Obama hits Republicans in starkly populist speech

Tue Dec 6, 2011 2:36pm EST

Related Topics

* Obama strikes populist tone

* Seeks to channel Theodore Roosevelt

* Republicans say speech is bid to distract

By Jeff Mason

OSAWATOMIE, Kansas, Dec 6 (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama turned up the heat on his Republican foes on Tuesday as he portrayed himself as a champion of the middle class and laid out in the starkest terms yet the populist themes of his 2012 re-election bid.

In a speech meant to echo a historic address given by former President Theodore Roosevelt in the same Kansas town more than 100 years ago, Obama pressed his case for economic policies he insists will benefit ordinary Americans struggling through hard times.

He seized the opportunity to step up pressure on congressional Republicans to extend an expiring payroll tax cut that independent economists say is needed to keep the fragile economic recovery from unraveling.

But Obama's broader message was a call for people to get a "fair shot" and a "fair share" as he pushed for wealthier Americans to pay higher taxes and for Wall Street and Big Business to play by the rules.

"This is a make-or-break moment for the middle class," Obama said in Osawatomie in eastern Kansas. "At stake is whether this will be a country where working people can earn enough to raise a family, build a modest savings, own a home, and secure their retirement."

With the 2012 presidential election just 11 months away, Obama's trip was part of a strategy by the president and his fellow Democrats to cast the Republicans as the party beholden to the rich.

Many Republican lawmakers are skeptical that extending the tax cut beyond this year will spur job creation.

But Republican leaders, fearing a possible backlash from voters in the 2012 ballot, have expressed a willingness to find a way to prevent the tax cuts from lapsing. But they remain at odds with Obama and his Democrats on how to fund it.

Obama used his speech to accuse Republicans of suffering from "collective amnesia" about the recent economic and financial crisis, and he strongly defended his Wall Street regulatory overhaul that many Republicans opposed.

Though polls show most Americans support Obama's effort to increase taxes on the wealthy, his public approval ratings remain in the low to mid-40 percent range.

Republicans charged that Obama's latest speech, as well as a series of campaign-style trips to push his stalled $447 billion jobs plan, was intended to distract from the struggling economy and persistently high unemployment, considered damaging for his re-election chances.

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Comments (4)
pnachtwey wrote:
There is rapid inflation at the food level. Inflation is a hidden tax that politicians don’t like to talk about. The two percent Obama is talking about is being taken away by rising prices. Everyone buys food.

Dec 06, 2011 2:58pm EST  --  Report as abuse
jscott418 wrote:
I think President Obama made similar speech about the Stimulus bill. That the precious economy would unravel if we did not pass the huge bill of pork spending and most wasteful projects. He sounds like a broken record with just a few key words changed. Maybe he should get a new speech writer. Or is he just using edited ones from the last campaign? I could care less about the tax cuts. Let’s figure out how to improve job creation and balance our Federal budget. Maybe people forget but Obama had over two years of his first term with a Congress that was Democratic and the things that were done did not help. So why is Obama still talking the same old talk?

Dec 06, 2011 3:19pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Mices wrote:
I’m confused… the republican response to Obama making speeches about his jobs bill and economic recovery spurred tax cuts is to say that is him trying to create a distraction from the economic and unemployment problems? “Think about the color purple” is not a very good distraction to keep people from thinking about the color purple.

Dec 06, 2011 3:40pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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