On the issues: compare, contrast

Obama McCain

Taxes

McCain opposed President Bush's tax cuts, but now says ending them would mean a tax increase. He would make other tax cuts that mostly apply to corporations and upper-income families. Altogether, they could cost more than $500-billion a year under one estimate. McCain says he'll cut government spending to pay some of that tab — not including the Bush tax cuts — but hasn't yet said how. Obama aims to "restore fairness" to the tax code, meaning low- and middle-income taxpayers would pay less while upper-income families would pay more. He'd offset tax-cut costs of $85-billion by raising the capital gains tax and closing corporate tax loopholes, but that doesn't cover the portion of Bush tax cuts he'd extend.

Extend them only for households earning under $250,000. Make the cuts permanent for all households.

ALTERNATIVE MINIMUM TAX

Adjust it to avoid affecting most middle-class taxpayers. Phase it out completely, even for the wealthy taxpayers it was aimed at.

TAX RATES

Raise capital-gains rate to at least 20 percent, possibly 25-28 percent. No change for the corporate rate. Leave the capital-gains rate unchanged at 15 percent; cut corporate tax rate gradually to 25 percent from 35 percent.

OTHER TAX MEASURES

Give a $500 tax credit to middle-class households earning up to about $150,000, and a 10 percent tax credit ($500 on average) for mostly lower-income homeowners who don't itemize. Eliminate income taxes for people over 65 who earn less than $50,000. Double the personal exemption for dependents to $7,000, a move aimed at the middle class. Offer taxpayers the choice of a simpler set of tax rules, with two tax rates and a generous standard deduction.

Education

Both have ideas for all levels of learning, though McCain has yet to offer a full education proposal.

Obama McCain

PRESCHOOL

Would spend $10-billion to boost slots and quality at federal preschool programs for poor kids, especially Early Head Start, and to help make preschool available for all children. Would raise standards for Head Start teachers; has not said if more money is needed.

K-12

Wants incentives for school districts to attract and keep good teachers and would give merit pay to the best of them. Cost: $8-billion. Would overhaul the No Child Left Behind program to better measure school progress before punishments are invoked. Is more supportive of No Child Left Behind, but would increase school choice by allowing families to pull their tax dollars from public schools and use the money as tuition at charter or private schools.

HIGHER EDUCATION

Proposes a tuition tax credit of up to $4,000 for students who agree to give 100 hours of community service. Credit begins phasing out at household incomes over $135,000. Cost: $10-billion a year. Has no student-aid plans. Supports more federal funding for university research in targeted areas like energy, and funding to train more students in math and science.

BUSH TAX CUTS

Social issues

McCain and Obama fit within their parties' philosophies on a number of hot-button social issues, with some exceptions. For instance, both support federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research, a break for McCain from many in his party. Both personally oppose same-sex marriages but wouldn't oppose states licensing them.

Obama McCain

Supports abortion rights and opposes restrictions; only supports restricting certain late-term abortions with an exception to protect the mother's health. Opposes abortion rights. Likely to appoint Supreme Court justices who would overturn Roe vs. Wade.

SEX EDUCATION

Supports comprehensive sex education, which covers both abstinence and birth control.

Supports abstinence-only sex education, which does not discuss contraception except to explain its failings.

GAY RIGHTS

Supports civil unions. Personally opposes gay marriage; would leave it up to states to decide to license them, but wants states to recognize each others' unions. Supports law banning employment discrimination.

Opposes same-sex marriage and civil unions. Supports states' rights to either legalize them or to ban them, but wouldn't force other states to recognize them. Opposes legislation barring employment discrimination.

GUN RIGHTS

Supports gun laws including background checks and enhanced record-keeping so guns can be traced back to unscrupulous dealers.

Opposes many restrictions on gun ownership, including a federal ban on assault weapons, but supports mandatory background checks on people buying guns at gun shows.

LENDING ENFORCEMENT

Calls for increased regulation, including new authority for the Federal Reserve over financial institutions.

Has called for a Justice Department investigation into criminal wrongdoing among mortgage lenders, and federal standards for mortgage brokers.

Iraq

McCain said from the start that the invasion was necessary to remove Saddam Hussein's weapons and would stabilize the region. He became highly critical of the Pentagon's occupation plan and argued for the increase in military troops known as the surge; he says it is succeeding. Obama said during the run-up to the war that Iraq posed no immediate threat. He argues that the troop surge hasn't gotten the Iraqis closer to governing themselves, and that only U.S. withdrawal will do that.

Obama McCain

Would begin withdrawing immediately, extracting one to two brigades per month until all combat forces are home in summer 2010. Would retain a large force in Iraq until victory is achieved. He envisions this exit by January 2013, the end of a first term, but doesn't promise it.

MAINTAINING STABILITY

Says he'd retain a "residual force" to protect the U.S. Embassy and strike al-Qaida bases — a loophole for a potentially substantial contingent of troops to remain. U.S. withdrawal will force Iraqis to make hard decisions and govern more effectively, he says.

Says continued presence of U.S. troops will help Iraqis take over their security. Leaving, he says, would more deeply embroil the nation in violent conflict and allow Iran, al-Qaida and other U.S. enemies to gain influence.

LONG-TERMS PLANS

Promises more diplomacy including talks with Iran and Syria, and $2-billion to aid refugees.

Says U.S. troops could remain for 100 years or longer as long as the nation is stable and peaceful.



Diplomacy

Some of the harshest back and forth between the candidates over the past few weeks has centered on diplomacy, and whether the president should talk with leaders of enemy nations.

Obama McCain

Has softened his stance, saying he would only meet with Iranian leaders if it advances U.S. interests. But he emphasizes his willingness to talk with U.S. friends and foes alike to increase U.S. diplomatic power. Has charged that Obama's willingness to talk with U.S. foes, particularly Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is dangerous and irresponsible.

