PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania (AFP) — Republican White House hopeful John McCain outlined Tuesday a fuel tax "holiday" for hard-pressed drivers among a raft of measures designed to bolster the flagging economy.
McCain, attacked by his Democratic rivals Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton for taking a hands-off approach to the gathering crisis in the US housing market, said his plan focused "on actually helping families."
In a speech, the Arizona senator played on the title of an Obama book, attacking the two Democrats for planning "to raise your taxes by thousands of dollars per year -- and they have the audacity to hope you don't mind."
McCain proposed expanded federal and state guarantees for tuition loans, in case college students suffer from the credit crunch now roiling the US and global economy.
He called for parents' tax exemptions to be doubled to 7,000 dollars, a one-year pause to review non-military government spending, and cuts to prescription drug subsidies enjoyed by richer pensioners.
McCain's headline measure called on Congress to suspend federal taxes on auto fuel at the peak of the summer driving season -- from Memorial Day on May 26 to Labor Day on September 1, when gasoline prices traditionally surge.
The federal tax on gasoline stands at 18.4 cents a gallon, and for diesel at 24.4 cents. According to the Department of Energy, US gasoline prices now average a record 3.39 dollars per gallon, up 51 cents from a year ago.
"And because the cost of gas affects the price of food, packaging, and just about everything else, these immediate steps will help to spread relief across the American economy," McCain said in his speech in Pittsburgh.
McCain also reprised his plan for the US government to back new mortgages for homeowners who "played by the rules" but are threatened by foreclosure, to replace risky home loans issued by predatory lenders.
The Republican, who had opposed hefty tax cuts pushed by President George W. Bush early this decade, called for those reductions to be made permanent to prevent "the single largest tax increase since the Second World War."
"Among supporters of a tax increase are Senators Obama and Clinton. Both promise big 'change.' And a trillion dollars in new taxes over the next decade would certainly fit that description," he said.
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