Inside the issues: Fixing the economy


This is one of the most troubling, confusing and unpredictable economic periods in American history, but after three debates, hundreds of campaign ads, and thousands of negative attacks, some voters might still be confused about what Barack Obama and John McCain want to do and not do about it.

Both candidates claim to have a rescue plan that will really bring about change, and here's what they have in mind, without the hype, or the spin:

Plummeting stocks, skyrocketing foreclosures, record unemployment rates and high prices for gasoline and groceries are all toxic components of an economic slowdown.

"We've got to act now. We need to pass an economic rescue plan for the middle class," Obama has said.

The Illinois senator says the quickest way the jumpstart the economy is to create new jobs, by offering tax breaks to companies that expand the work force here, and to put additional cash in the pockets of consumers by cutting taxes on families earning less than $250,000 a year. Obama also was to send out another stimulus check of $500 for individuals and $1,000 for families.

He would pay for all of it, in part, by raising taxes on individuals earning more than $200,000 a year and families with incomes above 250,000.

"Nobody likes taxes. I would prefer that none of us had to pay taxes, including myself, but ultimately we have to pay for the core investments that make this economy strong," Obama said during the final presidential debate.

"Nobody likes taxes. Let's not raise anybody's taxes. The fact is that businesses in America today are paying the second highest tax rate of any in the world," said McCain.

McCain says the best way to help people and create jobs is to keep everyone's taxes low. So, he wants to maintain all of the current tax cuts, lower the tax rate on corporations, and offer tax breaks of up to $15,000 for stock market losses in 2008 and 2009. He would also suspend the tax on unemployment benefits and the rules that force retirees to sell stocks beginning at age 70 and one-half years old.

"I have a plan to let retirees and people nearing retirement keep their money in their retirement accounts longer so they can rebuild their savings," McCain said.

Obama agrees with McCain about suspending the rules on retirement withdrawals, and he says he would allow families to withdraw $10,000 from their IRAs or 401Ks without penalties, expand unemployment benefits, and impose a three-month moratorium on home foreclosures.

"We need to give people the breathing room to get back on their feet," Obama said.

Senator McCain's answer to the housing crisis includes a $300 billion-plan to purchase bad mortgages and allow homeowners to refinance at lower prices.

"I have a plan to protect the value of your home and get it rising again by buying up bad mortgages and refinancing them, so if your neighbor defaults, he doesn't bring down the value of your house with it," McCain said.

McCain says that his rescue plan would cost about $352 billion, sme of the money coming out of the $700 billion bailout fund and the rest by cutting government spending and eliminating so-called "earmarks."

The price tag on Obama's plan is $175 billion, and he would pay for it by raising taxes on higher-income Americans and increasing the capital gains tax.

The candidates' plans represent fundamental differences on the most important issue in this election: how to help Americans get through these difficult economic times.

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