In laying out details for his new economic stimulus program Wednesday, President Barack Obama regained his political swagger and ramped up his criticism of Republican leaders for failing to provide substantive policies that can help the nation's economic recovery regain momentum.
Speaking at a rally in suburban Cleveland, the president attacked the GOP -- chiefly House Minority Leader Boehner of Ohio -- for not owning up to mistakes they made during eight years under President George W. Bush, which led to record budget deficits and the nation's worst economic collapse since the Great Depression.
It would be one thing if Republicans had admitted to some mistakes and after some reflection had "come back and offered a credible new approach to solving our country's problems," Obama told a gathering of supporters at Cuyahoga Community College. "But that's not what happened."
Boehner and his fellow Republicans have offered no new policies or ideas, the president said. "There was just the same philosophy that they had tried during the decade they were in power."
Getting Back to Work
The president outlined several proposals to help put more Americans back to work. They include a six-year plan to spend an additional $50 billion on building roads and bridges; making permanent a $100 billion research-and-development tax credit; and creating a $200 billion program to convince American companies to buy more equipment and make other capital improvements in the next two years.
Obama framed his criticism of Republican ideals -- or lack of them -- in the context of November's midterm election, just six weeks away. Faced with growing unease among the electorate, Obama has little choice but to show that there is little reason for Americans to vote for Republican candidates and risk Democrats losing control of one or both houses of Congress.
A lot has changed since November 2008, when he was elected president, Obama said. "But what hasn't changed is the choice facing this country. It's still fear versus hope; the past versus the future. It's still a choice between sliding backward and moving forward," he said "That what this election is about. That 's the choice that you will face in November," the president said.
Obama also attacked GOP lawmakers for failing to back a measure that would eliminate a tax loophole that give employers a tax credit for creating jobs in other countries. "Instead of tax loopholes that incentivize investment in overseas job, I'm proposing a more generous permanent extension of the tax credit that goes to companies for all the research and innovation they do (in this country)."
He also proposed legislation that would allow companies to write off all business investment made in 2011. The provision would help small businesses upgrade plants and equipment and pull larger corporations "off the sidelines" and start putting profits to work in hard hit places, such as Cleveland and other Ohio cities, Obama said.
The provisions make common sense, "but not to Mr. Boehner and his allies," Obama said. Republicans for years have fought to keep the loopholes open, the president said. "I think if we're going to give tax breaks to companies they should go to companies that create jobs here in America not that create jobs overseas."
Tax Cuts for the Middle Class
Obama also made clear his opposition to a proposal to extend tax cuts for the wealthy. The country can't afford the $700 billion price tag that those tax cuts cost in lost tax revenue, he said. Boehner has proposed keeping the Bush-era tax cuts in place for another two years to give businesses more clarity on future tax rates.
The president did back keeping in place tax cuts on the middle class that were put in place at the start of his administration. "You deserve a break," the president told the crowd.
Obama also said his party wants to put more Americans to work rebuilding roads, runways and railways but has been thwarted in its effort by GOP opposition. Republicans, led by Boehner, said no to such projects -- "fought them tooth and nail," Obama said, adding that it didn't stop Republican politicians from showing up at ribbon cutting ceremonies, "trying to take credit."
There remains thousands of miles of road and rail that still need to be built, Obama said. Evidence shows that such infrastructure spending can help the nation remain competitive in the global economy. "There is no reason Europe or China should have the fastest trains or the most modern airports," he said. "We want to put America to work building them right here in America."
Obama also made clear he is willing to fight for his vision of America. "Our job isn't easy, but you didn't elect me to do what was easy," he said. "You elected me to do what was right."
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