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DNA Testing in Texas; Scramble for Votes in Pennsylvania; Gas Prices Continue to Soar; Midwest Hit with 18 Earthquakes in Three Days

Aired April 21, 2008 - 09:00   ET


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning, everyone. You are in the CNN NEWSROOM.
I'm Tony Harris.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Fredricka Whitfield. Heidi Collins continues on maternity leave.

HARRIS: You will see events come into the NEWSROOM live on this Monday morning, the 21st of April.

Here's what's on the rundown.

WHITFIELD: The bitter end of a brutal campaign. Pennsylvania votes tomorrow. We asked the campaigns about their economic plan, "Issue #1."

HARRIS: DNA testing in Texas. Authorities try to ID the parents of children taken from a polygamist sect.

WHITFIELD: And driving to the poor house. A new record high for gas. "Zoom, Zoom," in the NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: A key showdown on the road to the White House today. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are scrambling for votes in Pennsylvania. Tomorrow's primary could be critical in deciding the Democrats' nominee. There are 158 delegates at stake. It is the biggest single state win fall remaining this campaign season.

CNN's Jim Acosta is in Philadelphia.

Jim, good morning to you. It is clearly a close race, a lot at stakes, and it is beginning to show, boy, is it ever, on the campaign trail.


Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are stepping up their attacks on one another as they barnstorm the Keystone state in search of those last-minute, undecided voters. As expected, both Democrats are airing huge numbers of negative TV commercials while at the same time accusing each other of hitting below the belt.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When I hear Senator Clinton's campaign say they're going throw the kitchen sink strategy at us and they try to manufacture or exploit fake controversies instead of talking about what is important for the American people, how we're going to deal with the energy problems, how we're going to deal with the mortgage lending crisis, and I'm thinking, while you learn the wrong lessons from those Republicans who were going after you in the same way, using the same tactics all those years.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So while my opponent says one thing and his campaign does another, you can count on me to tell you where I stand and you can count on me to tell you very specifically the solution that I'm offering for America.


ACOSTA: The Obama campaign which has spent the most money in the state is trying to stay confident that they could pull off an upset in Pennsylvania whereas Hillary Clinton, she is taking nothing for granted. She has seen her lead dwindle from the double digits to somewhere in the neighborhood of five percentage points.

Meanwhile, we should note that there's a healthy chunk, some nine percent of the voters out there, still saying that they are undecided. That may explain why Barack Obama is wrapping up his campaign day in Pittsburgh where she has been very strong, whereas Hillary Clinton, she is ending her campaign day in Philadelphia, the base of Barack Obama support.

One thing is certain. It's not going to be Groundhog Day in Pennsylvania for very much longer.

HARRIS: And Jim, look, you've spent enough time there in Pennsylvania and in Philadelphia, in particular, what's your sense of how the undecided voters may go?

ACOSTA: Well, you know, Tony, if history is any guide, it does bode well for Hillary Clinton. She has done very well with those undecided voters. They broke for the last time in Ohio. It's unclear whether or not that will happen this time. One thing that is noticeable is that Barack Obama has increased his negative attacks on Hillary Clinton. It's not something that we've seen from him in the past and as he said to one crowd over the weekend, after you get elbowed in the stomach after a while, you startle elbowing back -- Tony.

HARRIS: Jim Acosta for us at Philadelphia.

Jim, good to see you, thank you.

While the presidential race candidates compete not only for your votes, but also for dollars. Here's a breakdown of fundraising for the big three. Campaign finance reports show Barack Obama raised $41 million last month. Aides for Hillary Clinton say she only report raising about $20 million next month. Coming in third, presumptive Republican nominee John McCain. He raised more than $15 million last month.

Your money, your concerns, how would the candidates fix the economy? We will break it down starting with Barack Obama's plan minutes from now in the CNN NEWSROOM.

WHITFIELD: The economy, it is issue no. 1 for voters. Gas prices soaring, home prices sagging, and many Pennsylvanians will vote with their wallet.

Ali Velshi is our senior business correspondent. Today he's joining us from the Election Express in Philadelphia where everyone is feeling the pinch on gas prices in particular.

But you've got to wonder whether the gas prices are influencing the way people are planning to vote in that state.

ALI VELSHI, CNN SENIOR BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's a good question. I mean I think it kind of influences everybody. The national average, according to AAA, has hit $3.50 a gallon for self- serve unleaded. Now, you know, in some places, in California, they've been playing close to $4. In New Jersey about $3.25 or something like that. And remember, we hit $3 a gallon as early as 2005 when Hurricane Katrina hit.

