July 23, 2013

Obama speech goal: Refocus on economy

His middle-class themes had been set aside while he dealt with the fiscal crisis and gun debate.

By SCOTT WILSON The Washington Post

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President Barack Obama addresses an Organizing for Action summit in Washington, Monday, July 22, 2013. The president will deliver a series of speeches this week designed to push the economy – and his proposals to ensure its long-term growth – toward the center of the national political debate after months of focus on other issues. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

Obama plans to begin with a speech Wednesday at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill., a campus he visited as a new U.S. senator in June 2005 to deliver its commencement address.

The White House posted video excerpts from that speech on YouTube on Sunday evening, and administration officials said the president is likely to echo the warnings he issued eight years ago about how economic changes were threatening the middle class.

Some of those shifts, he said at the time, were inevitable results of globalization and technological changes that made it easier to move jobs in factories and service industries overseas.

But Obama also used the speech to sharply criticize the tax-cutting policies of the George W. Bush administration, saying that the Republicans' "best idea is to give everyone one big refund on their government -- divvy it up by individual portions, in the form of tax breaks, hand it out, and encourage everyone to use their share to go buy their own health care, their own retirement plan, their own child care, their own education, and so on."

"In Washington, they call this the Ownership Society," Obama said. "But in our past there has been another term for it -- 'social Darwinism' -- every man or woman for him or herself."

Obama used the same term in the middle of his re-election campaign last year, calling the Republican budget proposal "social Darwinism" for the cuts it proposed to Medicare and other government programs to address the yawning budget deficit.

Obama's plan to revisit Knox College to inaugurate his latest economic push suggests there may be a populist edge to his approach, echoing the tone and substance of his speech in December 2011 in Osawatomie, Kan., which previewed his middle-class message during the campaign.

After his Knox College speech, the president will travel to Warrensburg, Mo., to deliver largely the same remarks at the University of Central Missouri. On Thursday, he heads to Jacksonville, Fla., to speak at the port there.


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