Campaign 2008: Energy, Economy,
Health Care Top Issues

With President George W. Bush’s overall job rating hovering around 60 percent disapproval, and many polls showing candidates Barack Obama and John McCain neck-and-neck, this year’s presidential election will challenge American voters to think hard about issues that both affect their pocketbooks (gas prices) and the future of their children and grandchildren (global economy).

The stakes are high in most election years and 2008 is no different: the war in Iraq, a sluggish economy, high unemployment, homeland security, energy costs and health care all top the list for many Americans. The next president will surely have to address many, if not all, of these concerns if he wants to continue into a second term.

Corp! magazine posed five questions to the candidates on issues that are important to Michigan citizens, as well as the rest of the nation: health care, energy, transportation, the economy and the war in Iraq.

Senator Barack Obama responded by e-mail to our questions in early September. After several contacts by our editorial team, Senator John McCain declined to provide answers to our questions. We have provided information on the issues from his campaign Web site:

Obama On Health Care

Democrat Barack Obama spent eight years in the Illinois State Senate before being elected to the U.S. Senate in 2004. Photo courtesy Obama Press

I will ensure affordable, accessible health coverage for all Americans. My plan both builds on and improves our current insurance system, which most Americans continue to rely upon, and leaves Medicare intact for older and disabled Americans. Under my plan, Americans will be able to maintain their current coverage if they choose to, and will see the quality of their health care improve and their costs go down. My plan also addresses the large gaps in coverage that leave 45 million Americans uninsured by requiring insurance companies to cover everyone, offering new choices of health care similar to what members of Congress give themselves and providing tax credits to working families to ensure that health insurance is affordable.

I also understand that the skyrocketing cost of health care poses a serious competitive threat to America’s small businesses. That’s why my plan will create a Small Business Health Tax Credit to provide small businesses with a refundable tax credit of up to 50 percent on premiums paid by small businesses on behalf of their employees. To be eligible for the credit, small businesses will have to offer a quality health plan to all of their employees, and cover a meaningful share of the cost of employee health premiums. This new credit will provide a strong incentive to small businesses to offer high quality health care to their workers and help improve the competitiveness of America’s small businesses.

McCain On Health Care

Republican John McCain was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1982. He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1986, after serving two terms in the House. Photo courtesy

Sen. McCain has a comprehensive health care reform plan that will reduce the spiraling cost of health care -“ a major burden for those small businesses that offer health insurance and a major impediment for those who cannot. He will provide $5,000 for health insurance to every American family -“ supporting small businesses that seek to offer insurance. He opposes costly mandates or “pay or play” requirements that would raise the financial burden on small business, cut the ability to hire, expand, or raise payrolls.

He will reform health care, making it easier for individuals and families to obtain insurance. An important part of his plan is to use competition to improve the quality of health insurance with greater variety to match people’s needs, lower prices, and promote portability. Families should be able to purchase health insurance nationwide, across state lines.

Sen. McCain proposes a number of initiatives that can lower health care costs, among them:

  • Bringing greater affordability and competition to our drug markets through safe re-importation of drugs and faster introduction of generic drugs.
  • Chronic conditions account for three-quarters of the nation’s annual health care bill. By emphasizing prevention, early intervention, healthy habits, new treatment models, new public health infrastructure and the use of information technology, we can significantly reduce these costs. We should dedicate more federal research to treating and curing chronic disease.
  • Coordinated care -“ with providers collaborating to produce the best health care for the patient -“ offers better outcomes at lower cost. We should pay a single bill for high-quality care which will make every single provider accountable and responsive to the patients’ needs.
  • Reforming the payment systems in Medicaid and Medicare to compensate providers for diagnosis, prevention and care coordination.

