John McCain is making a concerted effort to acknowledge the decline in American jobs and explain how his plans will help workers. Of course, you don’t get points for just recognizing a problem. You need genuine solutions. Does McCain have any?

At the center of his workers assistance plan are (and here’s a big surprise) tax cuts and tax credits.

  • He would increase the child deduction from $3,500 to $7,000 for every dependent.
  • He would provide refundable tax credits of $2,500 for individuals and $5,000 for families who purchase their own health insurance.
  • He would keep taxes on small businesses low and so as to ensure those companies can keep hiring.
  • He would build 45 new nuclear plants.

These are all previously announced initiatives that McCain is repackaging as a pro-worker plan. But that’s ok because, for the most part, they aren’t bad ideas – although I imagine none of this would be particularly cheap

Ideology and such aside, I would love to receive a larger child deduction and since my family has to purchase our own health insurance, the tax credit sounds like a much quicker and more achievable way to help me out than Barack Obama’s grand healthcare plan.

As for nuclear plants, I think they are the most pragmatic energy solution available to us and their construction and maintenance would indeed create jobs, notably ones that cannot be outsourced.

Of course, what makes McCain’s plan likable – it’s straightforwardness – is also what makes it problematic. Obama is already saying McCain just wants to continue the George Bush “help the wealthy” tax policies, a criticism that sticks because McCain has not adequately balanced his tax cutting desire with the level of budgetary cuts necessary to begin lowering our national debt. McCain’s tax enthusiasm makes him sound like a Bush redux.

Personally, I would like to see McCain expand on his nuclear power plant idea and begin pushing more energy and infrastructure initiatives. Obama talks about green jobs and infrastructure investment but McCain could go further and propose a detailed plan for fixing our crumbling infrastructure while putting in place the kinds of transportation networks we need in a world with higher and higher fuel costs.

McCain could very easily present these kinds of ideas with a patriotic overtone that emphasizes the national security implications and promotes the American work ethic/can-do spirit. Costly? Oh yeah. But if we’re going to be throwing money around (and it seems no matter who we elect this year, a balanced budget will be an afterthought), we might as well directly invest in ourselves. I can think of nothing that would so assuredly create new jobs and so positively impact our future economic viability as would improving our infrastructure and increasing our energy independence.

I doubt McCain will make such a bold proposal but, if he wants to be able to compete with Obama on domestic issues, he’ll need to find more inspiring ideas than the practical but easily maligned plans he’s currently promoting.

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