So we've sort of gotten by the point of $3 a gallon. What we haven't done is figured out where the next milestone is. And now we've hit it, $3.50. Now a lot of experts were saying that $3.50 would be hit by Memorial Day. Well, we're already there. Then $3.75 is another estimate. Some people saying $4.

The question here is do people change their behavior. Do these milestones make people think, you know what, these does -- these continue to go up. Now look at that, $3.50 up almost a quarter in a month, up from $2.86 a year ago. The bottom line is while this national average doesn't apply to anyone in particular in America because you pay what you pay at your local gas station, the trend has been up for everybody across the country. And it is because of the price of oil. We've got oil at $117.40 overnight. The highest it's ever been.

So, yes, I don't know how it translates into how people vote for their candidate, but it definitely continues to make the economy "Issue #1."

WHITFIELD: And you've been crisscrossing the country for a while now, but particularly, do you wonder or have you noticed whether here in this state of Pennsylvania gas prices are affecting voters a bit more than anywhere else given that this really is a commuter state? A lot of folks in Pennsylvania either commute...


WHITFIELD: Washington or New York or other big cities.

VELSHI: Yes. Well, the good news is that -- you were right. Here in Philadelphia, we're across from the Delaware River -- we're right at the Delaware River. You can cross over and you can get that cheap New Jersey gas and a lot of Philadelphians do do that. If they're driving out of state on their way to Washington or to New York you get through New Jersey first.

So that's sort of one of these benefits that people have. But yes, absolutely. People drive a lot. This is also an industrial state. There's farming in this state. Remember we talk about gas prices, but those diesel prices are what they use on the farm. This is also a transportation hub, so a lot of the trucks that go through here use diesel.

So it is one of the major, major concerns of this state. You can't just sort of slap off the price of gas in Pennsylvania. But again, this is also an industrial state so they've got job losses to think about. They've got health care to think about. All of these issues really percolate to the top. And the -- what -- the reason Pennsylvania is interesting to the rest of the country is to hear what these candidates have got say to Pennsylvanians because if Pennsylvania faces the issue you probably do in your state.

WHITFIELD: All right. Ali Velshi in Philadelphia, thanks so much.

And of course, you want to keep watching CNN. Our money team has you covered it, whether it's gas prices, jobs, debt, housing, or savings. Join us for a special report. It's called "ISSUE #1," the economy, all this week at noon Eastern only on CNN.

HARRIS: Also making news this morning, who are the parents? Court-ordered DNA testing begins today in Texas. The state child services agency says it could take days to collect samples from the 416 children who were removed from a polygamist compound after allegations of abuse.

CNN's Susan Roesgen is in San Angelo, Texas this morning.

Susan, great to see you. She is in front of the building where the children are living, at least temporarily -- Susan?

SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Tony, you know the state troopers are here behind me. They're directing the volunteers who are coming to help out here for the testing and for other things related to keeping the kids here in the coliseum. This is the San Angelo Coliseum that normally holds hockey games and rodeos. Not this time.

In the meantime, there is -- new questions about the strange twist of the phone call. Who made the phone call that started this investigation.


ROESGEN (voice-over): For days now, we've seen the forlorn- looking followers of polygamist leader Warren Jeffs.

UNIDENTIFIED FLDS MEMBER: This is (INAUDIBLE) bed. ROESGEN: The women have lost custody of more than 400 children and a phone call from this woman might have led to the raid that took the children away. Texas Rangers believe 33-year-old Rosita Swinton claimed to be an abused teenager on the secretive Yearning for Zion ranch.

Texas Rangers say they found several items in her Colorado apartment, items they say indicate a possible connection between Swinton and phone calls made to authorities about the Eldorado ranch and another of Warren Jeffs's polygamist colonies in Arizona.

STEPHEN SINGULAR, AUTHOR: There is less chance of being noticed out there. They don't believe in American society, secular society, and they want to get away from it as much as possible.

ROESGEN: Stephen Singular just wrote a book on the world of Warren Jeffs called "When Men Become Gods." Walking outside the guarded ranch gates, Singular says Jeffs's polygamist group is based on male domination and white, racial purity. We don't know what connection Swinton might have to the polygamy cult or why she might have wanted to tip law enforcement to allegations of sexual abuse, but Stephen Singular calls Warren Jeffs as racist as Hitler and he says it would be incredible if a woman who's black brought the cult down.