McCain On Energy

Sen. McCain’s Lexington Project will address the rising costs of energy that are hurting small businesses. He strongly supports increased domestic exploration of oil and natural gas. The Lexington Project also includes:

  • Proposing a $300 million prize to be awarded for the development of a battery package that has the size, capacity, cost and power to leapfrog the commercially available plug-in hybrids or electric cars. That battery should deliver a power source at 30 percent of the current costs.
  • Issuing a Clean Car Challenge to the automakers of America, in the form of a single and substantial tax credit based on the reduction of carbon emissions. For every automaker who can sell a zero-emissions car, McCain will commit a $5,000 tax credit for each and every customer who buys that car. For other vehicles, whatever type they may be, the lower the carbon emissions, the higher the tax credit.

Sen. McCain calls on automakers to make a more rapid and complete switch to flex-fuel vehicles.

He believes alcohol-based fuels hold great promise as both an alternative to gasoline and as a means of expanding consumers’ choices.

Sen. McCain has long supported CAFE standards -“ the Corporate Average Fuel Economy mileage requirements that automobile manufacturers’ cars must meet. Some carmakers ignore these standards, pay a small financial penalty, and add it to the price of their cars. John McCain believes that the penalties for not following these standards must be effective enough to compel carmakers to produce fuel-efficient vehicles.

Obama On Energy

Barack Obama gets ready to address the crowd at Hart Plaza in Detroit. Photo courtesy Obama Press

Breaking our oil addiction requires helping our auto industry retool to make fuel-efficient cars and trucks, which is why my energy plan supports $50 billion in loan guarantees, costing $7.5 billion over three years, to help domestic automakers retooling existing manufacturing facilities to make the next generation of fuel efficient vehicles here in America. As I have said repeatedly, I also support providing additional assistance to the companies in future years to ensure that advanced fuel-efficient vehicles will be made here in the U.S.

When I am president, we will get 1 million 150 mile-per-gallon plug-in hybrids on our roads by 2015. And with technology we have on the shelf today, we will raise our fuel mileage standards 4 percent every year. We’ll invest more in the research and development of those plug-in hybrids, specifically focusing on the battery technology. We’ll leverage private sector funding to bring these cars directly to American consumers, and we’ll give consumers a $7,000 tax credit to buy these vehicles. Coupled with my loan guarantees, these efforts will lead to an explosion of innovation here in Michigan. At the turn of the 20th century, there were literally hundreds of car companies offering a wide choice of steam vehicles and gas engines. I believe we are entering a similar era of expanding consumer choices, from higher mileage cars, to new electric entrants like GM’s Volt, to flex fuel cars and trucks powered by biofuels and driven by Michigan innovation.

McCain On Transportation

John McCain reaches out.
Photo courtesy

John McCain will help Americans hurting from high gasoline and food costs. He would act immediately to reduce the pain of high gas prices.

Sen. McCain’s policies will increase the value of the dollar and thus reduce the price of oil. In recent years, the declining value of the dollar has added to the cost of imported oil. This will change.

Sen. McCain believes we should institute a summer gas tax holiday. He called on Congress to suspend the 18.4 cent federal gas tax and 24.4 cent diesel tax from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

He will repeal the 54 cents per gallon tax on imported sugar-based ethanol, increasing competition, and lowering prices of gasoline at the pump. He will roll back corn-based ethanol mandates, which are contributing to the rising cost of food.

Obama On Transportation

I believe we should immediately give every working family in America a $1,000 energy rebate, and we should pay for it with part of the record profits that the oil companies are making right now. We also need to immediately crack down on reckless speculation on the energy market, and ensure that we are continuing to support the important highway, rail and public transit projects that are happening across the country so Americans have multiple, safe transportation options. And we should provide $50 billion in assistance to states so that they don’t have to cut back on health care and education and can rebuild roads and schools.

Obama On the Economy

In this country, we believe that if you work hard, you should be able to build a better life for your children and grandchildren. That is the American Dream -“ and it’s slowly slipping out of reach for many families.

In August, 84,000 Americans lost their jobs -“ including a record 39,000 in the auto industry. The unemployment rate in Michigan is 8.5 percent, the highest in the country.

