Politics & Government

McCain defends NAFTA, tax cuts in slamming Obama's plans

WASHINGTON — Presumptive Republican Presidential candidate John McCain blasted Democratic rival Barack Obama's economic policies on Tuesday, calling them bad for small business and American families.

While outlining his own economic plans to the National Federation of Independent Business, which represents small businesses, McCain criticized Obama for vowing to renegotiate provisions of the North America Free Trade Agreement, proposing a tax increase for Americans making over $250,000 and for advocating a greater government role in the nation's health care system.

"No matter which of us wins in November, there will be change in Washington," McCain said. "The question is what kind of change? Will we enact the single largest tax increase since the Second World War, as my opponent proposes, or will we keep taxes low for families and employers?"

Obama's campaign accused McCain of distorting the Illinois senator's proposals. Jason Furman, Obama's economic policy director, acknowledged that taxes would increase somewhat for families with annual incomes of more than $250,000.

But he added: "You're talking about less than two percent of the population" and said those impacted still would feel less of a tax burden than during the Clinton administration.

McCain's speech came a day after Obama attacked McCain's economic strategies, calling them an extension of President Bush's administration. McCain, in turn, described Obama's economic ideas as a return to failed Democratic policies of the 1960s and '70s.

Obama said he wants to end Bush's tax cuts for upper-income workers, impose a new "windfall profits" tax on oil companies, and provide a $1,000 tax cut for middle class taxpayers.

"Under Senator 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," McCain said.

McCain accused Obama of "talking down" the value of international free trade agreements such as NAFTA. Both Obama and Hillary Clinton, his rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, said they support renegotiating provisions of the Clinton-era agreement.

"If I am elected president, this country will honor its international agreements, including NAFTA, and we will expect the same of others," McCain said. "And in a time of uncertainty for American workers, we will not undo the gains of years in trade agreements now awaiting final approval."

On health care, McCain took Obama to task for proposing a plan that he says would expand the federal government's role. Obama's plan would allow Americans to buy health care coverage similar to that made available to members of Congress and would mandate that all children have health care coverage.

McCain said he wants to offer families and individuals a large tax credit to enable them to buy health care policies.

"I believe 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," the Republican candidate said.