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US Economy Remains Focus of Presidential Campaigns

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Nine days before the U.S. elections, the country's economic woes remain a focal point of the presidential race. VOA's Michael Bowman reports from Washington.

With polls showing Americans worried about their jobs and finances, both presidential candidates have come up with plans to revive the economy - and each has said their opponent would make a bad situation worse.

Republican presidential contender John McCain has sought to portray his Democratic rival, Barack Obama, as a big-spending government interventionist. Speaking on NBC's Meet the Press program Sunday, McCain said increasing government spending would be irresponsible, considering the government's current debt burden.

"Spending was completely out of control. We laid a $10-trillion hole [debt] on future generations of America," said John McCain. "The housing crisis, combined with a country that is living way beyond its means, is a combination, which has put us into this great financial crisis we are in."

McCain has pledged to rein in government spending.

But Obama says McCain would continue President Bush's failed economic program that favored the wealthy over the middle class.

The Illinois Senator spoke at a campaign rally in Colorado.

"We are going to have to turn the page on eight years of economic policies that put Wall Street [investors] before Main Street [ordinary citizens] and ended up hurting both," said Barack Obama. "Rich people do better when ordinary folks are doing well. We need policies that grow our economy from the bottom up."

The consensus view of economists is that, having been through a devastating credit crisis sparked by a rash of home foreclosures, the United States could already be in a recession. Senator Obama's plan to revive the economy includes a new federal economic stimulus package focusing on infrastructure projects and aid to states facing budget shortfalls as a result of declining tax revenue.

An Obama economic advisor, former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, spoke on CBS' Face the Nation program.

"If you look at the credit markets, which is what is really going to determine what happens to our economy, not the stock market, there was quite a bit of improvement over the last week," said Robert Rubin. "But I think there is a lot more we need to do. I think it is imperative we have a very large fiscal stimulus. I do think the power of public policy in its entirety - that which has been done, plus a large fiscal stimulus - should be able to stem this [economic downturn] within a reasonable period of time."

Also appearing on the program, a McCain advisor touted the Arizona Senator's proposal for the federal government to buy up mortgages that are in danger of default. Douglas Holtz-Eakin said the plan would aid struggling homeowners and address what many economic observers regard as the root cause of the current financial turmoil.

"Where do you place your faith? Do you place it in the institutions that have failed us, which quite frankly are in Washington and in Wall Street, or do you put the money in the places where we know we can get effective results? And John McCain has not advocated sticking the money into Wall Street banks and the like," said Douglas Holtz-Eakin. "Let us put the money into the housing market. That is where this problem started. Let us get people into mortgages they can afford, and let us take care of the small businesses."

Polls continue to show Barack Obama leading in the presidential race, both nationally and in key states that he and Senator McCain are contesting. Obama has warned his supporters against complacency, while McCain is predicting he will close the gap in the final days before the election. 

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