The 2008 presidential campaign will be remembered for the stark contrasts between the two candidates and their respective policies. Other than the obvious contrasts of race and age, John McCain and Barack Obama represent two very different philosophies of government. Two examples of this contrast are the domestic policy area of taxes and the foreign policy issue of the war on terror. John McCain, the Republican candidate, has proposed lowering the corporate tax rate from 35% to 25% (“The McCain Economic Plan” 6).
This proposal reflects the traditional Republican philosophy which believes that lower tax rates for entrepreneurs, small businesses, and corporations will result in more jobs for working Americans, increased productivity, and, ultimately, in greater tax revenues. In addition to reducing taxes for corporations, McCain has also proposed reducing individual income taxes. Under the McCain plan, families with an annual family income of more than $2. 87 million would receive a 4. 4% decrease in taxes, or about $269,000 less in income taxes per year (“Obama and McCain Tax Proposals”).
This income bracket represents the top 0. 1% of incomes in the United States. The average annual income in the United States is slightly less than $42,000 (World Bank, 12). Under the McCain Plan, an American with an average income would have his taxes reduced by 0. 7%, or $319 per year (“Obama and McCain Tax Proposals”). McCain has not always favored giving larger tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans and less generous tax breaks to the middle class. In 2001, McCain was one of two Republican senators to vote against the Bush tax cuts (Weisman A01).
At that time, McCain argued that the country could not afford to give such large tax cuts without corresponding reductions in spending. McCain also expressed concerns about the lopsided nature of the Bush tax cuts, which gave the greatest tax relief to the wealthiest taxpayers and offered little reductions in taxes to middle class or low-income wage earners. In 2002, McCain said that he would “like to see much more of this tax cut shared by working Americans. . . . I think it still devotes too much of it to the wealthiest Americans” (McCain, quoted by Weisman A01).
McCain changed his position on taxing working Americans at some time before March of 2008, when he voted with other Senate Republicans to continue the Bush tax cuts. Barack Obama’s tax plan increases the amount of income tax paid by the wealthiest Americans and reduces, if only slightly, the amount of income taxes that would be paid by middle class families. Under the Obama plan, “Families making more than $250,000 will pay either the same or lower tax rates than they paid in the 1990s” (“Barack Obama’s Comprehensive Tax Plan”).
Families earning more than $287 million, which received a tax reduction of 4. 4% under the McCain plan, would face a tax increase of 11. 5% or $701,885 a year under the Obama plan (“Obama and McCain Tax Proposals”). An individual with an income of $42,000 would have a tax reduction of 2. 4% or $1,042 per year under the Obama plan (“Obama and McCain Tax Proposals”). In the March 2008 vote, Senator Obama voted with other Democrats to reject the Bush tax cuts. McCain has argued that economic growth should come from the top down, while Obama has argued that economic stability comes from the bottom up.
The recent collapse of Wall Street and the government bailout of several banks and investment firms reinforces Obama’s argument and weakens McCain’s position. McCain and Obama also have different views about the war on terror. McCain contends that the United States was correct in its decision to pursue Al Qaeda into Iraq and that the United States military should stay in Iraq until the insurgency has been brought under control and the Iraqi government no longer needs the support of the United States military (“Strategy for Victory in Iraq”).
Obama has argued that the war in Iraq is “a dangerous distraction” from the pursuit of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan (“Obama calls Iraq war a ‘dangerous distraction'”). Obama’s position on the war in Iraq is consistent with his initial criticism of the decision to go to war in Iraq in 2002. At one time, Obama argued that the United States should have a clear deadline for the withdrawal of all troops from Iraq. Since that time, Obama has somewhat modified his position.
While he is still calling for a reduction in troops with a goal of an eventual withdrawal by the summer of 2010, he has also acknowledged the need for “a residual force (to) remain in Iraq and in the region to conduct targeted counter-terrorism missions against al Qaeda in Iraq and to protect American diplomatic and civilian personnel” (“War in Iraq”). Obama noted that “we must be as careful getting out of Iraq as we were careless getting in” (“War in Iraq”). Obama has also tried to calm fears that he might be reluctant to use military force if necessary to defend the United States.
Democrats have historically been viewed as being weak on national defense, which has traditionally been a strong issue for Republicans. While Obama has been critical of the war in Iraq, he has also argued strongly for increased troops in Afghanistan. Obama has also stated that, if necessary, he would pursue Al Qaeda into neighboring Pakistan, which is where he believes Osama bin Laden and other Al Qaeda members are hiding (“War in Iraq”). In these remarks, Obama has been more “hawkish” than McCain, who has warned against threatening Pakistan.
John McCain has argued that the American strategy in Iraq is an important part of the overall war on terror. McCain has been consistent in his views of the war, even when his position was unpopular and could have potential cost him the nomination of his party (Page). McCain’s status as a former POW gives him a great deal of credibility in the area of military defense. McCain has argued against any type of scheduled withdrawal from Iraq, warning that any such timetable would provide an advantage to the insurgents in Iraq and to Al Qaeda forces.
McCain has also acknowledged that American military forces may have to stay in Iraq for several years to ensure the stability of the region and to protect American interests. Although McCain has argued for the need for military action in Iraq and Afghanistan, he has also warned against making threats to Pakistan and other countries. Obama’s argument about the war is weakened by his lack of experience and knowledge in foreign affairs, a fact that McCain likes to point out as often as possible. Obama’s choice of Joe Biden as a running mate was no doubt intended, in part, to address these concerns about foreign affairs.
His logic about who military forces should be used, however, is strong. It makes little sense to fight a war in Iraq when it is clear that the enemy is hiding in Afghanistan and Pakistan. McCain’s strength is in his knowledge of foreign affairs, firsthand knowledge and understanding of war, and in his commitment to protecting American lives and American interests. McCain’s position of experience, however, was weakened by his choice of an inexperienced running mate who has no knowledge of foreign affairs or national security.