SINGULAR: If that imploded this entire situation that would be a fantastic irony for Mr. Jeffs who was so terribly afraid of the black population.

ROESGEN: Texas authority say even if the original phone call was a hoax, they found more than enough evidence of sexual abuse at the ranch to go ahead when their case.


ROESGEN: And again, here this morning at the San Angelo Coliseum, we expect to learn about perhaps more of the DNA testing that's going. Tony, that could take up to a month for the results to come back.

HARRIS: All right. Susan Roesgen for us morning.

Susan, appreciate it. Thank you.

WHITFIELD: Well, in the Midwest -- 18 earthquakes in three days. The ground won't stop moving in Illinois. It started with a 5.2 magnitude earthquake that rattled the Midwest on Friday. Since then at least 17 aftershocks have been reported. The latest happening just after midnight this morning. The epicenter is in southern Illinois in the same area as that original quake. This morning's aftershock measured 4.5, one of the strongest yet.

HARRIS: And how about this? Two tornado touchdowns in Maryland caused damage, but no deaths. One twister tore off part of a roof of an elementary school outside of Washington. The tornadoes struck yesterday afternoon just a couple of hours after a school vent. Debris from the school hit a nearby church and winds blew over a trailer.

Another tornado hit south of the nation's capital knocking trees, on to houses and cars. What a mess. Look at those pictures for us.

WHITFIELD: Ugly weather. And it really runs the gamut. We've seen a little bit of everything over the weekend, Rob, and it seems like the momentum is just carrying right over to the workweek.

HARRIS: That's right. That's right.


WHITFIELD: All right. Well, a high school senior jailed. Police say he planned to blow up his school.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Community right now is devastated. This is one of these young guys that it just doesn't happen. We just don't see it.


WHITFIELD: So parents make a tough call in the NEWSROOM.


HARRIS: You are in the CNN NEWSROOM. Good morning, again, everyone. I'm Tony Harris.

Prom season, time to get dressy.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have two-piece ensemble. We have everything from dark colors to the nice pastels.


HARRIS: Free gowns for the prom. We open Becka's closet in the NEWSROOM.


HARRIS: Former president Jimmy Carter talking peace today. Mr. Carter says Hamas is prepared to accept peace with Israel, that is if the Palestinian people approve any agreement negotiated with Israel.

Hamas says, an Islamic fundamentalist group, the U.S. State Department says it is a terrorist organization. Its military wing blamed for several terrorist attacks on Israel.


JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The present strategy of excluding Hamas and excluding Syria is just not working. It only exacerbates a cycle of violence and of misunderstanding and of animosity between the two and among all those that I've mentioned.


HARRIS: The U.S. and Israeli officials have condemned the former president's meeting with Hamas officials. They believe the meetings will achieve little and could harm efforts at peace in the region.

WHITFIELD: All right. Much more in the NEWSROOM straight ahead.


HARRIS: The nation's sputtering economy, polls show, it's issue no. 1 for Pennsylvania voters. Before they head to the polls tomorrow, let's take a look at the economic plan for each candidate. Starting off with us, the Obama campaign.

Dan Tarullo serves as a senior economic adviser.

Dan, glad to have you back on the program.


HARRIS: You know, I was struck by this notion and the ideas that the senator has for really bringing about some relief for the middle class. So what we've done is we've structured a bit of a hypothetical family here making between $25,000 and $50,000. Both parents in this case are working and they're bringing home anywhere from $2,500 to $3,000 a month.

Senator Obama, what is it that he is proposing to bring some stress relief to our hypothetical family?

Well, I think you have to look at it two ways, Tony. First, what would he do in the short term to provide relief to a plan, which, as you mentioned, is under an enormous squeeze. And second, how he would prepare for the future of good middle-class job that those people and their children are going to...

HARRIS: So short term and long term.



TARULLO: Now on the short term, first and at the center of his program is tax relief for the middle class. For that family there would be a $1,000 tax cut, refundable if necessary, meaning even if they didn't owe that much in taxes they would still get the money back. Secondly, with his health care program he would make sure that families like that, which are often the ones having the most difficulty getting health insurance, would be able with assistance to afford a plan providing good health insurance for their family.

