From Promise Maker to President

By: Lou Kren

Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Election 2008
Tuesday, November 4, U.S. voters decide who will assume the top executive post for the next four years. The two main players, Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain, have crisscrossed the land developing, communicating and adapting their leadership messages, with much attention paid to economic issues. Where do the candidates agree, and where do they differ, in proposed policies near and dear to domestic manufacturers and their employees? To find out, we spent the spring and summer contacting both campaigns and asking them to address manufacturing-industry concerns. The campaigns responded by not responding so we kept trying, and eventually we were told that the candidates’ staffs were too busy to respond, which makes us wonder what attention manufacturing will get after November 4. So we base these candidate issue stances on official pronouncements, interviews and official candidate websites. As als, the candidates are promising a whole lot, even though in actuality they can’t solely deliver much of it, as they are beholden to Congress, a limited money supply and various pacts and treaties. Even so, in this boatload of promises of tax cuts and huge government outlays, perhaps you can determine who best has your interests at heart.


Both McCain and Obama claim to champion tax cuts, though they differ in where those cuts would be made.


• Keep the top individual tax rate at 35 percent, maintain the 15 percent rates on dividends and capital gains, and phase out the Alternative Minimum Tax.

• Cut the corporate tax rate from 35 to 25 percent.

• Allow first-year deduction, or ‘expensing,’ of equipment and technology investments.

• Establish a permanent tax credit equal to 10 percent of wages spent on research and development.

• Reduce the estate-tax rate to 15 percent and permit a $10 million exemption.


• Enact a Windfall Profits Tax on oil-company profits to fund a $1000 Emergency Energy Rebate to taxpayers.

• Provide middle-class families with at least $1000/year in permanent tax relief.

• Create a Making Work Pay tax credit of as much as $500/person or $1000/ working family.

• Rescind most of the Bush tax cuts for wealthier taxpayers.

• Eliminate income taxes for seniors making less than $50,000 annually.

• Simplify individual tax filings, having the IRS use information it already receives from banks and employers to give taxpayers the option of prefilled tax forms to verify, sign and return.

• Make the Research and Development Tax Credit permanent.

• Eliminate capital-gains taxes on start-up and small businesses.

Health Insurance

McCain favors greater choice in private insurance, with reforms and increased competition reining in costs. Obama leans toward a national healthcare plan with some private components.


• While still having the option of employer-based coverage, give American families a direct refundable tax credit (cash) of $2500 for individuals and $5000 for families to offset the cost of insurance. Money would be sent directly to the insurance provider, or if insurance costs less than the tax credit, the remainder can be deposited in Health Savings Accounts.

• Make health insurance more portable, allowing it to follow workers from job to job.

• Expand Health Savings Accounts.


• Make available a new national health plan to all citizens, including the self-employed and small businesses. Employers not offering a plan or making a meaningful contribution to employee health coverage must contribute a percentage of payroll toward the costs of the national plan. Small businesses will be exempt from this requirement, and will receive a new Small Business Health Tax Credit, a refundable tax credit of as much as 50 percent on premiums paid by small businesses on behalf of their employees.

• Allow small employers to enter the National Health Insurance Exchange to purchase either a new public plan or a private plan for employees, who will be eligible for subsidies. Very small businesses and start-ups are exempted from the obligation to pay into the system or provide extensive coverage for employees.


McCain favors free-trade agreements and their stricter enforcement while Obama seeks to amend or overturn some of these.

• Overhaul unemployment insurance to make it a program for retraining, relocating and assisting workers who have lost a job.

• Strictly enforce trade pacts.

• Bolster trade relations with other Asian countries to help strengthen U.S. bargaining power with China.

• Negotiate more free-trade agreements.


• More vigorously monitor trade agreements and use the World Trade Organization aggressively to resolve trade disputes.

• Oppose the Central American Free Trade Agreement and amend the North American Free Trade Agreement

• Push for changes to China’s intellectual-property-rights system and its policy of subsidizing industry.

• Pressure China to revalue its currency, but turn first to negotiation to resolve trade issues rather than legislation.


McCain seeks to ramp up domestic production of currently deployed energy sources while funding renewable-energy technologies. Obama seeks greater investment in renewable energy.


• Support increased domestic exploration of oil and natural gas.

• Build 45 new nuclear power plants by 2030.

• Provide incentives for the production of electricity from renewable sources.

• Devote $2 billion annually to research allowing clean use of coal.


• Invest $150 billion over 10 years to develop a clean-energy economy.

• Increase fuel-economy standards and place 1 million plug-in hybrid cars on the road by 2015.

• Ensure that 10 percent of electricity comes from renewable resources by 2012 and 25 percent by 2025.

• Develop clean-coal technology.


Both candidates address technology as a means to ensure future American competitiveness, focusing on encouraging innovation. How do they propose to do that?


• Keep capital-gains taxes low.

• Establish permanent R&D tax credit equal to 10 percent of wages spent on R&D.

• Lower corporate tax rate to 25 percent.

• Allow companies to expense the costs of new equipment or technology in the first year.

• Oppose higher taxes on Internet users and wireless services.

• Fully fund programs to graduate math and science majors.

• Expand visas to allow more high-tech workers to stay and work in the United States.

• Push for greater resources for the U.S. Patent Office.

• Seek international agreements and enforcement to protect intellectual property.

• Provide approaches other than litigation to resolve patent challenges.

• Encourage private investment in high-speed internet service and enable local governments to spearhead such service efforts where private investment is lacking.


• Double federal funding for basic research.

• Make R&D Tax Credit permanent.

• Reform immigration to better attract talented people to America.

• Create Advanced Manufacturing Fund to identify and invest in compelling advanced manufacturing strategies.

• Double funding for Manufacturing Extension Partnership.

• Eliminate capital-gains taxes on start-up and small businesses.

• Create national network of public-private business incubators to facilitate work of entrepreneurs in creating start-up companies.

• Deploy next-generation broadband internet service in every community in the United States.

• Update and reform patent and copyright systems, including creation of “gold-plated” patents for significant inventions to better protect them from court challenges.

Unions: The Card Check

Last year, the House passed H.R. 800, the Employee Free Choice Act, a bill that allows employees of a company to unionize not with a traditional secret-ballot election but rather via a petition, or card-check. Once a petition reflects a majority of workers, the right to unionize is granted. McCain, siding with those who believe that a petition invites intimidation of workers by union organizers, is against the act. Obama, along with those who believe the current secret-ballot process gives management too much power to discourage a pro-union vote, has gone on record saying he will sign such a bill into law. MF

For details on Sen. McCain’s stance on the issues, visit, for Sen. Obama’s, visit


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