The troubled economy

Our view : Candidates should offer better answers

June 09, 2008

When the Labor Department reported Friday that the unemployment rate had soared from 5 percent to 5.5 percent in May, the largest spike in two decades, President Bush had a quick explanation - a surge of young new workers into the job market. But economists said that jump arrives every spring and noted the loss of more than 320,000 jobs this year. Something larger is at work. The price of oil hit a record high of more than $138.54 dollars a barrel, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged more than 400 points, an indication of investors worried about a serious recession. Instead of facile sound bites in the coming weeks, the two presidential candidates should tackle the crucial economic issues challenging the country.

Sen. John McCain has proposed a series of town meetings with Sen. Barack Obama. The first would be Thursday in New York City's Federal Hall. Mr. Obama should accept, and issue No. 1 should be the economy. The two candidates would likely fight about taxes. Mr. Obama wants to eliminate tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans and big corporations and use the increased revenues to fund health care and other social services. Mr. McCain wants to preserve existing tax breaks to spur the weak economy. But such a narrow debate is no answer. America's economic troubles are far more sweeping, and political leaders should be pushed to craft strategies to deal with the broader challenges. Volatile oil prices are threatening the infrastructure of almost every American industry. While the Federal Reserve Board has acted decisively to save banks and other lenders from the fallout of the subprime mortgage crisis, senior Fed officials are warning that public and private financial institutions are now less stable. Fast-rising food and fuel prices are raising the specter of consumer inflation at a time when the number of jobs is shrinking and wages are barely growing. Health care, Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare costs are soaring. What should be done?

Americans should demand serious answers from the candidates on these vital concerns because the nation's security and our children's well-being depend on a strong economy.

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