With election day fast approaching, it’s time to take another look at the considerable differences between Barack Obama and John McCain on issues that are vital to working Americans — and why it’s so important that working people vote for Obama on November fourth.
Obama, for example, proposes a tax credit of $500 per worker or $1000 per working family to help stimulate the seriously depressed economy. The tax credits would go to about 95 percent of all American families.
Obama also would roll back the Bush tax cuts that went to people earning more than $250,000 a year. But McCain would keep Bush’s tax cuts in place and go further by cutting the corporate tax rate by 10 percent.
Among those getting tax breaks under McCain’s plan would be hugely wealthy oil companies and many companies that ship jobs overseas in order to increase their large profits even more at the expense of the growing number of jobless American workers.
Obama proposes a complete overhaul of the health care system that would be designed to provide affordable care to everyone. Among other reforms, he’d require health insurance companies to provide coverage regardless of a person’s age, type of illness or prior condition.
McCain would give people a tax credit that they could spend to buy health insurance on their own, but at the same time require those getting employer-financed insurance coverage to pay a tax on those health care benefits. It seems clear that McCain’s peculiar plan would make our terribly inadequate health care system even worse.
Obama wants to strengthen the badly weakened Social Security system by increasing the payroll taxes on people earning more than $250,000 a year. McCain agrees with George Bush that the system should be privatized, a move that would weaken the Social Security system even more.
Obama would create jobs through a federal public works project much like the WPA projects of the 1930s. It would put jobless Americans to work rebuilding roads, bridges, schools, sewer systems and other facilities. McCain says he’d create jobs for the jobless through his proposed lowering of corporate income taxes, a very unlikely prospect.
Obama wants trade agreements that avoid unfair competition for American workers and unfair exploitation of foreign workers by requiring that the foreign workers covered by the agreements have the same basic rights as are guaranteed to U.S. workers, including decent pay and working conditions, and that their employers follow sound environmental practices.
McCain wants no such restrictions — or any restrictions at all. He’s for what he calls "free" trade. Free, that is, for foreign parties to the agreements to treat their workers as badly as they want so as to keep their prices lower than American manufacturers and prompt
McCain’s reactionary stand on trade is typical of his stand on labor issues generally. Should he make it to the White House, you can be sure his policies would be at least as anti-labor as those of George Bush, one of the most anti-labor presidents in history.
Obama’s position on labor is the opposite of Bush, and certainly the opposite of John McCain. Not surprisingly, McCain opposes, and Obama strongly supports, organized labor’s No. 1 priority these days – the proposed Employee Free Choice Act that’s pending in Congress. It would grant workers the firm union rights they have long needed.
Employers are able to openly violate the current labor laws by firing or otherwise disciplining those who support or attempt to organize unions. Penalties, if any, are slight. Workers, in any case, fear complaining about violations because to do so is to risk employer retaliation.
The Free Choice Act calls for stiffer fines, swiftly imposed, new penalties on employers who violate workers’ union rights, and extension of those rights to all workers. Its most important provision would automatically grant union recognition on the showing of union membership cards by a majority of an employer’s workers rather than holding an election, as now is done. The law was like that originally, with no lengthy election campaigns and thus much less opportunity for employers to intimidate workers.
Obama promises to continue his strong support for the Employee Free Choice Act if he’s elected and to otherwise "strengthen the ability of workers to organize unions."
Obama,for instance, would work to prohibit employers from permanently replacing strikers and work to raise the minimum wage and index it to inflation so it would rise as the cost-of-living rises. McCain, however, has favored seriously weakening the workers’ essential right to strike, by allowing employers to permanently replace strikers. He’s also supported a proposed right-to-work law that would seriously endanger unions everywhere.
There should be no question about it. For working people, the obvious choice is Barack Obama.
Dick Meister is a San Francisco-based journalist who has covered labor and political issues for the past half-century. Contact him through his website, www.dickmeister.com.