John McCain went directly at Democrats this morning on the issue he acknowledges isn't his strong suit, but is the top concern for voters -- the economy.
"Whoever wins the nomination of the Democratic Party, that candidate and I have some serious debates ahead of us. Some of our sharpest disagreements concern the American economy and how best to help American workers. On tax policy, health-care reform, trade, government spending, and a long list of other issues, we offer very different choices to the American people," McCain said this morning, according to remarks prepared for a speech in Democratic front-runner Barack Obama's home turf of Chicago.
"For their part, Senator Obama and Senator Clinton agree on so much in economic policy that it's not always clear what the big argument is about in their party. The sales pitches are different, but in both cases we'd end up with the same package of more federal taxes, more federal regulation, more government control of the economy, and more government spending," McCain told the National Restaurant Association. "In case you missed it, Senator Clinton and Senator Obama have agreed to raise your taxes, to regulate your business more than ever, and to spend more of your money in Washington. That's their idea of 'change,' but it sure sounds familiar to me."
The presumptive Republican nominee vowed to extend President Bush's tax cuts, which he once opposed as fiscally irresponsible because they weren't accompanied by spending cuts. "As president, I will keep the current low tax rates, and I will leave that trillion dollars and more with the millions of Americans who earned it," McCain said.
Both Obama and Hillary Clinton propose to let the tax cuts lapse for those making about $200,000 a year to help pay for expanding healthcare coverage and other programs.
McCain also pledged to back the existing North American Free Trade Agreement, which Obama and Clinton say they want to renegotiate, and the proposed Colombia free trade deal, which both Democrats oppose.
"In a time of uncertainty for American workers, we will not undo the gains of years in trade agreements now awaiting final approval," McCain said.
He also said he opposes the farm bill passed by Congress, which he said is larded with subsidies and which he said shows "incredible disregard for the public treasury and for the public interest."
The Republican National Committee also released a new web video today that hits Obama for supporting tax increase when the economy is on the verge of recession.
"Does Barack Obama understand our economy?" the ad asks. "Then why would he raise taxes at the worst possible time?”
UPDATE: Obama campaign spokesman Tommy Vietor issued this response: "John McCain sounded a lot like he was reading from a George Bush economic speech today. Like George Bush, John McCain is calling for tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans that aren’t paid for and would have us borrow trillions more from China and the Middle East -- even though he once said he couldn’t 'in good conscience' support these tax cuts. Like George Bush, he’s calling for lopsided trade deals that may work for lobbyists like his advisors, but won’t level the playing field for American workers. While he talks on the campaign trail about providing job training to workers displaced by trade, he’s actually voted in the Senate against the very programs that would give those workers the skills they need. And what’s truly remarkable is that John McCain can give a speech attacking waste and handouts in Washington, and fail to even mention the corporate lobbyists who are at the root of the problem."
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.