Democrat Barack Obama says his proposals to stimulate the sluggish U.S. economy will serve the interests of average Americans better than those of his Republican rival, John McCain.
The Illinois senator and presumptive Democratic nominee for president tells Michele Norris that his economic agenda is more "meaningful" for the U.S. and "fiscally responsible." Obama spoke to NPR from St. Louis, where he spent the second day of a two-week-long tour of battleground states.
Meanwhile, McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, told a small-business conference in Washington on Tuesday that Obama's proposals would result in higher taxes for business and steeper overhead costs — statements Obama called "misleading."
With gas prices soaring past $4 a gallon, economic issues have taken center stage in this presidential campaign.
"What's going on right now is that people feel like their American dream is slipping away from them, that our children may not have the same opportunities that we did," Obama said. "And there's something fundamentally un-American about that ... Frankly, John McCain's agenda simply continues the same economic approach that we've had over the last eight years that's not working."
Obama laid out how he can beat McCain in November and win the battleground states that have a strong manufacturing base. One of the most important ways, he says, is to listen to and empathize with voters.
"You hear a teacher in South Dakota tell you that she's got to give up her a job teaching on an Indian reservation — a job she loves — because she can't afford to fill up the gas tank," Obama said. "Or you hear a gentleman in North Carolina explain how his daughters have cystic fibrosis, and when they got sick, he lost his home and is on the verge of bankruptcy. It doesn't take a lot of conversations for you to realize that people are hurting. And they're hurting deeply."
If elected in November, Obama says his top priorities would include to stop "adding to our debt." He would eliminate some of the Bush tax cuts aimed at the wealthiest Americans and, instead, put that money toward health care. And he would focus on fixing U.S. energy policy.
By investing in alternative fuels, and encouraging auto companies to retool cars and trucks to make them more fuel efficient, gas prices can be lowered over the long term, Obama says. But he acknowledges that because of growing demand in China and India, there is no short-term remedy besides trying to give Americans more spending money with tax cuts.
Ultimately, Obama says, Americans are going to vote for the candidate who best appeals to their interest.
"If they hear that my economic plan involves giving them a tax cut, putting more money in their pockets, providing health care, making sure that their retirements are more secure, making sure that they can afford to send their kids to college, and they look at the contrast to John McCain's plan — which is $300 billion in new tax breaks for wealthy corporations and CEOs — that's going to be a contrast that they take into the ballot box, and I think we can do very well," he said.