Watch CBSN Live

Presidential Candidates' Economic Advisers Square Off At U. Wisconsin

This story was written by Becky Vevea, Badger Herald

Top economic advisers forpresidential candidates Barack Obama, D-Ill., and John McCain, R-Ariz., debated Friday at the University of Wisconsin. The debate was hosted by the University of Wisconsin Business School, and was held in Grainger Hall, withUW faculty and business students primarily in attendance.

Austan Goolsbee, senior economic adviser to Obama, and Ike Brannon, senior policy adviser to McCain, discussed their candidates stances on the current mortgage crisis, taxes, health care and trade.

This is a period of great concern. The economy is at a delicate time, Goolsbee said. We have to change direction.

Goolsbee said Obama favors a tax cut for the middle class people making under $250,000 a year because the trickle-down policies of the last eight years have proven to be ineffective.

But Brannon said while tax cuts for all Americans are important, McCain wants to cut taxes for businesses to stimulate economic growth. He added the United Stateshas the second highest corporate tax rate, and it should be lowered to stay competitive.

Each adviser addressed the topic of the current state of the economy, including the financial bailout plan, which has seemingly become the top issue in the election.

Sen. McCain sounded the alarm on Freddie and Fannie over and over and over again, Brannon said, adding that at the same time, Obama was taking financial contributions from their employees.

Goolsbee said there were two main contributing factors to the current crisis. The first was that the income of 95 percent of Americans has been stagnant while costs have increased, and, second, the administration got rid of regulatory oversight, allowing financial institutions to run completely off the rail.

We must reestablish public trust in the financial market, Goolsbee said.

Mike Knetter, dean of the UW School of Business, proctored the debate, asking both prepared questions as well as audience questions.

On the topic of lowering the national debt, the economists had conflicting opinions.

Goolsbee said trying to balance the budget right now is a dangerous thing to attempt but said Obama favors cutting spending, ending the war in Iraq and changing the policies of the current administration. The fiscal irresponsibility of this president is one of his worst legacies, Goolsbee said, adding McCains policy would add $350 billion per year even though he claims he is going to balance the budget.

In opposition, Brannon said McCain plans to lower the debt by eliminating earmarks and pork-barrel spending. Goolsbee responded saying this only accounts for approximately $18 billion of the more than $1-trillion debt.

Brannon said his biggest fear if Obama is elected is his highly partisan economic policies, adding, Sen. McCain has proven his ability to reach across the aisle.

Brannon was not the only one to voice a concern about the possibility of the opposition candidate being elected.

Goolsbee said if McCain is elected, his policies are the same as President George W. Bushs, and what we need right now is a change in direction.

McCain doesnt fundamentally know how we got here, Goolsbee said on the topic of the current state of the economy.

The debate was streamed as a live Web cast Friday and is still available to watch on the Business Schools Web site.