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Obama Aims at Economy in Flint Today

CHICAGO, IL — On the first official day of the general election homestretch, Sen. Barack Obama is rushing to address the latest economic news, as the government bails out the mortgage giants. He is probably also looking to counter The St. Paul Bounce — which is powering the Republican ticket’s largest national lead in eight months.

Today Obama heads to Flint, Mich., for an economic discussion at the regional technology center of a local community college.

Image has not been found. URL: http://www.washingtonindependent.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/09/picture-71-300x147.pngObama at a Chrystler plant on previous MI visit.

As Michael Moore documented almost 20 years ago, Flint is the kind of town that gets sold out by CEOs and neglected by politicians. The major job losses hit decades ago, but Flint’s population is still in free fall — it recently dropped 8 percent, to 114,000 people. Over the past three decades, the deciannual census counts show the population steadily dropped more than 10 percent.

Even as it thins out, this blue-collar base is essential to keeping Michigan blue. In 2004, Sen. John Kerry ran up his numbers to 60 percent in Genesse County, anchored by Flint, and eked by statewide at 51 percent. According to one report, Flint’s voters were rated the 10th most reliably liberal in the country — just behind San Francisco.

But Obama’s Michigan message is not all job losses and mortgage nightmares. The campaign will tap a local worker-turned-student, Jon Terbush, to kick off today’s event. Terbush, using money from a buyout after 12 years with American Axle, now is attending community college to brush up on technology and auto repair, according to a backgrounder from the campaign. Such voters have few reasons to re-up on Republican economics, as The New York Times explained today:

[T]he principal elements of Mr. McCain’s economic agenda on taxes, trade, regulation and health care follow the philosophic outlines of a deeply unpopular Bush administration. In offering new, immediate economic benefits, Mr. Obama has far outbid his Republican adversary… [Obama] has offered an ambitious range of proposals to arrest that decline and help average workers compete in a global economy.

Those proposals include a new tax credit of $500 per worker, or $1,000 for two-worker households; a new mortgage-interest credit, valued at an average of $500, for homeowners who do not itemize their tax deductions, and a college tuition subsidy of $4,000 per year for students who agree to perform community service. Mr. Obama would wipe out income taxes for older Americans earning $50,000 or less, saving some 7 million households an average of $1,400 apiece.

That’s on top of the still-unspecified subsidies Mr. Obama would provide for the purchase of health insurance for those who don’t now have it, the elimination of capital-gains taxes for small start-up businesses and an increase in the existing dependent-care tax credit that could save $1,100 for a single parent of two children who earns $40,000…

The Times reports that McCain, in contrast, is putting far less on the kitchen table:

By comparison, Mr. McCain’s list of proposals on this front is far more modest. He would double the existing child exemption to $7,000 from $3,500, but most tax-filers would not benefit because they have no dependent children or have incomes so modest that they already do not owe income taxes. Mr. McCain, of Arizona, would also offer a summer gas-tax holiday valued at about $30 a month.

Here on Obama’s plane, which is about to make the 40-minute hop from Chicago to Michigan, there’s little economic talk. Early this morning, Obama donned a White Sox cap and dropped off his daughters at their first day of school, then squeezed in a gym visit before boarding “O Force One.”

The schdeule promises a long day, with two events in Michigan and then a trip to Ohio — where Obama will continue to press for blue-collar support.

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