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May 13, 2008

Scorecard: How do the presidential candidates fare on major issues?

BY AARON FRANK and JANE MATTINGLY HealthcareClinton: Proposes the American Health Choices Plan, which would ensure that each American can receive affordable, available and reliable healthcare. She would provide the option of choosing a plan equivalent to what members of Congress have, a plan similar to Medicare, or letting people retain their individual plans. To ensure affordability, Clinton would, among other things, issue certain tax credits and limit premium payments to a percentage of income. Obama: His would make a national healthcare plan available to all Americans with eligibility guaranteed. Like Clinton, he promises that the comprehensive benefits would be similar to those of the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, which is what members of Congress have. Obama believes the top reason Americans do not have healthcare is because of cost. He says his plan will save the “typical” family $2,500 a year.McCain: Wants to “reform” healthcare, and says the first step is restoring control to patients. His specific plan of action consists of guaranteeing coverage to the “traditionally uninsurable,” working with state governments to formulate access plans and promoting proper incentives. He wants to lower all costs and increase convenience. McCain formed his plan with the assistance of former Texas Sen. Phil Gramm, his chief financial adviser.ImmigrationClinton: Says we have yet to solve the immigration crisis. She would try to secure the borders while enforcing strict but fair enforcement of current laws and a path to citizenship about which she has not been terribly specific. She also calls for more accountability from employers using undocumented workers. She opposes a guest worker program. Obama: Advocates comprehensive reform on immigration policies. He wants to increase border security, but make it more affordable to immigrate to the United States in hopes of discouraging illegal immigration. He wants to improve relations with Mexico, proposes a crackdown on employers who exploit undocumented workers and wants to find ways for illegal immigrants to earn citizenship if they’re willing to do so. McCain: His first priority is to secure the border. He believes in the importance of a flexible labor market, which gives skillful immigrants the opportunity to work and succeed in America. He believes it important for immigrants to assimilate and says immigrants should learn English, American history and, more esoterically, the values of a democratic society.AgricultureClinton: Supports farmers and preserving the Farm Bill. She has no specific plan for improving conditions for farmers, though she does support programs such as the Conservation Security Program, which aids farmers financially and technically, and the Farmland Protection Program, which provides funds for purchasing development rights of productive farmland.  Obama: Says he has a solid plan for farmers that will ensure economic opportunities and development, as well as improve rural conditions. He wants to aid family farmers, and supports organic and local farming. He wants increase federal funding for, among other things, upgrades in agricultural technology and resources. McCain: Has an entire committee of agricultural advisers, but so far has no evidence of a plan for farmers. He does not support current farm subsidies or the Farm Bill, as he told supporters in Iowa a few months ago. EnergyOn Coal:Clinton: Wants to direct state utility commissions to ensure that before approving an application to build a coal plant, there is an evaluation of whether the energy services provided by that plant could be met by cost-effective investments in energy efficiency. Clinton also wants to put immediate funding into 10 large-scale carbon-capture and storage projects that utilize a range of coal types, power plant types and storage locations. Will require all new coal plants to be capable of adding capture and storage technology when it becomes commercially available.Obama: Wants to significantly increase the resources devoted to the commercialization and deployment of low-carbon coal technologies. Supports including standards that ban new traditional coal facilities, to ensure that America moves quickly to commercialize and deploy low-carbon coal technology. He also wants to make sure that existing facilities are retrofitted with carbon-capture and storage technology as soon as it is commercially available.  McCain: Supports research and development of new energy technologies, including coal gasification and carbon capture — two strategies for eliminating carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants. Also wants to work with China to share “clean-coal” technology, and supports the pumping of carbon dioxide stripped from coal at power plants into existing oil and gas wells to boost flagging production, also known as capture and storage.On EthanolClinton: Wants to raise the national renewable fuels goal from the current level of 500 million gallons by 2012 to 36 billion gallons per year by 2022, and to 60 billion gallons by 2030. Would set a greenhouse emissions target for cellulosic ethanol and other advanced biofuels to ensure that they move over time toward a standard of emitting at least 80 percent fewer greenhouse gases compared to gasoline. Also wants to provide gas station owners a tax credit for installing E85 pumps and provide loan guarantees for the commercialization of cellulosic biofuels. Obama: Wants to give tax incentives, cash prizes and government contracts to those developing the most promising technologies, with the goal of getting the first two billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol into the system by 2013. He also wants to create a number of incentives for local communities to invest in biofuel refineries, including expanding federal tax credit programs and providing technical advice to rural communities that are in a strong position to open their own refineries.McCain: Does not support direct government subsidies for ethanol, but he does support government spending on research and development, pilot projects and other initiatives to spur development. Wants to encourage the development of infrastructure and market growth necessary for these products to compete, and let consumers choose the winners.Economy Clinton: Wants to end Bush tax cuts and lower taxes for middle class families by extending the middle class tax cuts (including child tax credit and marriage penalty relief), offering new tax cuts for healthcare, college and retirement, and expanding the EITC and the child care tax credit. Also wants to suspend the gas tax from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Obama: Wants to end Bush tax cuts and will create a new "Making Work Pay" tax credit of up to $500 per person, or $1,000 per working family. The "Making Work Pay" tax credit would completely eliminate income taxes for 10 million Americans. Also wants to simplify tax filings so that millions of Americans would be able to do their taxes in less than five minutes. Obama will ensure that the IRS uses the information it already gets from banks and employers to give taxpayers the option of pre-filed tax forms to verify, sign and return.McCain: Wants to make Bush tax cuts permanent, suspend gas tax from Memorial Day to Labor Day, reduce the Federal Corporate Tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent, and supports raising the exemption from taxation on estates up to $10 million, while cutting the tax rate to 15 percent. Also wants to repeal the Alternative Minimum Tax and double the personal exemption for dependents.Foreign PolicyClinton: Within her first 60 days in office, she would direct Joint Chiefs of Staff, Secretary of Defense and National Security Council to draw up a plan to get troops out of Iraq. Would also organize a “regional stabilization group” composed of key allies, other global powers and all of the states bordering. Voted for Kyl-Lieberman amendment, which deemed the ruling Islamic Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization. Obama: Wants to remove one to two combat brigades from Iraq each month and have all combat brigades out of Iraq in 16 months. Wants to engage other countries in the Middle East, including Syria and Iran, in diplomatic efforts to help stabilize the region. Supports direct presidential diplomacy with Iran without preconditions and would provide them with incentives if their nuclear program is abandoned. Supports foreign assistance to Israel as well as that nation’s right to defend itself against attacks from neighboring enemies.McCain: Wants to send more combat brigades into Iraq to accelerate training of Iraqi troops and strengthen security. Also wants to increase international pressure on Iran and Syria. McCain voted for the Kyl-Lieberman amendment as well.