The candidates positions on key issues
Oct 28, 2008, 8:00 GMT
US Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama pauses during a speech to a crowd of about 5,000 at the Canton Memorial Civic Center in Canton, Ohio, USA, 27 October 2008. Obama spoke to clarify and define his position on key issues, and to prepare Americans for the sacrifices that they are going to need to be prepared to make when the next president takes office. EPA/DAVID MAXWELL
Washington - The US presidential candidates, Democrat Barack Obama, 47, and Republican John McCain, 72, have different political views. But in many aspects they are closer than they admit in public.
The top issues of the campaign:
ECONOMY: Neither candidate saw the financial crisis coming. Obama blames McCain for putting too much faith in market forces, saying the crisis taught his rival a lesson: the US financial system would have collapsed without state help, and the economy is slipping into recession. Going against his long-held free-market beliefs, McCain supported the unprecedented 700-billion-dollar government intervention. However, two years ago, McCain did support stricter control of the housing giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac blamed in part for the real estate collapse. That proposal failed in part over the Democrats' resistance.
Both Obama and McCain have now called for more regulation and transparency in the financial world. Obama would like to implement an immediate financial package for taxpayers worth some 45 million dollars. McCain said any new stimulus should focus only on the housing market.
TAXES: Obama wants to eliminate tax cuts introduced by President George W Bush for those who earn more than 250,000 dollars per year. McCain wants to make them permanent. Both favour more tax reductions for the middle class. McCain would cut the corporate tax rate from 35 per cent to 25 per cent and would lower capital gains taxes. Obama would raise the latter for high income earners. McCain has long advocated more restrictions on government spending.
HEALTH: Around 47 million of the US population of 301 million lack health insurance. Obama would require employers to provide coverage or contribute funds to a new government-run insurance plan and compel parents to insure their children. McCain wants to drive down the price of private health insurance and offer tax rebates to help families afford the cost. The Republican further hopes to bring pharmaceutical and insurance companies under tighter state control.
ABORTION: Obama supports the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v Wade decision that declared abortion legal and a woman's private decision. McCain has consistently opposed abortion, but has drawn skepticism from some religious conservatives for not being a more vocal opponent of legal abortion in the past.
ENERGY: Obama supports a a windfall-profits tax on oil companies and would promote alternative sources of energy through 150 billion dollars in new funding. He does not rule out the construction of nuclear plants, and has backtracked on his earlier opposition to the extraction of oil off the US coast. McCain rejected offshore- drilling in the past but has become a determined advocate in light of high petrol prices. McCain is in favour of a huge increase in the use of nuclear energy: he wants to build 45 new plants by 2030. He prefers tax incentives over new spending to promote alternative sources of energy, including wind and solar power.
CLIMATE CHANGE: Obama and McCain both favour the emissions trading system that President George W Bush has long opposed. By 2050, Obama plans to cut the greenhouse-gas emissions blamed for global warming to 80 per cent below 1990 levels. McCain advocates a 60-per-cent cut by the same date. Both support internationally binding objectives to reduce emissions that would include China, India and Russia.
IRAQ: Obama opposed the Iraq War from the start, while McCain backed the 2003 invasion. But their positions are no longer that different. Obama has promised to pull all US combat forces out of Iraq within 16 months, but over the summer suggested there may be some flexibility based on conditions. The Republican thinks any plans for a withdrawal have to be made by commanders on the ground. McCain thinks victory in Iraq is essential for the security of the United States and of the free world, while Obama has called for a greater focus on the war in Afghanistan. Early on, McCain criticized Bush's Iraq policy and called for more troops, a strategy that appears to have succeeded under Bush's recent 'surge.'
IRAN: Obama and McCain both want to prevent Iran from acquring the capability to produce nuclear weapons and have not taken any options off table. However, Obama supports direct talks with the Iranian leadership, though he said he does not intend to risk being used for propaganda purposes. McCain rejects unconditional dialogue with Tehran.
TRANSATLANTIC RELATIONS: Obama and McCain both want to strengthen transatlantic ties. Both hope that key allies to increase their engagement around the world and spend more on defence. They want France and Germany to contribute more troops to Afghanistan without restrictions them limit them to non-combat roles. Both candidates have pledged to adopt a more multilateral approach to foreign affairs than the current president.