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Economy is top priority for Obama, McCain, and voters

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The election is "a choice between John McCain's plan to continue four more years of costly Bush economic policies that have widened inequality and ... Barack Obama's plan to provide relief to struggling homeowners, affordable healthcare and college for all, and a tax code that rewards work instead of wealth," an Obama spokesman said in a statement Monday.

Senator McCain, for his part, used Friday's jobs report to blast Obama for an "economic agenda based upon the policies of the past that advocate higher taxes, bigger government, government-run healthcare and greater isolationism."

McCain's glum take on the economy – he lost the Michigan primary after telling voters there that some jobs weren't coming back – has given way to more upbeat talk about the prospects for a turnaround. "The American people cannot afford more inaction from Washington," he said in a statement Friday, distancing himself from the Bush administration.

The candidates offer sharply different plans for the economy. Senator McCain wants to make the Bush tax cuts permanent, lower corporate tax rates, and double the personal exemption for dependents to $7,000 – a particular boon for larger families.

He is a proponent of free trade, backs a hiatus in the federal gasoline tax, and opposes farm subsidies. To fix Social Security, he has said he'd rather cut benefits than raise taxes. His healthcare plan uses market incentives to cut costs and tax credits to help families afford coverage.

Obama would keep the Bush tax cuts for everyone except those with incomes above $200,000. He would cut taxes for lower-income workers and the elderly and impose higher payroll taxes on wealthier Americans to shore up Social Security.

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