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VOTER GUIDE: THE NOV. 4 ELECTIONS

Different visions for America

October 19, 2008|Kate Linthicum | Times Staff Writer

There are many contrasts between John McCain and Barack Obama, the Republican and Democratic candidates for president. McCain is a Vietnam War hero and veteran senator; Obama is a former community organizer and first-term senator. They are separated by a generation. And they have offered very different visions for the future of America. Here is a comparison of where they stand on some of the major issues.

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Financial crisis

McCain: Would freeze spending for all government programs except defense, veterans affairs and entitlement benefits. Would lower tax rates on withdrawals of up to $50,000 from IRA and 401(k) accounts to 10%. Supported the Treasury's $700-billion rescue plan for the financial system.

Obama: Would give companies a $3,000 tax credit for each new full-time job created over the next two years. Would allow families to withdraw up to $10,000 from their retirement savings without penalties. Supported the Treasury's $700-billion rescue plan for the financial system.

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Taxes

McCain: Would continue President Bush's tax cuts and make other cuts that would mainly affect upper-income families and corporations. Would pay for them by overhauling programs like Social Security and Medicare, eliminating earmarks and implementing a spending freeze.

Obama: Would allow the Bush tax cuts to expire for households earning more than $250,000. Would give a $500 tax credit to households earning less than $150,000. People over 65 who earn less than $50,000 would not have to pay income taxes. Would raise corporate taxes.

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Housing

McCain: Initially opposed large-scale federal assistance but now says he would use $300 billion of the Treasury's $700 billion to buy up bad mortgages from financial institutions and replace them with fixed-rate, government-guaranteed mortgages.

Obama: Wants a 90-day freeze on foreclosures on people trying to make mortgage payments. Would allow bankruptcy judges to modify mortgage terms. Calls for increased regulation on lenders. Would work with state housing agencies to make broad mortgage restructurings.

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Healthcare

McCain: Would cut regulations and allow insurance companies to sell across state lines. Would tax employer-provided health insurance, but give tax credits ($2,500 for individuals and $5,000 for families) to help offset the cost of insurance. Would give subsidies to lower-income patients with pre-existing medical conditions to help them obtain insurance. Would not mandate universal coverage.

Obama: Would create an agency to regulate the private insurance market. Consumers could choose to buy private insurance through the agency or the federal government. Would require providers to sell coverage to those who are already sick. Would require large businesses to provide employees insurance or contribute to the cost. Would provide subsidies for lower-income patients and mandate coverage for children.

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Energy

McCain: Supports offshore drilling. Would give incentives to the nuclear power industry to build 45 new nuclear power reactors by 2030. Would not give subsidies to the wind and solar power industries. Would offer tax credits and prizes to encourage car companies to develop automobiles with zero carbon emissions.

Obama: Supports some offshore drilling. Supports subsidies for wind and solar energy but not nuclear, at least until safety concerns are resolved. Would increase federal investment in clean-energy technologies. Would increase federal fuel economy requirements beyond 35 mpg. Aims to put 1 million plug-in hybrid vehicles on the road by 2015 by giving $7,000 tax credits to people who buy them.

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Global warming

McCain: Supports a cap-and-trade system that would require companies that exceed limits on their carbon emissions to buy emission credits from companies that pollute less. Calls for carbon emission to be reduced 60% from 1990 levels by 2050.

Obama: Supports a cap-and-trade system to control carbon emissions. Proposes a 10-year, $150-billion program to produce "climate friendly" energy to reduce carbon emissions by 80% from 1990 levels by 2050.

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Education

McCain: Would reward successful Head Start education centers with extra funding; would redirect federal money into preschool programs that offer children basic healthcare. Would allow families to choose schools by giving vouchers that could be used for tuition at private or charter schools. Supports No Child Left Behind. Has no plans to increase student aid in higher education.

Obama: Would put $18 billion a year toward expanding existing preschool programs and toward merit pay for the best K-12 teachers. Would overhaul No Child Left Behind to change the way student progress is assessed. Would implement Teacher Service Scholarships, which would pay for four years of undergraduate or two years of graduate teacher education for those who agree to teach at least four years in needy districts. Would give a tax credit of up to $4,000 for college students who give 100 hours of community service.

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Social issues

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