We will not privatize Social Security, we will not raise the retirement age, and we will save Social Security for future generations by asking the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share," said Obama, who would be America's first African American president.
McCain, meanwhile, reversed course Monday and allowed the media into a private fundraiser, where he chided Obama for his reluctance to agree to a series of joint town-hall meetings.
The $10,000-per-ticket reception for the presumed Republican nominee, the national party and several state parties marked the first time McCain, a champion of open government, had allowed reporters into his fundraisers. The four-term senator had kept such events off limits to the media for months with little or no explanation.
The event and a $1,000-a-ticket luncheon raised $800,000 for McCain and the Republican Party.
McCain reiterated his offer to Obama to join him at a town-hall meeting and field questions from voters. McCain said he would meet Obama wherever and whenever, then suggested this week in New York.
"He's not going to be there, but we'll keep asking," McCain said to a few chuckles. "Over time, maybe he'll agree. At least I hope so."
McCain has proposed 10 such meetings in the coming months and campaign managers for both sides said they had agreed in spirit to schedule some type of joint appearances.
Donors who gave $2,300 could attend the luncheon and get a photo with McCain.
McCain will need all the financial help he can muster as he moves toward the November vote against Obama's well-oiled fundraising machinery that has rolled up an astounding bankroll, much of it from small donors on the Internet.
Obama has raked in $264 million (euro169 million) in 16 months. McCain has raised less than half that much, $115 million (euro74 million), in 17 months. However, at the national party level, the Republican National Committee was ahead, raising $166 million to the Democratic National Committee's $82.3 million over the past 17 months.
Later in the day Obama was on his way to Missouri, which last voted for a Democrat in 1966. The tour was also to take him the Illinois senator to Virginia, which last voted Democratic in 1964.
His campaign also said he would be in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida and other states to be announced shortly for what aides are calling a "Change that Works for You" Tour.
By moving into some Republican and other battleground states, Obama could force the McCain camp to spend precious resources defending traditionally home turf. The general election is a series of state-by-state, winner-take-all contests.
For his part, Obama faces the huge challenge of wooing the Clinton base, as the Democrats try to patch things up after what was an extended, exhausting and often bitter campaign.
McCain is saddled with the Iraq war, which he supported at its inception and believes must continue to a still undefined U.S. victory. And even if he can gain renewed traction with his Iraq policy, a war opposed by a majority of Americans, the issue has fallen off front pages as voters turn to their faltering economic prospects.

Updated : 2021-04-19 12:16 GMT+08:00