In a speech that some describe as an outline of his 2012 election campaign, President Barack Obama crtiticized Republicans for ignoring the middle class in favor of millionaire fat cats and called for all Americans to contribute "their fair share" to economic recovery. [See 12 ways to thrive in a stagnant economy.]
Adopting the populist tone of Theodore Roosevelt, Obama said the middle class is at a "make or break moment" during a speech today in Osawatomie, Kansas, where in 1910, Roosevelt called for a "new nationalism" that would end corporate greed.
"I'm here to reaffirm my deep conviction that we are greater together than we are on our own," he said. "I believe that this country succeeds when everyone gets a fair shot, when everyone does their fair share, and when everyone plays by the same rules. Those aren't Democratic or Republican values, one percent values or 99 percent values." [See how Obama can survive a 2012 recession.]
Obama criticized a "crowd in Washington" who stands by the idea that the market can operate without regulation and blamed Republicans in Congress for not confirming a consumer watchdog, Richard Cordray, to protect the American public's interests. He also said he'd veto any effort to "delay, defund or dismantle" banking regulations that have been put in place.
Obama blamed the Bush Tax for creating loopholes to help the super rich while hurting the middle class.
"Congress passed two of the most expensive tax cuts for the wealthy in history, and what did that get us? The slowest job growth in half a century," he said. "We cannot return to this brand of your-on-your-own economics if we're serious about rebuilding the middle class in this country."
While the speech did not focus on many pieces of specific legislation, the president did reaffirm his commitment to renewing the payroll tax, which is set to expire at the end of this year and would lead to an average $1,000 increase in taxes for 160 million Americans.[Read the U.S. News debate: Should the payroll tax cut be extended?]
Obama expressed concern that Americans today are facing an "eroding" American Dream.
"When people are slipping out of the middle class; it drags down the entire economy, from top to bottom," he said.