AMERICA'S ROLE IN THE WORLD

Says he would restore a sense of balance between diplomatic and military force. Withdrawing from Iraq, he says, would allow the United States to focus better on hot spots like Afghanistan and Pakistan, and issues like nuclear proliferation, global warming and poverty and disease. Indicates a willingness to step back from unilateralism that has sometimes marked the Bush administration. Says the nation must be willing to respect alternative views and to reach out to allies. "Our great power does not mean we can do whatever we want, whenever we want," he said in March.

Energy

The two men agree on urgent action to address climate change and the nation's dependence on expensive foreign oil. Both support a "cap-and-trade" system that requires companies that exceed caps on their carbon emissions to buy emission credits from companies that pollute less. But they differ on important details.

Obama McCain

Supports subsidies for solar and wind energy; wants more nuclear power only after storage and safety issues are resolved. He opposes a proposed storage facility at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. Says incentives for solar and wind distort the energy market. But he strongly supports incentives for nuclear power, saying the government wrongly stymied its growth. He supports Yucca Mountain.

GAS-TAX SUSPENSION

Opposes suspending the 18.4- cent federal tax for this summer, calling it a political gimmick.

Supports the one-time suspension, calling it a "little break" for drivers.

Health care

Both candidates plan strategies to cut costs. Obama wants all Americans to have health insurance, and would increase regulations and spend tax dollars to do it. Health insurance companies would have to sell coverage to anyone who wants it, for instance, even if they are already sick. McCain wouldn't likely make a big dent in the number of uninsured, but would decrease regulations to give people more choices. People could buy insurance from out of state, even if it doesn't comply with their home-state standards.

Obama McCain

• Government sets up a marketplace for health insurance plans, where families choose among private plans or a new government-run option like Medicare.

• Subsidies defray insurance costs for lower-income households and help pay to insure the most expensive patients.

• Parents are required to insure their children; large employers are required to offer insurance or pay into a fund. • A new tax credit subsidizes all insurance, replacing the existing tax break that only applies to employer-sponsored insurance.

• Insurance companies sell across state lines, increasing competition — and allowing them to avoid state regulations that increase both costs and consumer protection.

• Subsidies help lower-income patients with pre-existing medical conditions obtain insurance.

COSTS

About $110-billion, says Obama campaign.

Preliminary campaign estimate: $7-billion to $10-billion.

Housing

Until recently, McCain opposed federal aid to homeowners to stave off a wave of housing foreclosures, but has come to support a modest package. Obama's plan is more aggressive — and more expensive.

Obama McCain

Supports legislation to reduce and federally insure mortgages for homeowners who owe more than their houses are worth. Would allow bankruptcy courts to modify mortgage terms to help owners keep their homes. Proposes $20-billion in aid to help prevent foreclosures and help hard-hit localities. Supports a federal insurance program similar to the legislation that Obama likes, but it would cover fewer people and require homeowners, rather than their banks, to apply for the aid. McCain's projected cost: $3-billion to $10-billion.

LENDING ENFORCEMENT

Calls for increased regulation, including new authority for the Federal Reserve over financial institutions.

Has called for a Justice Department investigation into criminal wrongdoing among mortgage lenders, and federal standards for mortgage brokers.

CARBON EMISSIONS GOAL

80% reduction by 2050. 60% reduction by 2050.

ALTERNATIVES TO OIL

Now comes the real clash. The prolonged Democratic nominating contest between Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton, two people who agree on most everything, magnified small and sometimes insignificant disagreements on policy. Not so with Obama and Sen. John McCain. While both men have attracted support from independent voters, the two start from opposing political philosophies on all but a handful of issues. "I'm a conservative Republican," McCain says over and over on the trail, belying his frequent image as a moderate or a maverick. Obama, he says, is a liberal Democrat. "There will be real differences on the ballot in November," Obama said last month, as he laid out some of them. "And that's what elections should be about." The two senators' positions reflect starkly different world views on foreign policy, economics and social issues. Obama has suggested a virtual moratorium on new trade agreements; McCain promotes them as good for America. Obama would spend $100-billion a year to subsidize health insurance; McCain would spend $100-billion a year to cut the corporate tax rate. Many of the big decisions facing the next president already are clear. Almost immediately, he will have to decide what to do with around 140,000 troops that will be stationed in Iraq. With the tax cuts pushed by President Bush expiring in 2010, the next president must grapple with taxes, whether he wants to or not. As many as three of the most liberal Supreme Court justices could leave over the next four years, meaning the next president could preserve the current balance or shift it hard to the right. Here, a look at the most important policy battlefronts ahead in Campaign 2008. Taxes

McCain opposed President Bush's tax cuts, but now says ending them would mean a tax increase. He would make other tax cuts that mostly apply to corporations and upper-income families. Altogether, they could cost more than $500-billion a year under one estimate. McCain says he'll cut government spending to pay some of that tab — not including the Bush tax cuts — but hasn't yet said how. Obama aims to "restore fairness" to the tax code, meaning low- and middle-income taxpayers would pay less while upper-income families would pay more. He'd offset tax-cut costs of $85-billion by raising the capital gains tax and closing corporate tax loopholes, but that doesn't cover the portion of Bush tax cuts he'd extend.

ABORTION

NEGOTIATING WITH ENEMIES

EXIT TIMETABLE

FORECLOSURE AID

PLAN HIGHLIGHTS

CARBON EMISSIONS GOAL

80 percent reduction by 2050. 60 percent reduction by 2050. ALTERNATIVES TO OIL

On the issues: compare, contrast 06/14/08 [Last modified: Monday, November 1, 2010 11:25am]

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...