The nation's capital is riveted by ongoing negotiations over a taxpayer-funded rescue for Wall Street, but what about Main Street? What are the major candidates for president offering to help ordinary Americans keep their homes and pay their bills?
Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama vary greatly in their broad philosophies for the economy, and they are equally far apart in what they would do in the short term to help keep Americans on their feet.
Obama proposes $50 billion in infrastructure funding and emergency assistance to state governments, and an immediate tax rebate of $500 for individuals, $1,000 for families.
McCain considers that a gimmick. He offers no giveaways, preferring to focus on his overall economic policies. He challenges his rival's view that state aid would get spent fast enough to help the people who most need it.
Of the two, Obama offers the more aggressive approach to job creation.
“We're focused on the short-run problems facing the economy. John McCain has never had a stimulus plan. He has not had anything about job creation in the short run, nothing he could even claim,” said Jason Furman, Obama's economic policy director.
“I think the biggest difference is that Barack Obama is focused on short-run stimulus measures. That is something John McCain has ignored because he thinks you leave the economy alone.”
Specifically, Obama would provide $25 billion to state and local governments for them to decide how to use.
Although it's not clear how Obama will pay for his promises, his offer of relief to states could come at an important time, said James Galbraith, an economist at the University of Texas in Austin.
“Their property tax revenues are taking a hit, they are cutting back spending. It's absolutely essential,” Galbraith said of assistance to states.
McCain's economic advisers said if Congress sent him a stimulus plan once he's president, he'd consider it.
McCain and Obama may have to take a stand soon.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., on Thursday unveiled a $56 billion stimulus plan that would extend unemployment benefits by seven weeks, something both candidates have been open to. It would also set aside $10 billion for infrastructure funding and $7.5 billion in loans to help automakers retool to make energy-efficient cars.
McCain's philosophy, said his chief economic adviser, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, amounts to getting the fundamentals right. By seeking to lower corporate and individual taxes, McCain would boost the economy and create sustainable jobs over time, he said.
“The reality is, good economic policy is to implement everything that you propose right away,” said Holtz-Eakin.