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Speaking before an overflowing audience at the National Urban League’s conference in Florida on Saturday, Sen. Barack Obama defended his record on education and contrasted his economic proposals with rival Sen. John McCain’s. He warned that, if elected, McCain would continue the economic policies of President George W. Bush that he says threaten to leave many behind.
Obama’s remarks were delivered at the end of a week defined by negative attacks between the two campaigns that began with a McCain television ad suggesting that Obama is more celebrity than substance. Before launching into the candidates’ differences, he alluded to the ad, saying, “I’m not going to assault Sen. McCain’s character. I’m not going to compare him to pop stars,” which the audience responded to with laughter and applause. Obama said that his opponent would give tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans and to big corporations and companies that ship jobs overseas, and provide no tax relief to middle class families.
“I want to put a tax cut of up to $1,000 into the pockets of 95% of working Americans. And if you’re a family making less than $250,000 a year, my plan won’t raise your taxes one penny — not your income taxes, not your payroll taxes, not your capital gains taxes, not any of your taxes.
“McCain is opposed to regular increases in the minimum wage — I want to index it so that it rises with rising costs. He thinks the Earned Income Tax Credit is fine as it is — I want to expand it. He has no plans to make childcare more affordable or help people get paid sick leave — while I do,” said Obama. “In the end, [under] Senator McCain’s plans, if you’re doing spectacularly well now, you’ll do even better. Otherwise, you’ll likely be stuck running in place — or fall even further behind.”
Obama charged that McCain prefers a bail out of Wall Street over homeowners facing foreclosure, while he has worked with lawmakers in both chambers to pass a housing bill that will help homeowners refinance their mortgages and supports tax breaks that will make mortgage payments more affordable.
The Democratic candidate also addressed some of McCain’s criticisms of Obama’s stand on education reform when he spoke at the League’s convention on Friday. Charging that McCain’s record on education is “slim,” he said the Republican has voted against increased funding for No Child Left Behind, Head Start, Pell Grants and the hiring of 100,000 new teachers. Obama said that while he is a proponent of school choice, he opposes the use of public funding for private school vouchers.
“We need to focus on fixing and improving our public schools; not throwing our hands up and walking away from them. We need to stop the tired old attacks, and start getting results for our children,” he said. “If people tell you that we can’t afford to invest in education or health care or good jobs, you just remind them that we’re spending $10 billion a month in