Washington Republican John McCain accused Democrat Barack Obama on Tuesday of backing measures that would increase both the costs and the taxes paid by small business, and he told a group of owners, "The federal government shouldn't make your work any harder."
"Unfortunately, Senator Obama has a habit of talking down the value of our exports and trade agreements. He even proposed a unilateral re-negotiation of NAFTA - our agreement with Canada and Mexico that accounts for 33 percent of American exports," McCain said during an appearance before the National Federation of Independent Business.
He added that under Obama's tax plan, "Americans of every background would see their taxes rise - seniors, parents, small-business owners, and just about everyone who has even a modest investment in the market. He proposes to eliminate the Social Security earnings cap, and thereby to increase the tax on employers."
Later, however, McCain indicated that, like Obama, he could be open to a new economic stimulus package. Obama has proposed an additional $50 billion in relief on top of the $168 billion package approved this year. McCain also told a group of major contributors gathered in New York that he was prepared to consider extending jobless benefits, a position the White House opposes.
He did not give a dollar figure for the stimulus, but when a donor asked how he would address economic troubles in the short term, he said:
"I can't give you a good short term solution. I can tell you we ought to keep tax rates low. I can tell you we ought to, if necessary, extend unemployment benefits. We may even ...," McCain said before mentioning "another stimulus package."
"Whatever we can do in the short term to relieve this burden, I think is obviously something that we need to do," he said.
In his speech earlier in the day, McCain also said Obama wants to eliminate the secret ballot for union votes, and to raise the minimum wage as inflation rises, "which is a sure way to add to your costs and to slow the creation of new jobs."
Obama, who criticized McCain over his economic proposals on Monday, said his rival's remarks were misleading.
Speaking to reporters in St. Louis, he said he would eliminate the capital gains tax "for the small businesses and startups that are the backbone of our economy." His income tax plans, Obama said, would cut taxes for 95 percent of U.S. workers, while rolling back the Bush administration's tax reductions for the highest-earning 5 percent.
McCain "wants to add
$300 billion more in tax breaks and loopholes for big corporations and for the wealthiest Americans, and he hasn't even explained how he'd pay for it," Obama said.
Economic issues have taken center stage in the presidential race, with many Americans staggered by gasoline prices exceeding $4 a gallon.
Health care issues
Obama, who spoke with reporters after touring a St. Louis hospital, differs with McCain on how best to control health care costs. McCain would eliminate the tax subsidy for employer-based insurance and give individuals a tax break to offset the cost of buying their own insurance.
"I believe that the best way to help small businesses and employers afford health care is not to increase government control of health care but to bring the rising cost of care under control and give people the option of having personal, portable health insurance," McCain told the NFIB group. Workers would be able to keep their insurance "even when they move or change jobs," he said.
Obama said McCain's plan would help only the wealthy.
"He's offering a tax cut that won't ensure that health care is affordable for hardworking families who need help most," Obama said. "And his plan could actually put your coverage at risk by undermining the employer-based system that most Americans depend on."