CANTON, Ohio — Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Biden on Thursday called Republican John McCain's answers to the current economic crisis "the ultimate bridge to nowhere" and said paying higher taxes would be patriotic for wealthier Americans.
In response, McCain said raising taxes in this economic climate is "just plain dumb."
Biden said the GOP presidential nominee was out of touch with average people's problems, hoping to resonate with voters in economically troubled northeast Ohio and keep pressure on McCain during a week of bad news from U.S. markets and financial institutions.
Polls in Ohio, a swing state, show a tight race.
"John McCain's answers for the economy _ and we're in such desperate shape _ is the ultimate bridge to nowhere," Biden told an audience of 2,500 on a turf field outside the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The reference to the infamous Alaska project dubbed "the Bridge to Nowhere" was a dig at McCain's running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who supported building the bridge until Congress moved to kill it as an example of wasteful spending. She has since claimed she stopped the nearly $400 million bridge, designed to link a southeastern Alaska town to its airport on a nearby island, and told Congress "thanks, but no thanks" when, in fact, the state diverted the money to other projects.
In an interview on ABC's "Good Morning America," Biden said wealthier taxpayers would indeed pay more under the proposals of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama. Under his plan, people earning more than $250,000 a year would pay more in taxes while those earning less _ the vast majority of taxpayers _ would receive a tax cut.
"We want to take money and put it back in the pocket of middle-class people," Biden said. Of those who would pay more, he said: "It's time to be patriotic ... time to jump in, time to be part of the deal, time to help get America out of the rut."
McCain misstated Biden's remark when he told supporters in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, that Biden had said "raising taxes is patriotic."
"Raising taxes in a tough economy isn't patriotic. It's not a badge of honor. It's just plain dumb," McCain said. "The billions in tax increases that Sen. Obama is proposing would kill even more jobs during tough economic times. I'm not going to let that happen."
Palin piled on, too.
"Joe Biden said it again today, raising taxes is about patriotism," she said in Cedar Rapids, where she appeared with McCain. "To the rest of America, that's not patriotism. Raising taxes is about killing jobs and hurting small businesses and making things worse."
Biden responded during remarks to about 150 people at a Laborers' International Union of North America Local 894 in Akron.
"Tell me how everybody is better off? The point I want to make is, and I mean this sincerely, wealthy people are just as patriotic as poor people. We just have not asked anything of them," Biden said.
Although McCain claims Obama would raise taxes, the independent Tax Policy Center and other groups conclude that four out of five U.S. households would receive tax cuts under Obama's proposals.
In a new TV ad that repeats widely debunked claims about the Democratic tax plan, McCain's campaign charges that Obama would increase the federal government amid an economic crisis. Contending that "a big government casts a big shadow on us all," the ad features the image of a shadow slowly covering a sleeping baby as a narrator misstates the reach of the Obama tax proposal.
Associated Press writer Douglass K. Daniel in Washington contributed to this report.
On the Net:
Obama campaign: http://www.barackobama.com/index.php
McCain campaign: http://www.johnmccain.com/
McCain ad "Dome": http://www.youtube.com/watch?vkjvzyFyMO-k