Bush successor faces massive debt

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“We actually didn’t discuss the number that came out today,” she told reporters, adding that participants instead talked about adding extra spending on roads and other infrastructure that, Democrats hope, will boost the sluggish economy. Mr. Obama has talked about proposing a $50 billion package if he wins office.

He also said government programs to rescue troubled mortgage lenders and to expand health care coverage would ease many of the problems of the slumping economy.

Mr. McCain’s campaign, meanwhile, said his plans focus on small businesses and job creation and on bringing down energy costs, which the campaign said is adding to economic woes.

Harvard economics professor Martin Feldstein, former president of the National Bureau of Economic Research, said Mr. McCain’s proposals for more energy through expanded drilling, and to encourage conservation of fuel, will have an immediate impact on prices.

Neither campaign has been specific about how to address exploding costs in entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security, though Mr. McCain this weekend opened the door to tax increases in order to get Democrats to the negotiating table on Social Security.

“There is nothing that’s off the table,” he told ABC.

That is a reversal of his categorical denial he made to National Review last year, when he was fighting for the Republican nomination, and said there was no circumstance under which he would allow tax increases, even if it was to get Democrats to come to the table on entitlements.

“No. None. None,” he said. “Tax cuts, starting with Kennedy, as we all know, increase revenues. So what’s the argument for increasing taxes? If you get the opposite effect out of tax cuts?”

Campaign spokesman Brian Rogers on Monday said Mr. McCain would prefer not to raise taxes, but confirmed he is open to what Democrats propose.

“The lesson of history is that too many specifics at this point polarize the debate,” Mr. Rogers said. “As president, John McCain will call on Congress to develop a bipartisan solution to Social Security.”

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