HARRIS: Great, let's stop there for a moment. So there are two issues there. There is certainly affordability. There's quality of health care and on the affordability question, in our sort of hypothetical, our family would like a deductible on health care of $250 a year where in many cases right now it's about 500. What are your thoughts on that?

TARULLO: Well, of course, it depends, Tony, but the aim -- his aim is to get a health care program that is affordable for all Americans...


TARULLO: And that's why he would provide assistance so they are able to do it.

HARRIS: So describe affordability with the Obama plan.

TARULLO: Well, affordability would mean that he'd have a plan that would be similar to the one that right now members of Congress benefit from and that this would be a plan that for several hundred dollars a month that you mentioned...


TARULLO: ...along with any federal assistance it would be within the reach of working families whereas right now it's really not.

HARRIS: Right. Right. Talk about another concern for middle- class families, the one we're describing here is debt, and one of the issues in kicking this around in the NEWSROOM this morning, there are a lot of people who would love the idea of real caps on bank cards and fees and this idea being able to raise your interest rate on a whim, essentially because you were late by a day is something that puts a real squeeze on the middle class.

Any help there from Senator Obama?

TARULLO: Last year, Tony, Senator Obama proposed a consumer's bill of rights for credit cards, which, among other things, would stop credit card companies from raising rates or changing terms without telling you beforehand that they were doing so and would stop them from raising rates based on debts that you've incurred in the past. He also has proposed a absolute cap on the sort of payday lending loans?

HARRIS: Yes. Yes.

TARULLO: A lot of people are driven to take sometimes when they're facing tight times.

HARRIS: OK. Let me squeeze in a couple of others here before I lose you. I guess I'm under a minute here. Any proposals on child care, and if you can sort of dovetail that into education?

TARULLO: Well, yes, for sure, increasing the credit available for child care, but education is really central to moving toward the future as I said before.

HARRIS: There you go.

TARULLO: And so he's got plans for allowing tuition assistance that is tax credits for tuition assistance for people attempting to go to college.

HARRIS: Boy, that happens, that would be huge for a lot of families and you know that, and clearly, that's why the senator is proposing now.

TARULLO: Absolutely, Tony.

HARRIS: OK. Dan, appreciate your time.

Again, Dan Tarullo, the senior economic adviser for the Obama campaign. Great to have you back on the program.

TARULLO: Thanks, Tony.

HARRIS: We will continue our look at the candidates' economic plans. What would John McCain do for your wallet? His campaign's ideas, well, bottom of the hour right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

WHITFIELD: Pope Benedict XVI returned to Rome this morning after wrapping up his first visit to the U.S.

CNN's Jason Carroll reports on what may be the defining mark of his mission.


JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On the last day of his celebrated six-day U.S. trip Pope Benedict XVI looked to the future and pledged to remember the past.

POPE BENEDICT XVI, LEADER OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH: Dear brother asks sisters in Christ...

CARROLL: The Pope talked about the days ahead for Catholics in a glowing mass inside a packed Yankee Stadium.

POPE BENEDICT XVI: To (INAUDIBLE) the blessings of freedom in order to build a future of hope for coming generations.

CAROLL: While the past was remembered with a solemn morning prayer at ground zero.

POPE BENEDICT XVI: God of peace bring your peace to our violent world.

CAROLL: It was there, Pope Benedict met with a small group of survivors and family members of 9/11 victims, among them, a firefighter who lost his brother that day.

TOM RICHES, MET POPE AT GROUND ZERO: It's comforting to know that, you know, that our loved ones aren't forgotten and that the ground is sacred to him because it's always been sacred to us. CAROLL: But it was another sobering issue, that of sexual abuse by priests that may have defined Benedict's first papal visit to the U.S. The pontiff addressed the issue more than once. He took the unexpected and extraordinary step of meeting with victims. The move was met with some surprise and much praise.

FATHER JOHN VARTUNEK, AUTHOR, "INSIDE THE PASSION": He believes in the power of the truth to heal wounds and to inspire the human heart and so he wasn't afraid to deal directly with something that -- is a very -- it's a tragic and a difficult truth to face.

CAROLL: That meeting gave many victims hope while others warned it's only a first step.

GEORGE SHEA, SEX ABUSE SURVIVOR: And the fear is that once he gets on the plane today and leaves, everybody -- is going to say, great, he addressed it and now it's over. There's no more work that needs to be done. But I -- you know, the way I see it is he just started the work that needs to be done.

CAROLL: Jason Carroll, CNN, New York.


HARRIS: Homes in danger, strong winds whipped through New Mexico pushing wildfires closer. Evacuations under way. An update ahead.


WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back to the NEWSROOM.

It is Earth Week and and let's hope the markets stay in the green.

Friday's Dow closed up 228 points. You see the bell ringing right now. But while the Dow was up on Friday, that was, of course, before the weekend's latest spike in crude oil, which means all of us are paying more at the pump. We'll continue to watch the markets and see if in any way they fluctuate as a result of that latest news.

ANNOUNCER: You are watching CNN NEWSROOM on CNN. The most trusted name in news.


I'm Fredericka Whitfield.

HARRIS: And I'm Tony Harris.

Welcome back, everyone. In a small South Carolina town, accusation of a suicide bombing plot. A teenager in court today. Police in Chesterfield say 18-year-old Ryan Shallenberger was plotting an attack on his school. The high school senior was arrested Saturday night.

His parents called police when ten pounds of ammonium nitrate was delivered to their home. You may recall ammonium nitrate was used in the Oklahoma City bombing. The town's police chief says the teen kept a journal outlining his plans.


SHERIFF SAM PARKER, CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, SOUTH CAROLINA: (INAUDIBLE) some of my investigators and myself that he's -- in the past, he's experimented with pipe bombs and tried it in the experimental stage of making explosive devices.


HARRIS: Well, the sheriff says Shallenberger appeared to be inspired by the attack on Colorado's Columbine High School. And he had made an audiotape explaining why he wanted to attack his school.

WHITFIELD: And in Philadelphia this morning, a massive fire raced through a four-story warehouse. Check out these pictures. The blaze caused part of the building to collapse. Leaving a hollow, burned-out shell. Fire official say no one was inside the warehouse when the fire started. And there are no reports of injuries. They're investigating the cause.

And out west in the line of spreading wildfires, strong winds now pushing the flames closer to communities in Central, New Mexico. People in more than 100 homes asked to evacuate. Those high winds kept fire fighting, aircraft on the ground. Wildfires have now charred at least 1500 acres, just southeast of Albuquerque. So far, no homes have been damaged.

HARRIS: Let's get some relief going here. Let's check in once again with Rob Marciano in our extreme weather center.


WHITFIELD: All right, your wallet, your vote. How would the candidates fix the economy? We looked at the Obama plan just a few minutes ago. Now, we turn to John McCain's plan.

Nancy Pfotenhauer is the senior policy adviser for the McCain camp.

Good to see you, Nancy. Can you hear me OK? Oh, Nancy, can you hear me? It's Fredricka in Atlanta.

Oh, it looks like we need to work out some audio issues, and when we do we are going to bring in Nancy Pfotenhauer back. She's the McCain financial adviser because we want to delve into this topic, because it is issue No. 1. More on that when we get it.

HARRIS: He is friends with Donald Trump, a self-made millionaire and wrote a best-seller of today. He's got family financial advice that is "Right on Your money".

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Entrepreneur Robert Kiyosaki took what he learned as a kid, and then taught others. With his No. 1 "New York Times" best seller "Rich Dad, Poor Dad."

ROBERT KIYOSAKI, ENTREPRENEUR: My rich dad taught me to be a rich man playing monopoly. So as a little child, I got the formula. I understood financial responsibility, discipline, cash flow. I learned so much just by having fun.

ROMANS: But teaching kids about money isn't always child's play. Kiyosaki says it's important to give them some real world lessons.

KIYOSAKI: A thing a parent might do is ask them to write down everything they spend their money on so they can see where it goes and it's a great way to teach them what money is for, what they're doing to earn their spending habits.

ROMANS: Kiyosaki says children's financial education is the key.

KIYOSAKI: I suggest, you know, be forthright, be frank. You know, teach kids the vocabulary of money. You know, do you know the difference between an asset and a liability, cash flow versus capital gains. It's not that hard to understand and that's what my rich dad taught me.

ROMANS: Christine Romans, CNN, New York.


WHITFIELD: All right. Still on your money. And this time, your money as it pertains to the commitments from the campaign trail. Just moments ago we tried to establish conversation with the financial adviser for John McCain. It looks like we've got the audio issues worked out. So let's try it again.

Nancy Pfotenhauer is the senior policy adviser for the McCain camp.

Nancy, you can hear me OK now?

