WASHINGTON (AFP) — Republican John McCain said Tuesday his White House opponent Barack Obama's economic platform would kill jobs and growth, vowing instead to keep big government out of entrepreneurship.
The Arizona senator spelled out the difference in governing philosophy that he said would be a critical choice in November's election, as he sparred with Obama for a second day over the economic crisis engulfing many US families.
"No matter which of us wins in November, there will be change in Washington. The question is what kind of change?" McCain told the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) here in a well-received speech.
"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," he said.
The Democrat would enact "the single largest tax increase since the Second World War" and index the federal minimum wage to inflation, "which is a sure way to add to your costs and to slow the creation of new jobs."
McCain's accusation rests on Obama's commitment to rolling back multi-billion-dollar tax cuts enacted under President George W. Bush, and applying higher taxes on those earning more than 250,000 dollars a year.
In riposte, Obama said McCain was guilty of fuzzy mathematics and again mocked the Republican's self-confessed weakness in economic expertise.
"I've said that John McCain is running to serve out a third Bush term. But the truth is when it comes to taxes, that's not being fair to George Bush," the Democrat told reporters in St Louis, Missouri.
"Senator McCain wants to add 300 billion dollars more in tax breaks and loopholes for big corporations and the wealthiest Americans, and he hasn't even explained how to pay for it," he said.
The 250,000-dollar threshold for annual income would mean that 98 percent of workers would pay no more taxes, Obama said, and middle-class families would get tax relief starting at 1,000 dollars to offset surging costs of living.
The Illinois senator also took aim at McCain's incremental approach to reform of healthcare, whose rocketing costs are one of the biggest headaches for small businesses, along with gasoline prices topping four dollars a gallon.
Touting his own plan to dramatically increase healthcare, Obama earlier went on ward rounds with a hospital nurse in St Louis, on the second day of a two-week campaign tour that is taking him deep into Republican territory.
Obama, 46, is capitalizing on profound disquiet about rising unemployment and home foreclosures, plus opposition to the Iraq war, to accuse McCain of offering "four more years" for the hugely unpopular Bush.
McCain, 71, has a new line of retort, saying Obama would represent a second term for 1970s president Jimmy Carter, a throwback to an era of runaway spending by the government and economic stagnation.
The economy has dominated the two contenders' hard-hitting exchanges since Obama's opponent in the Democratic nomination battle, Hillary Clinton, quit the race at the weekend.
In Washington, top Democrats put on a show of unity after the bruising primary season, detailing how the national party will merge its activities into the Obama campaign's to pursue an election strategy across all 50 states.
Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean said the race between the African-American Obama and Clinton had seen "some ugly moments" of racism and sexism.
But he stressed: "Today, we stand united as a Democratic Party, focused on putting an end to the idea of a third Bush term, which we would get with John McCain."
House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi had a message for the angry Clinton supporters who are now threatening to vote for McCain in protest at Obama's primary triumph.
"Women and blue-collar workers, whatever their race, have the most to gain by the election of Barack Obama as president of the United States and the most to lose by the election of John McCain," she said.
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