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McCain hits Obama on tax plan

McCain has seized upon Obama's plan as a socialist redistribution of wealth, a message he pushed in New Hampshire, which has no income tax and a traditional aversion to government spending.

world Updated: Oct 23, 2008 00:02 IST

Republican John McCain pleaded with New Hampshire supporters on Wednesday to fuel a come-from-behind victory, delivering stinging criticism of the tax and spending plans of Barack Obama in a state that is leaning toward the Democrat. McCain has seized upon Obama's plan as a socialist redistribution of wealth, a message he pushed in New Hampshire, which has no income tax and a traditional aversion to government spending.

The Illinois senator has proposed a reversal of President George W. Bush's tax cuts that mainly benefited high the wealthy. The additional revenue, Obama contends, would offset tax breaks he wants to give to the 95 percent of Americans who make less than $250,000 annually.

The state of the crumbling American economy, caught in a downward spiral not witnessed in generations, is gripping U.S. voters with less than two weeks remaining until Nov. 4 election day. "Apparently, as my opponent sees it, there's a strict limit to your earnings as well, and it's for the politicians to decide. The proper amount of wealth is not what you can earn, but what government will let you keep," McCain said.

Obama brushed aside the claims, saying he just wanted to reverse the Bush cuts that McCain initially opposed.

"Was John McCain a socialist back in 2000" when he opposed President Bush's proposals, Obama asked at a news conference.

"It's not a very plausible argument," he said of the late-campaign allegations launched daily by McCain and running mate Sarah Palin.

Obama made his remarks at a news conference after a meeting with national security advisers focused on international affairs. The Illinois senator gained a huge boost on the foreign policy front over the weekend when longtime Republican Colin Powell, former secretary of state under Bush, endorsed him. Powell's backing helps Obama undercut McCain's perceived dominance on foreign policy issues.

Obama convened the meeting of retired generals and foreign policy mavens from Washington and the diplomatic world at a grand, historic hotel in Richmond, Virginia, a state that has not voted for a Republican presidential candidate since 1964. Polls show Obama with a slight lead there.

Obama said that he did not want the financial crisis, despite its global reach, to overshadow the many serious foreign policy problems that continue unchecked, including wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the need to battle terrorism and the rising influence of China. "The world has apparently not decided to take a pause while we campaign," Obama said as the group sat down to meet for about an hour. "We didn't want to lose sight of the fact that we still have some urgent issues that need to be dealt with."

Until voters were seized by the depth of America's economic crisis, McCain was running about even with Obama in part because of excitement about his choice of Palin as his running mate. But polls show that more Americans now believe Obama is the best candidate to handle the financial meltdown as anxiety grows over diminishing retirement savings and rising mortgage foreclosures and unemployment.

According to polls, Obama is edging close to the number of electoral votes needed to win the White House in America's state-by-state process of choosing a president.

Obama has pressed his own assault on McCain's economic proposals, but is increasingly raising differences on national security issues _ broaching a subject that was once perceived to be McCain's key advantage.

Obama's foreign policy meeting was designed as a riposte to a Tuesday McCain campaign appearance in which the Senate veteran questioned Obama's readiness to respond to a major crisis that his own running mate, Sen. Joe Biden, predicted was bound to test his presidency.

McCain recalled his own experience as a Navy pilot preparing to launch a bombing run during the October 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, which Biden said tested a new President John F. Kennedy. Biden said it was the kind of "generated crisis" the 47-year-old Obama would face within six months of taking office.

"America will not have a president who needs to be tested," McCain said. "I've been tested, my friends."

Biden took part in the Obama foreign policy session, dialing in by telephone from Colorado.

After stopping in New Hampshire, McCain was headed to Ohio for two rallies with Palin.

Obama plans rallies in two Virginia cities Wednesday with a heavy focus on the nation's economic woes. The theme was expected to dominate a Thursday event in Indiana, a state that voted for President George W. Bush in 2004.

That follows two full days campaigning in Florida, which Bush won in both 2000 and 2004.

There, he criticized McCain for offering little more than "willful ignorance, wishful thinking, outdated ideology" to an economy in crisis.

With the chairman of the Federal Reserve and even Bush now indicating support for more economic stimulus spending by Washington, momentum is building for Congress to pass a second package after the election, an idea Obama has encouraged.

But McCain has remained cool, saying only that he wants to keep his options open.