Oh, Nancy. It's Fredricka, can you hear me?

Oh, boy. I mean, we're going to have to work that one out for you. We're going to try it again, and we'll be back to talk to the financial adviser of the Hillary Clinton camp as well. We are going to sort this out because your money matters and it matters on the campaign trail as well. More when we come right back.


HARRIS: Millions going hungry. Food prices rising out of reach. A growing problem across the globe.

The story now from CNN State Department correspondent Zain Verjee.


ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Higher food prices spelled disaster for the world's poorest. Millions living under a dollar a day at risk.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: No one should have to spend all of their daily wages just to buy their daily bread.

VERJEE: But in just one year, the price of corn has gone up 31 percent on global markets. Rice 74 percent; Soya, 87 percent; and wheat up 130 percent.

(on-camera): Walk down any aisles at the supermarket, and you can see food prices are going up. In much of the western world, consumers are able to absorb the impact. But for many in the developing world, food prices are a matter of life and death.

(voice-over): The World Food Programme's map of hardest hit regions stretches from the Caribbean to Africa and Asia. It's the perfect storm of sudden changes. Record high oil prices, fast rising transportation and fertilizer costs. Bad weather destroying crops, plus rising demand in India and China, and increased production of ethanol converting food crops into fuel.

JEFFREY SACHS, EARTH INSTITUTE, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: If you add it all together, demand is soaring, supply has been cut back. Food has been diverted into the gas tank. It's added up to a price explosion.

RICE: We clearly have twin problems. We have an energy problem and we have a food problem. And there are some relationships between them.

VERJEE: Half the world's food aid comes from the U.S. $1.5 billion a year, but the money is not going far.

HENRIETTA FORE, U.S. AGENCY FOR INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT: It means that less food is going to almost every recipient because the prices are so much higher. So our U.S. dollar, purchasing power cannot stretch as far.

VERJEE: The U.N. World Food Programme feeds one cup of porridge to 20 million schoolchildren and the director says it's the only food most of them see all day.

JOSETTE SHEERAN, U.N. WORLD FOOD PROGRAMME: Today, I can fill this 40 percent less than I could last June. So it has a direct effect on us.

VERJEE: The World Bank is calling for $500 million in emergency donations.

ROBERT ZOELLICK, PRESIDENT, WORLD BANK: We can't afford to wait. We have to put our money where our mouth is now so we can put food into hungry mouths. VERJEE: More cash may be a fast fix only in the short term, still leaving the hungry to fight for little food there is, and security forces being drafted in to guard not banks, but where houses of food.

Zain Verjee, CNN, Washington.


HARRIS: Higher food prices, it is a growing, global crisis. We will talk to a leading international economist about that in the next hour of the CNN NEWSROOM.

WHITFIELD: All right.

You need to know what plans the presidential candidates have for your money. Just moments ago we heard from Senator Obama's camp, now it's John McCain's turn. Nancy Pfotenhauer is a senior policy adviser for the McCain camp. I'm glad we have re-established now communication.

OK, Nancy. Just as early as yesterday on ABC's "This Week," John McCain spelled it out saying overall Americans are much better off than eight years ago. How does he justify that when we're talking about the gravity of layoffs taking place, the home foreclosures, people having a very difficult time making ends meet on day to day -- on the day to day period?

NANCY PFOTENHAUER, MCCAIN SENIOR POLICY ADVISER: Well, I think it's pretty clear that he also said when he made that statement, that for people who are suffering right now, the macro economic outlook doesn't mean a lot. But by the way, the macro economic outlook isn't political. It's in black and white.

And frankly, the U.S. experienced growth rates that were still a full point higher than they are in most industrialized nations and we did it even after weathering, the post-9/11, market upheaval, after weathering Katrina, after paying for the war.

We've managed to be fairly resilient, but we can do so much better and it's absolutely crucial what path we take from here. Now John McCain wants to take a time-honored and true recipe for economic growth and that is low taxes and limited government. It works whatever country you're in on. There has never been a country that's tax its way to prosperity. And he understands that.

WHITFIELD: Well, let's talk about that. Tax cuts. He says he's four tax cuts went for a long period of time. He was very much against tax cuts and in fact, criticized this administration for tax cut efforts. And John McCain's plan is different how from the Democrats? Because both Hillary Clinton and Senator Obama are saying the same thing -- tax cuts.

