Speaking in Cleveland, President Barack Obama offered more details of his plan to get the nation's economic recovery back in gear. Facing polling data that shows his Democratic party may lose one or both houses of Congress in November's midterm elections, the president emphasized that his administration understands the pain and hardship that continued high unemployment is causing.
"I don't believe we can have a strong and growing economy without a strong and growing middle class," Obama said during opening remarks Wednesday at the western campus of Cuyahoga Community College in the northeast Ohio suburb of Parma.
Obama laid out the bones of his proposal Monday in Milwaukee earlier this week. Speaking at a Labor Day rally in Wisconsin's largest city, the president's described a six-year plan to dedicate an additional $50 billion to infrastructure spending for roads and bridges; make permanent a $100 billion research-and-development tax credit; and create a $200 billion program to convince American companies to buy more equipment and make other capital improvements in the next two years.
In his Cleveland speech, Obama laid out more specifics about the plan. Obama also repeated his opposition to extending Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, adding to his populist message.
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The stakes are high for Obama -- perhaps in no place more so than Ohio. A crucial swing state, Ohio's unemployment rate, at 10.3% in July, is higher than the national jobless rate of 9.6% recorded in August. By contrast, Wisconsin's July unemployment rate stood at 7.8%, according to the state labor department.
Ohio is also home turf to one of the president's most vocal critics, House Minority Leader John Boehner. In comments Wednesday on ABC's Good Morning America, the ranking Republican offered what he said was a bipartisan approach, including a freeze on government spending at 2008 levels and an extension of the Bush tax cuts for two years.
"The American people are asking the question, 'Where are the jobs?'" said Boehner, likely referencing the stimulus plan Obama signed into law in early 2008 that was expected to keep unemployment from creeping above 8%. The nation's jobless rate has stayed stubbornly near 10% for the last 16 months.
Stimulus Would Be Paid for By Taxing Energy Industry
While Obama's $200 billion plan has brought cheers of support from many of his fellow Democrats, others, including Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) have criticized the method by which the program would be funded -- through taxes on the oil and gas industry. That would unduly affect working families in the Gulf Coast region, said Landrieu spokesman Aaron Saunders.
"Sen. Landrieu fully supports getting America's economy back on track but feels that it should not be done at the expense of the Gulf Coast," Saunders said.
Obama is to follow up his Cleveland speech with a rare White House press conference Friday, as the president continues to make the case that he is focused on getting the economy back on track.
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