Democrat targets economy, environment, labor issues

Nov. 4, 2008
BARACK Obama, the Democrat candidate for President, has promised the American people that he plans to lead the United States in a new direction

Barack Obama, the Democrat candidate for President, has promised the American people that he plans to lead the United States in a new direction. Using the mantra “Change we can believe in,” Obama says his presidency would significantly alter the way the US government operates.

Strong issues for the Obama campaign are the economy, health care, jobs and labor issues, energy policy, and the environment. The platform laid out by Obama in his run for President provides a reasonably clear indication of his plans for addressing those issues.

The economy has steadily taken front and center in Obama's campaign. His focus on the issue sharpened even more during and after the frenzied Congressional effort in early October to pass the $700 billion bail-out measure for the financial sector.

Speaking in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, on October 1, he said “Our economy is in crisis. The dreams of so many Americans are at risk, and the American people are waiting for leadership from Washington. The failure (on September 29) to pass the economic rescue plan in the House (of Representatives) led to the single largest decline of the stock market in two decades. Over one trillion dollars of wealth was lost by the time the markets closed. The 401Ks and retirement accounts that millions count on for their family's future are now smaller. Hardworking Americans who invested their nest egg to watch it grow are now watching it disappear…This is not just a Wall Street crisis — it's an American crisis, and it's the American economy that needs this plan.”

During the same speech, Obama summed up his campaign objectives in economic terms. “I will go through the entire federal budget, line by line, and eliminate the programs that don't work and aren't needed,” he said. “We should start by ending the war in Iraq that is costing us $10 billion a month while the Iraqi government sits on a $79 billion surplus. We should stop sending $15 billion a year in overpayments to insurance companies for Medicare and go after tens of billions of dollars in Medicare and Medicaid fraud. And we can end the hundreds of millions a year in subsidies to agribusiness that can survive just fine without your tax dollars.”

Obama said that passage of the $700 billion bailout package would not — on its own — put an end to the economic crisis. It's just the beginning of a long, hard road ahead.

“We lose $100 billion every year because corporations set up mailboxes offshore so they can avoid paying a dime of taxes in America,” Obama added. “As President, I will shut down those offshore tax havens and all those corporate loop holes once and for all. I will end the abuse of non-bid contracts once and for all.

“We cannot wait to help Americans keep up with the rising costs and shrinking paychecks by giving our workers a middleclass tax cut,” he said. “We need to pass an economic stimulus plan that will help folks cope with rising food and gas prices…a plan that would extend expiring unemployment benefits for those Americans who have lost their jobs and cannot find new ones.

“We cannot wait to relieve the burden of crushing health care costs. We cannot wait to create millions of new jobs by rebuilding our roads and our bridges and investing in the renewable resources of energy that will stop us from sending $700 billion a year to tyrants and dictators for their oil.”

On freeing Americans from oil imports, Obama said: “We'll rebuild our outdated electricity grid. We'll tap our natural gas reserves, invest in clean coal, and find ways to safely harness nuclear power. I'll invest $150 billion over the next decade in affordable, renewable sources of energy — wind power, solar power, and next-generation biofuels; an investment that will lead to new industries and five million new jobs.”

Additional positions

Following is a capsule of Obama's support on various issues:

Economy —

Taxes would be increased for those earning more than $250,000. Those making less would see a tax cut.

Obama will reinstate pay-as-you-go federal budget rules. New spending or tax cuts will have to be paid for by offsetting spending cuts or new revenue (including higher taxes).

Obama says he will eliminate tax loopholes and deductions for the oil and gas industry.

Obama has pledged to pass the card-check law that would allow workers to form a union simply by collecting a majority of cards signed by workers supporting the unionization of their employer's business. Under current law, once a majority of workers submit cards requesting union certification, an election is held in which workers vote by secret ballot on whether to ratify unionization. The pending bill, called the Employee Free Choice Act, does not require the secret ballot vote unless at least 30% of workers call for it.

Energy —

Obama will crack down on excessive energy speculation, which he blames for driving up the price of gasoline and diesel.

He wants to develop and deploy clean coal technology, and he has offered lukewarm support for coal-to-liquids technologies.

Tax incentives would encourage greater use of E85 (85% ethanol) as an automotive fuel.

He calls for 36 billion gallons of biofuels to be used in the United States by 2022 and 60 billion gallons by 2030.

Strategic Petroleum Reserve swap. Obama has proposes a petroleum reserve swap to help lower the price of oil for consumers, increase the amount of oil in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, increase energy security, and earn taxpayers about $1 billion.

Obama remains adamantly opposed to oil drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge.

Environment/Global warming —

As President, Obama has said that he will make combating global warming a top priority. His goal will be to reduce carbon emissions 80% by 2050.

Obama supports implementation of a cap-and-trade system to reduce carbon emissions, and he will require all pollution credits to be auctioned. A 100% auction ensures that all large corporate polluters pay for every ton of emissions they release.

A national low-carbon fuel standard will speed the introduction of low-carbon, non-petroleum fuels. Fuel suppliers must reduce their carbon emissions 10% by 2010.

25% of electricity must come from renewable sources by 2025.

Fuel economy standards for cars will be doubled within 18 years.

State and local governments will be mandated to include energy conservation when planning projects that use federal transportation funds.

An Obama Presidency will act more aggressively to recover the cost of Superfund cleanups from the polluters.

Environmental justice will be a priority, and the Environmental Protection Agency will take more criminal action against alleged polluters.

Health care —

A national health care program with universal health insurance that would save the typical family up to $2500 each year. Obama's health care plan does not provide universal health care coverage. He promises to make it affordable and would require children to be covered, but not adults.

Create a National Health Insurance Exchange to help individuals and businesses that want to purchase private health insurance directly.

Require all employers to contribute towards health care coverage for their employees or towards the cost of the public plan.

The health insurance would be portable. Participants in the new public plan and the National Health Insurance Exchange will be able to move from job to job without changing or jeopardizing their health care coverage.

Immigration —

A guest worker program would be implemented, providing a path toward citizenship for all undocumented workers. Illegals would be allowed to pay a fine to remain in the United States.

The crackdown on employers who hire illegal immigrants would continue.

National security —

Obama has called for stronger security requirements for chemical plants and wants to use as a framework the Chemical Security and Safety Act that he co-sponsored in the Senate with Sen Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ).