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Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama has turned his attention to domestic concerns and a U.S. economy he says is getting worse. Obama met yesterday with an all-star team of economic advisers, including two former members of the Bush administration. NPR's Scott Horsley has this report on what both candidates have been doing.
SCOTT HORSLEY: Barack Obama said at the outset of yesterday's meeting the U.S. is facing an economic emergency with lost jobs, failing banks and sky-high prices for food and energy.
Senator BARACK OBAMA (Democrat, Illinois; Presidential Candidate): And this is an emergency that you feel not only just from reading the Wall Street Journal, but from traveling across Ohio and Michigan and New Mexico and Nevada, where you meet people day after day who are one foreclosure notice or one illness or one pink slip away from economic disaster.
HORSLEY: Obama met for more than two hours with his advisers, asking for suggestions on helping struggling families in the short run, as well as tackling longer-term problems, like the high cost of healthcare.
Sen. OBAMA: The challenges we're facing could not be more critical, and if we want to meet them, then we can't afford, I believe, to keep on doing the same things that we've been doing.
HORSLEY: Obama suggests his Republican rival John McCain would bring more of the same. McCain wants to make President Bush's tax cuts permanent, while Obama has proposed higher taxes on families making more than $250,000 - tax cuts for middle class families and a big federal investment in roads, bridges and alternative energy.
The people taking part in yesterday's meeting were a who's who in the business and financial world. Billionaire investor Warren Buffett, Wall Street banker Jamie Diamond, and the CEOs of Pepsi and Google. Two prominent Bush appointees were also on the guest list: former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill and former SEC Chairman William Donaldson.
The high profile team was probably meant to show the mainstream appeal of Obama's platform, although not everyone at the table has necessarily endorsed the Illinois senator. In a conference call organized by the McCain campaign, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina dismissed the meeting as a stunt.
Ms. CARLY FIORINA (Former CEO, Hewlett-Packard): The American people are getting treated to yet another photo op by Barack Obama today, but meanwhile, John McCain has been out talking about the economy, understanding the economy, seeking advice on the economy for many, many months.
HORSLEY: Ronald Reagan's former economic adviser, Martin Feldstein, warned yesterday that Obama's tax plan would stifle economic growth. But former Democratic Senator Bill Bradley argued similar tax rates during the Clinton years were hardly a handicap. More than 20 million jobs were created in that period, and unemployment fell to historic lows.
Former Senator BILL BRADLEY (Democrat, New Jersey): I think you only have to contrast the economy of the 1990s with the economy of the last eight years to see the difference.
HORSLEY: McCain himself spent yesterday in California, where he held a pair of fundraisers. He also visited an oil field in Bakersfield, where he renewed his call for more offshore oil drilling.
Senator JOHN MCCAIN (Republican, Arizona; Presidential Candidate): Now, the briefings that I've had with the oil producers, there are some instances within a matter of months they could be getting additional oil.
HORSLEY: That's a much faster timetable than many industry analysts have predicted. McCain also says he supports alternative energy sources, including nuclear, wind and solar power. The Arizona senator issued a warning about soaking up too much solar energy.
McCain has battled skin cancer in the past. And yesterday, he had a spot removed from his face at the Mayo Clinic. Speaking to reporters afterwards, he wore a small bandage on his face and a baseball cap for shade.
Sen. MCCAIN: I want to again urge all Americans to wear sunscreen, particularly this summer. Stay out of the sun as much as possible, wear sunscreen. And if you ever have any slight discoloration, please go to your dermatologist or your doctor and get it checked up on.
HORSLEY: A statement issued later by the Mayo Clinic said a biopsy of the discolored area had been ordered as a precaution. The clinic called it a routine, minor procedure.
Scott Horsley, NPR News, Reno, Nevada.