CONCORD, N.C. – Republican presidential candidate John McCain on Saturday accused Democratic rival Barack Obama of favoring a socialistic economic approach by supporting tax cuts and tax credits McCain says would merely shuffle wealth rather than creating it.
"At least in Europe, the Socialist leaders who so admire my opponent are upfront about their objectives," McCain said in a radio address. "They use real numbers and honest language. And we should demand equal candor from Sen. Obama. Raising taxes on some in order to give checks to others is not a tax cut; it's just another government giveaway."
McCain, though, has a health care plan girded with a similar philosophy. He proposes providing individuals with a $5,000 tax credit to buy health insurance. He would pay for his plan, in part, by considering as taxable income the money their employer spends on their health coverage.
McCain leveled his charge before a pair of appearances aimed at restoring his lead in critical battleground states. In both North Carolina and Virginia, where McCain was to speak later in the day, his campaign has surrendered its lead to Obama in various polls. President Bush, a Republican, won both states in 2004.
During a rally outside Charlotte, N.C., McCain returned to the socialism theme, although he did not use the more tart language of his radio address.
He also was sharply critical of the Bush administration, saying it should be more aggressive in buying up the home mortgages of those trapped by high interest rates and falling housing values.
"The administration is not doing it. The secretary of the Treasury is not doing it," McCain told the crowd. "We need to buy up these mortgages, give you a mortgage that you can afford, so you can pay your mortgage and realize the American Dream of owning your home."
McCain stoked the crowd by accusing Obama and his fellow Democrats of assuming they will not only win the White House but expand their congressional majority.
"Did you happen to see that Speaker (Nancy) Pelosi anticipates a 250-seat majority" in the House, the senator asked. "My friends, we can't let that happen. My friends, taxes will increase, spending and they'll concede defeat in Iraq."
The last Democratic candidate to win North Carolina was Southerner Jimmy Carter in 1976, when the Republicans were reeling from President Nixon's resignation following the Watergate scandal. Virginia has not voted for a Democratic nominee since President Johnson's landslide victory in 1964.
McCain's drop in the state polls follow larger national trends that have given Obama a lead following Wall Street chaos that focused the race on who is best equipped to restore the economy.
On Sunday, McCain was to travel to Ohio, where he might appear with "Joe the Plumber," the Holland, Ohio, plumber Joe Wurzelbacher whom the senator has been portraying as emblematic of people with concerns about Obama's tax plans.
Wurzelbacher became the focal point of the final presidential debate after he met Obama earlier in the week and said the Democrat's tax proposal could keep him from buying the two-man plumbing company where he works. However, reports of Wurzelbacher's annual earnings suggest he would receive a tax cut rather than an increase under Obama's plan.
Obama has said his tax policies would cut payments for 95 percent of working Americans, while increasing them only for families making more than $250,000 a year. McCain has argued that 40 percent of Americans don't pay income taxes, either because they are seniors or don't meet minimum earnings thresholds, so the only way to cut their taxes is to give them various credits.
"In other words, Barack Obama's tax plan would convert the IRS into a giant welfare agency, redistributing massive amounts of wealth at the direction of politicians in Washington," McCain said in the radio address.
An Obama spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
On the Net:
McCain campaign: http://www.johnmccain.com/
Obama campaign: http://www.barackobama.com/index.php