You can criticize John McCain’s solutions for the economy, but you can’t claim he’s unaware of the problem. He’s not:

”Government has a role to play in helping people who, through no fault of their own, are having a hard time,” McCain, an Arizona senator, said. He defined that role as offering choices on education, health care and job training, rather than providing handouts.

Government “can’t pay lost wages. It can’t dig coal from the earth,” McCain, 71, said. “It can’t buy you a house or send all your kids to college. It can’t do your work for you.”

As he did earlier this week in Selma, Alabama, and Youngstown, Ohio, McCain recited his prescriptions for economic revival, including tax cuts and reducing the cost of medical insurance, while emphasizing that he is there to “listen and learn” from local residents so he can be a more effective president “for all the people

He also added the he believes we’re in a recession and that the economy has worsened. This is in contrast to recent statements made by President Bush.

For those convinced that nothing short of big government solutions will solve our economic problems, McCain will never sound convincing. But for those who have a less generous opinion of big government efficacy, McCain is proposing plans that have some appeal. What’s important is that he’s demonstrating that he understands there’s a problem and wants to provide solutions. While the Democratic solutions tend to rely on government intervention, McCain is favoring solutions that would form a partnership between the government and the people. The government will help create more opportunity but the people have to take the responsibility to turn those opportunities into better situations for themselves.

McCain is at his best when discussing personal responsibility. While it’s easy to say his economic policies will fall short, it’s also easy to see how his innate optimism about the resourcefulness of Americans can trump Democratic assumptions about voter bitterness. That comparison isn’t entirely fair, but it’s one that can be made effectively.

McCain can stay competitive in this race if he can convince enough people that not only is he aware of the economic problems but that he’ll provide solutions not reliant on higher taxes and bigger government.

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