As president, I will provide a middle class tax cut that is three times larger than the one my opponent offers -“ putting a tax cut of up to $1,000 directly into the pockets of 95 percent of workers and their families. And I will end tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas and give those tax breaks to companies that create good-paying jobs here in America.

But to secure our prosperity in the 21st century, we also have to make long-term investments in our competitiveness. That starts with solving our energy crisis once and for all. This isn’t just a challenge to meet; it’s an opportunity to seize -“ an opportunity that will create new businesses, new industries and millions of new jobs that pay well and can’t be outsourced. For a state like Michigan, it’s an opportunity to rebuild and revive your economy. Already, there are 300 companies and 50,000 jobs in your clean energy sector. Now is the time to accelerate that innovation, both in Michigan and across the nation.

That’s why I went to Michigan to unveil my comprehensive plan for energy independence. We’ll invest $150 billion over the next 10 years and leverage billions more in private capital to build a new energy economy that harnesses American energy and creates 5 million new American jobs.

We’ll ensure that the cars of tomorrow aren’t built in Japan or China, but right here in Michigan. Instead of giving $4 billion in new tax breaks to oil companies that are making record profits, let’s give tax credits to American auto plants and manufacturers so that they can retool their factories and build the cars of the future.

McCain On the Economy

Sen. McCain believes globalization is an opportunity for American workers today and in the future. Ninety-five percent of the world’s customers lie outside our borders, and we need to be at the table when the rules for access to those markets are written. To do so, the U.S. should engage in multilateral, regional and bilateral efforts to reduce barriers to trade, level the global playing field and build effective enforcement of global trading rules.

He understands that globalization will not automatically benefit every American. We must prepare the next generation of workers by making American education worthy of the promise we make to our children and ourselves. We must be a nation committed to competitiveness and opportunity. We must fight for the ability of all students to have access to any school of demonstrated excellence.

Sen. McCain will overhaul unemployment insurance and make it a program for retraining, relocating and assisting workers who have lost a job. The unemployment insurance system created in the 1950s needs to be modernized to meet the goals of helping displaced workers make ends meet between jobs and moving people quickly on to the next opportunity. He will reform the half-dozen training programs to approaches that can be used to meet the bills, pay for training, and get back to work.

Obama On the War in Iraq

I believe that we must be as careful getting out of Iraq as we were careless getting in. Immediately upon taking office, I will give my Secretary of Defense and military commanders a new mission in Iraq: ending the war. The removal of our troops will be responsible and phased, directed by military commanders on the ground and done in consultation with the Iraqi government. Military experts believe we can safely redeploy combat brigades from Iraq at a pace of 1 to 2 brigades a month that would remove them in 16 months. That would be the summer of 2010 -“ more than seven years after the war began.

Under my plan, a residual force will 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. We will not build permanent bases in Iraq, but will continue efforts to train and support the Iraqi security forces as long as Iraqi leaders move toward political reconciliation and away from sectarianism.

McCain On the War in Iraq

Sen. McCain believes it is strategically and morally essential for the United States help the government of Iraq become capable of governing itself and safeguarding its people. He strongly disagrees with those who advocate withdrawing American troops before that has occurred.

It would be a grave mistake to leave before Al Qaeda in Iraq is defeated and before a competent, trained, and capable Iraqi security force is in place and operating effectively. We must help the government of Iraq battle those who provoke sectarian tensions and promote a civil war that could destabilize the Middle East. Iraq must not become a failed state, a haven for terrorists, or a pawn of Iran. These likely consequences of America’s failure in Iraq almost certainly would either require us to return or draw us into a wider and far costlier war.

The best way to secure long-term peace and security is to establish a stable, prosperous, and democratic state in Iraq that poses no threat to its neighbors and contributes to the defeat of terrorists. When Iraqi forces can safeguard their own country, American troops can return home.