WASHINGTON — Seeking to focus public attention on the problem he was sent to the White House to solve, President Barack Obama (pictured) is making a renewed push for policies to expand the middle class, helping people who he says are still treading water years after the financial meltdown.
Obama will use a series of back-to-back speeches over two days to take another stab at selling the public on his vision of a thriving economy.
The first of those speeches comes Wednesday, when Obama visits the Midwest to speak at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill., where he gave his first major speech as a freshman U.S. senator in 2005 during booming economic times. He is not expected to announce any new initiatives. The President also speaks later in the day at the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg. The third speech is set for Thursday at the Jacksonville Port Authority in Florida.
The White House is billing Obama’s latest speech at Knox College as a major one, comparable in tone to the commencement address he delivered there eight years ago, also about the economy. Back then he talked about how the country can give every American a “fighting chance” in a 21st century transformed by technology and globalization.
The trio of speeches comes as Congress prepares to leave Washington next week for its month-long August recess. These and other speeches planned for the coming weeks and months are designed to increase public pressure on lawmakers in hopes of avoiding showdowns over taxes and spending in the fall.
The White House believes such stalemates will stunt the economy, which has added more than 200,000 jobs a month in the past six months. The new federal budget year begins Oct. 1 and the government will soon hit its borrowing limit.
Even before Obama spoke, Republican congressional leaders were panning the President’s renewed economic focus.
“Every time he goes out and gives one of these speeches, it generates little more than a collective bipartisan eye roll,” said Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. “It’s just such a colossal waste of time and energy — resources that would be better spent actually working with both parties in Congress to grow the economy and create jobs.”
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said, “Welcome to the conversation, Mr. President. We’ve never left it.”
In his 2005 speech at Knox College, Obama spoke about how technology and globalization and the weakening of labor unions had upended the idea that those who worked hard would be able to get good jobs that paid enough to support their families, provided adequate health care, allowed them to retire with dignity, and gave them hope that their children would have a better future.
He was expected to argue Wednesday that those underlying trends haven’t been reversed.
“They are still a central challenge that we face,” Obama told supporters Monday night in Washington. “There’s no more important question for this country than how do we create an economy in which everybody who works hard feels like they can get ahead and feel some measure of security.”