PFOTENHAUER: Well, let's back up a second, because one of the reasons that I support Senator McCain, and I have for more than a year is that I work on fiscal policy in this town, and have for two decades. And Senator McCain didn't get caught up in the taxpayer- fueled spending frenzy that politicians of both political stripes did over the last several years. He said if cutting taxes is good, but you need to cut spending as well.

WHITFIELD: And when he qualifies that as wasteful spending, what is wasteful spending.

PFOTENHAUER: Well, political earmarks. He's going to declare Washington, D.C. a no earmark zone, and I can't tell you how thrilled I am about this because it is one of the most irresponsible, common practices that goes on in our nation's capital. And God knows they believe him when he says I will veto any bill with earmark spending, which means unauthorized --

WHITFIELD: He's eliminating earmarks spending.

PFOTENHAUER: He will veto any bill that has it in it, and he will continue vetoing bills that contain earmarks until they stop coming.

WHITFIELD: And he said he wants to reduce spending in various government agencies.


WHITFIELD: Across the board.

PFOTENHAUER: And this is someone who practices what he preaches. Remember, he saved the taxpayers about $6 million by catching procurement problem, if you will, with Boeing and a tanker. And even though he cares very much about having a strong military, he's --

WHITFIELD: Let's talk about military. Does that include defense spending, because he's made it very clear publicly that this country is committed to the war in Iraq, for the long haul which means continued spending? So does that mean the Department of Defense does not appreciate the kind of reduction in spending that other government agency will?

PFOTENHAUER: What he wants to do is had a -- it's a very good question. He wants a one-year spending pause or freeze on non- essential military or veteran's programs, and he wants to do a year- long review. There will be consolidations of programs. There will be probably some program eliminations that will come from that. There certainly could be.

And all we have to do, remember to balance this budget -- all we have to do is hold spending growth to about three percent to four percent, and that's something that we have done in the past. We did it during the Clinton years. You can do it -- say we're going to peg spending growth at one point over inflation. That's eminently doable. We've had it done in time of war before, both Franklin Roosevelt did it, Harry Truman did it.

WHITFIELD: And how is that going to impact the average American who right now is looking at their home being foreclosed or the value of their home drastically reducing. They're having a difficult time keeping up with the advancement of costs of food.


WHITFIELD: Of utilities, et cetera. How does this plan help that person? You and me.

PFOTENHAUER: Let me say, I emphasize with it with five kids and three in college in the fall. I don't even know how I'm going to pay for the gasoline to visit the college campuses this summer. So I absolutely think you're focusing on an important and crucial element.

There are short term prescriptions and those are clearly outlined in our plan to help people deal with things that are immediate crises in their lives, like they're having a problem, they're going under on their home mortgage. But the real answer for Americans is for us to get back on the path for economic growth, because a lot of the problem here comes from the fact that we devalued our currency.

That we are -- even though, we have an unemployment rate that it feels bad to us and it's still vastly superior to European countries. We are used to an increasing standard of living, and the only way we can do that is to follow these paths for long-term, economic growth. And there are dramatic differences between what John McCain wants to do and what Senators Clinton or Obama want to do.

WHITFIELD: OK. And as early as Tuesday, tomorrow, many Pennsylvania voters will be deciding on exactly whose economic plan they like. At least, as it pertains to the Democrats as well.

Nancy Pfotenhauer, senior policy adviser for the McCain camp. Thank you so much.


WHITFIELD: Well, straight ahead. Hillary Clinton's team shares its plan to fix the economy. That's next in the NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: Also coming up, a teenager helps girls who can't afford prom dresses. Gown giveaway in the NEWSROOM.


WHITFIELD: Less than 24 hours before the Pennsylvania primary polls open and the candidate are crisscrossing the state. You're looking at a live appearance right here. Hillary Clinton in Scranton, Pennsylvania. She'll be taking to the mike momentarily. We'll be monitoring her thoughts, of course.

If you want to continue to watch this, you can go to and watch it, live stream right there. That's where you want to go.

HARRIS: The nation's sputtering economy poll shows it is issue No. 1 for Pennsylvania voters who go to the polls tomorrow. How will the candidates fix it earlier this hour? The Obama and McCain campaigns share their plans. Now, Hillary Clinton's turn. Neera Tanden is her policy director.

Neera, great to see you. Good morning to you.

NEERA TANDEN, CLINTON CAMPAIGN POLICY DIRECTOR: Great to be with you. Thank you so much.

