Presidential hopefuls John McCain and Barack Obama focused intensely Thursday on the working class as they traded barbs over who could better restore jobs and protect paychecks.
McCain kicked off a “Joe the Plumber” bus tour in Florida with new warnings that Obama would raise taxes on small businesses and choke off the nation's engine of job growth.
“Whether it's Joe the Plumber in Ohio or Joe here,” McCain said in Ormond Beach, Fla., “we shouldn't be taxing our small business more, as Senator Obama wants to do. We need to be helping them expand their businesses and create jobs.”
“Socialist,” came a shouted response from someone in the audience.
Obama said he would raise taxes on individuals earning more than $200,000 and families making more than $250,000, while cutting taxes for 95 percent of Americans. McCain said he wouldn't raise anyone's income tax. At a stop in Orlando, McCain accused Obama of saying “anything to get elected.”
“Thirteen days to go, and he changed his tax plan because the American people had learned the truth about it and they didn't like it,” McCain said. “It's another example that he'll say anything to get elected.”
Obama made his own pitch in downtown Indianapolis, introduced by a woman laid off when her factory moved to Mexico and fearful that her husband will soon lose his factory job as well.
“John McCain believes those companies deserve tax breaks,” Andrea Mooney said to boos from an outdoor audience of 35,000. “We need a president who understands. … We know Barack Obama is the right candidate.”
“It's time,” Obama then said, “to turn the page on eight years of economic policies that put Wall Street before Main Street but ended up hurting both.
“We need policies that grow our economy from the bottom up, so that every American, everywhere, has the chance to get ahead. Not just the person who owns the factory, but the men and women who work on its floor.”
Both candidates cited a new jobs report Thursday showing 478,000 people applying for unemployment benefits last week to underscore their own credentials.
Obama said he'd extend unemployment benefits, suspend taxes on them, and spur job creation with emergency loans and tax credits for small businesses. “John McCain has no jobs plan,” he said.
McCain said he'd stop mortgage foreclosures and that Obama's budget proposals would make matters worse, not better. “Barack Obama's only answer is to double-down on the Bush administration's legacy of out-of-control spending, raise taxes on small businesses, impose mandates on employers and raise trade barriers — a time-proven recipe for turning tough economic times into terrible economic circumstances,” McCain said. The Associated Press contributed.