Where's the Substance?
By Scott Galindez
t r u t h o u t | Perspective
Monday 18 February 2008
Madison, Wisconsin - Many pundits and the Clinton campaign keep asking where the substance is to Obama's campaign. There's a simple answer: in his plans.
It's true that his stump speeches are full of soaring oratory and do not satisfy policy wonks, but do a simple search of his web site and you will find substance. He also regularly gives policy speeches packed with specifics.
For example, on Saturday in Wisconsin, Senator Obama laid out his plan for revitalizing the Community College System.
Obama proposes to make tuition at a community college completely free for most Americans by creating a new "American Opportunity Tax Credit." He explained, "This fully refundable credit will ensure that the first $4,000 of a college education is free. The credit will be available to families at the time of enrollment by using the prior year's tax data to deliver the credit at the time the tuition is due. Recipients of this credit will be required to conduct 100 hours of public service a year, either during the school year or over the summer months."
The senator also proposed creating a so-called "Community College Partnership" that would assess the role of community colleges and help to tailor their services to the needs of students and industry.
Senator Obama also laid out his plan for the economy in a speech to workers at a General Motors assembly plant in Janesville, Wisconsin, on Wednesday.
In that speech, Obama said he would offer direct relief to victims of the mortgage crisis, and would also offer a tax credit to low- and middle-income taxpayers that will help them meet their mortgage obligations.
His job creation program focuses on infrastructure and "green energy jobs." He proposes spending $210 billion over ten years to create jobs in these sectors and retrain workers to transition to these opportunities.
Another proposal affecting workers would be in the area of retirement accounts. He would mandate employers to place a small percentage of salaries into a retirement savings account. Under his plan, the federal government would match the funds set aside.
For working parents who split time between earning a living and caring for their kids, Obama proposes expanding the child-care tax credit for people earning less than $50,000 a year, and he proposes doubling spending on quality after-school programs. He also would expand the "Family Medical Leave Act" to include more businesses and millions more workers, and would require every employer to provide seven paid days of medical leave a year.
On health care, the major difference between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are mandates. Both would set up a similar system that individuals could buy into. Clinton would mandate that everyone must buy in. Obama would only require that children be covered; he cited the situation in Massachusetts,where some people are being fined for not buying into a plan that they think they can't afford. Obama says he is committed to universal health care, but doesn't want to put an "unfair burden on individuals while we work to get there."
On Iraq, Obama has pledged to getting all US combat troops out in 16 months. Clinton will not set a date. Neither candidate would remove all troops; both believe a small force will be necessary to protect the embassy, and to protect Iraqis who have assisted our soldiers. Many antiwar activists oppose both Clinton's and Obama's plans, saying they don't go far enough, fast enough.
This article is not intended to be an endorsement of Obama on the issues. The real differences between Senator Clinton and Senator Obama are very small. Senator Clinton also would invest in "Green Jobs;" she has a national service plan, and would provide similar tax credits. The corporate media are doing the country a disservice by echoing unfair charges that Obama's campaign is all about speeches and has no substance.
Scott Galindez is Truthout's Washington, DC Bureau Chief.