HARRIS: All right. Back to our hypothetical family this morning. The Wilson Family from Scranton Pennsylvania. $50,000, top end of the income brackets, say $35,000 to $50,000 plants them firmly in the middle class. They're bringing home about $2500 to $3,000 a month. What's in the Clinton plan to help this family and relief some of the stress?

TANDEN: Well, Hillary has been very focused on the needs of the middle class families throughout this campaign and she has a two-prong approach to addressing the needs of middle class families.

First, she wants to make sure that they have generous targeted tax cuts that really address their needs. So that family would receive around $1,000 in savings accounts. That's a $1,000 tax cut ensuring that they can save for retirement.

HARRIS: Which you agree that's about where the Obama campaign is, maybe targeted in a different area, but about $1,000.

TANDEN: No, but we go further than they do in ensuring that we're really addressing the need of families. Throughout this campaign, Hillary has been hearing about the concerns people are having with higher health care costs, with higher college affordability costs. It's really impossible --

HARRIS: Well, Neera, can I stop you right there. Our hypothetical family, the Wilson's again from Scranton, Pennsylvania, would love a lower deductible on health care somewhere in neighborhood of $250 a year would be helpful.

Can you help the Wilsons?

TANDEN: Well, we have a plan. We're the only candidate in this race to ensure that every American will have health insurance. And in that plan, we have generous tax subsidies. Tax credits to ensure that health care is more affordable. And we do some thing that the Obama campaign does not do.

We ensure that everyone's health care is affordable by capping premiums for families. So no one in America would pay more than, somewhere in the range between five percent and 10 percent of their health care costs or health care premiums ever again.

We really make a commitment to making sure health care is affordable. And so for that family, they really have a guarantee under Hillary Clinton's plan that no other presidential candidate is offering them, because it's critical that we make health care affordable for every single American.

HARRIS: What are your thoughts on some kind of a cap on banks and bank fees and credit card companies who seem kind of willy-nilly to be able to raise the interest rate if you're late just a day?

TANDEN: Well, that's a great issue. Hillary has proposed a really -- a dramatic overhaul of guarantees for consumers for credit card companies, just on that particular issue. She thinks that's wrong and she would propose regulations to ensure that that doesn't happen.

She also believes that credit card companies shouldn't be able to charge you, you know, 30 percent. There was a vote several years ago where Hillary voted against credit card companies being able to raise your rates of 30 percent or more, and Senator Obama voted the other way. And that's really just one indication of how we have plans that really focus on middle class American.

HARRIS: Neera, again, it's 2500 to dollar 3,000 a month that we're talking about here, and out of that, we're talking about rent or mortgage. We're talking about food cost.

TANDEN: Absolutely.

HARRIS: Engine cost.

TANDEN: Absolutely.

HARRIS: I need help.

TANDEN: And so many Americans do. And that's why she really has a two-prong approach. First is to help create good-paying jobs in the United States. She has a very aggressive energy plan, where she's proposing we invest $15 billion a year and really jumpstarting a new energy future and create five million new high-wage jobs in the United States.

She also has an aggressive infrastructure proposal, which will create three million jobs in the United States.


TANDEN: So we believe in creating new jobs as well. In addition, she has a variety of proposals to address the real burdens and middle class families are facing.

HARRIS: Well, Neera Tanden, thanks for your time. It just worked out that way that you're up in the moment and your candidate is up.

TANDEN: She always speaks better for herself than I can. So that's great.

HARRIS: I appreciate it. Thanks for your time this morning.

TANDEN: Thank you.

HARRIS: A day before the Pennsylvania primary, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are flooding the airwaves with negative ads. Find more on the candidates at is your source for everything political.

WHITFIELD: Another new record high. Are gas prices driving you to the poor house? The latest numbers in the NEWSROOM.


WHITFIELD: Hello again, everyone. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

HARRIS: And I'm Tony Harris.

Stay informed all day in the CNN NEWSROOM. Here's what's on the rundown.

Last call in Pennsylvania. It's the final full day on the campaign trail. Both the Democrats bruised by the brutal primary fight.

WHITFIELD: DNA test in Texas. Authorities (INAUDIBLE) that hundreds of children with parents from a polygamous sect.

HARRIS: Can you beat record high gas prices? It's probably not, but we've got tips to help soothe you pain at the pump -- our pain.

Monday, April 21, you are in the CNN NEWSROOM.