“This country succeeds when everyone gets a fair shot, when everyone does their fair share and when everyone plays by the same rules,” Mr. Obama said in an address that sought to tie his economic differences with Republicans into an overarching message.
Infusing his speech with the moralistic language moncler jackets that has emerged in the Occupy protests around the nation, Mr. Obama warned that growing income inequality meant that the United States was undermining its middle class and, “gives lie to the promise that’s at the very heart of America: that this is the place where you can make it if you try.”
“This is a make-or-break moment for the middle class, and all those who are fighting to get into the middle class,” Mr. Obama told the crowd packed into the gym at Osawatomie High School.
“At stake,” he said, “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.”
Mr. Obama purposefully chose this hardscrabble town of 4,500 people, about 50 miles south of Kansas City, Kan., where Theodore Roosevelt once laid out the progressive platform he called “the New Nationalism” to put forth his case for a payroll tax cut and his broader arguments against the Republican economic agenda in what his aides hoped would be viewed as a defining speech.
Though it was lacking in specific new policy prescriptions, the hourlong speech, and the days of buildup that preceded it, marked the president’s starkest attack on what he described as the “breathtaking greed” that contributed to the economic turmoil still reverberating around the nation. At one point, he noted that the average income of the top 1 percent — adopting the marker that has been the focus of the Occupy movement — has gone up by more than 250 percent, to $1.2 million a year.
The new tack reflected a decision by the White House and the president’s campaign aides that — with the economic recovery still lagging and Republicans in Congress continuing to oppose the president’s jobs proposals — the best course for Mr. Obama is to try to present himself as the defender of working-class Americans and Republicans as defenders of a small elite.
Republicans, though, portrayed the visit as an effort by the president to paper over his failed stewardship of the national economy. Though unemployment levels dropped to 8.6 percent last month, they remain higher than the level at which any president has been re-elected since the Great Depression.
Mitt Romney, one of the contenders for the Republican presidential nomination, dismissed the president’s address. “I thought, ‘In what way is he like Teddy Roosevelt?’ ” Mr. Romney said. “Teddy Roosevelt founded the Bull Moose Party. One of those words applies when the president talks about how he’s helped the economy.”
The trip was Mr. Obama’s third out of Washington in as many weeks to press for passage of the payroll tax break, which would reduce the how much employees pay for Social Security to 3.1 percent from the already reduced level of 4.2 percent. Under the Democratic proposal, which Republicans have blocked, the cut that would go to most working Americans would be offset in the budget by a 1. 9 percent surtax on those with modified adjusted gross incomes of more than $1 million.Cheap moncler women vest for sale, buy 2011 new style women moncler vest. If Congress takes no action, the tax will revert back to 6.2 percent next month.
In Washington, the two parties remained at an impasse in their efforts to write legislation to extend the tax cut, with Senate Republicans rejecting the latest Democratic proposal and House Republicans still writing their own plan.
Though the earlier speeches on the payroll tax took place in swing states, the fact that the president brought the message to one of the most reliably Republican states in the country shows that he and his party are increasingly confident that they have found a message that resonates with voters.
This speech, however, was cast in broad historical terms, with Mr. Obama declaring that that after a century of struggle to build it, the middle class has been steadily eroded, even before the current economic turmoil, by Republican policies intended to reduce the size and scope of government — ranging from tax cuts for the wealthy to deregulation of Wall Street.
“Fewer and fewer of the folks who contributed to the success of our economy actually benefited from that success,” he said. “Those at the very top grew wealthier from their incomes and investments than ever before. But everyone else struggled with costs that were growing and paychecks that weren’t — and too many families found themselves racking up more and more debt.”
Mr. Obama sought to pre-empt a Republican response that he was engaging in class warfare. “This isn’t about class warfare,” he said. “This is about the nation’s welfare.”
The visit was unusual for its setting in a state that he lost decisively despite his own family roots — his mother was born in Kansas. The vast majority of his visits as president have been to swing states like Pennsylvania that are expected to play an important role in next year’s election. (Kansas does share a media market with Missouri, which Mr. Obama narrowly lost in 2008.)
But it was here, 101 years ago, that Theodore Roosevelt laid the intellectual framework for his unsuccessful bid for a third term after leaving the Republican party. That speech, which Mr. Obama referred to repeatedly, touched on many of the same themes — often in similar language — like concentration of wealth and the need for government to ensure a level playing field. Central to progress, Mr. Roosevelt said, was the conflict between “the men who possess more than they have earned and the men who have earned more than they possess.”
Mr. Obama, to laughter from those familiar with attacks against him,Women - moncler jackets noted: “For this, Roosevelt was called a radical, he was called a socialist, even a communist.”
After the speech, one woman in the audience, Debra Harrison said the president put voice to her concerns about this community, which has been eroded by job losses and depopulation.