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Vol. 72/No. 4      January 28, 2008

Economic crisis marks debate
in presidential primaries
(front page)
NEW YORK, January 16—With the threat of a recession looming, the focus of candidates in the Democratic and Republican party primaries has shifted toward the economy.

Democratic senator Hillary Clinton announced her “economic stimulus plan” January 11 to an audience at a training center in Commerce, California, run by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. Presenting herself as concerned about the economic squeeze on working people, she promised $70 billion in “emergency” spending programs and $40 billion in tax rebates if the economy worsens.

Clinton’s plan would include a 90-day moratorium on home foreclosures, money for “counseling” to help keep low-income homeowners paying on their debts, a tax rebate, doubling of the number of weeks workers are eligible for unemployment insurance, and the expansion of what she calls “green collar” jobs, through a public works program.

Two days later, Illinois senator Barack Obama, Clinton’s main opponent for the nomination, presented a similar plan that relies more heavily on temporary tax breaks.

Clinton’s emphasis that her spending proposals are “short-term” and “fiscally responsible” is a reminder of her support of the record of the William Clinton administration, which eliminated federally guaranteed Aid for Families with Dependent Children and cut off food stamps and Medicaid for many workers.

As a state senator in Illinois, Obama backed a similar bill to gut welfare, and said, “conservatives—and Bill Clinton—were right about welfare.”

The worsening U.S. economy was a feature of Mitt Romney’s campaign in the Michigan primaries, where he gained over Sen. John McCain. Romney said that by helping the auto companies’ profitability he would relieve unemployment, which in Michigan is officially at 7.4 percent. He called for cutting federal regulations and taxes on the auto industry.

At a January 10 Republican presidential debate in South Carolina, McCain said he would cut government spending, finance education and job training, and make permanent the Bush administration’s 2001 tax cuts. Rudolph Giuliani and other Republican contenders also called for tax reductions.

Former Arkansas governor Michael Huckabee said the Republican Party needs to “communicate that our party is just as interested in helping the people who are single moms, who are working two jobs, and still just barely paying the rent as we are the people at the top of the economy.”

The centerpiece of Huckabee’s plan is the “Fair Tax” scheme, which would eliminate income taxes and establish a federal sales tax of at least 23 percent. He says it would end tax paperwork, abolish the Internal Revenue Service, and allow “American workers to keep their entire paycheck.” Those living on incomes under the poverty line would get a tax rebate that would cover the costs of the sales tax. The sales tax would fall more heavily on those with lower incomes.  
War question
McCain continues to appeal to the public support that exists for the U.S. “surge” offensive in Iraq, which is accomplishing its short-term goals of reducing deaths of U.S. combat troops and Iraqi civilians and isolating al-Qaeda in Iraq.

Two days after his victory in the New Hampshire primary, the Wall Street Journal published an opinion piece by McCain and Connecticut senator Joseph Lieberman titled “The Surge Worked.” They wrote that in Iraq “the forces of Islamist extremism are facing their single greatest and most humiliating defeat since the loss of Afghanistan in 2001.”

McCain, who was critical of the way the war was being led before the surge, is in the best position to reap the benefits of the current results in Iraq. His Republican competitors are scrambling to paint themselves in a similar light.

In New Hampshire, most polls predicted that Obama would carry the Democratic primary. Instead, Clinton won by two percentage points.

Clinton’s victory was due to “an unexpected absence of young voters, Sen. Hillary Clinton’s late get-out-the-vote effort and especially her teary-eyed quavering-voice moment Monday at a breakfast for undecided women,” the Wall Street Journal noted.

Clinton beat Obama among Democratic women voters by 12 percentage points.
Related articles:
‘Workers need our own political party’
SWP candidates: break with twin parties of capital
What the Socialist Workers 2008 campaign fights for
Young socialists campaign for Calero and Kennedy
Socialist Workers 2008 national campaign director and chairperson
Calero to attend Indiana immigrant rights conference
I want to help the Socialist Workers 2008 campaign!  
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