John McCain sharpened his attack on presidential rival Barack Obama's economic proposals Saturday, accusing the Democrat of seeking to turn...

CONCORD, N.C. — John McCain sharpened his attack on presidential rival Barack Obama’s economic proposals Saturday, accusing the Democrat of seeking to turn the United States into a socialist country and convert the IRS into a giant “welfare agency” that would dole out cash at Washington, D.C.’s discretion.

“The only ‘welfare’ in this campaign is John McCain’s plan to give another $200 billion in tax cuts to the wealthiest corporations in America,” Obama fired back from a rally in St. Louis.

In recent days, McCain has seized on a comment that Obama made in defending his tax policies to Samuel Wurzelbacher, an Ohio man now better known as “Joe the plumber.” Obama, who was canvassing Wurzelbacher’s neighborhood last weekend, told him: “When you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.”

Delivering a national radio address before setting out for stops Saturday in North Carolina and Virginia, McCain said Obama’s approach “sounded a lot like socialism.”

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“At least in Europe, the socialist leaders who so admire my opponent are upfront about their objectives,” the Republican nominee said. “They use real numbers and honest language. And we should demand equal candor from Sen. Obama. Raising taxes on some in order to give checks to others is not a tax cut. It’s just another government giveaway.”

Minorities say Palin has ignored them

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Alaska’s black leaders say they’re not surprised to see Gov. Sarah Palin at the center of the controversy over injecting the race issue into the campaign.

Palin, Republican John McCain’s running mate, has repeatedly insisted Barack Obama’s former preacher, the inflammatory Rev. Jeremiah Wright, is a legitimate issue even though McCain himself has said it’s out of bounds.

“She has no sensitivity to minorities,” said the Rev. Alonzo Patterson, a Baptist minister and president of the Alaska Black Leadership Conference. “She’s really inciting a lot of African Americans to get out and vote.”

Since taking office in December 2006, Palin has had a sometimes tense relationship with black leaders, who say they’ve been ignored in their efforts to get more minorities hired in her administration.

Biden warns backers of overconfidence

ATHERTON, Calif. — Democratic vice-presidential candidate Joseph Biden says he’s optimistic Barack Obama will be elected president, but he cautioned supporters Saturday not to be too confident.

The Delaware senator noted that Democrats Al Gore and John Kerry were also well ahead in polls just weeks before Election Day in 2000 and 2004, but both lost their presidential contests to President Bush.

“We’ve been here before. We’ve been poised to win the presidential election,” Biden said. “The last two times we underestimated how successful virulent attacks are.”

Biden is to speak today at Tacoma’s Cheney Stadium.

Seattle Times news services