Obama Attacks Boehner In Economic Speech

You've probably heard a lot about the car Democrats say Republicans drove into a ditch. That's the president's metaphor for the GOP's economic policies. In Cleveland on Wednesday, President Obama laid out the Democrats' economic message for the fall.

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President Obama's speech in Ohio today was billed as an economic address, but it was more partisan than most speeches he's given as president. It comes amid an avalanche of reports suggesting Republicans could be poised to take back one or both houses of Congress.

NPR White House correspondent Ari Shapiro reports from Cleveland.

ARI SHAPIRO: These economic speeches often include President Obama's vision of America's future. In Ohio today, the president reached into his own past. He said his vision of this country is rooted in his family's story.

President BARACK OBAMA: You see, Michelle and I are where we are today because even though our families didn't have much, they worked tirelessly - without complaint - so that we might have a better life.

SHAPIRO: He talked about his grandparents and his single mother who put herself through school. Then he shifted tone. Many Americans may not have heard of Congressman John Boehner, but President Obama wants you to think of the House minority leader as the Democrats' arch-nemesis. He could become leader of the House depending on what happens in November. Mr. Obama mentioned Boehner by name eight times today, framing him as a sort of Republican boogeyman.

And Boehner hit back. On "Good Morning America," he said President Obama is killing jobs by rolling back tax cuts for the wealthiest two percent of Americans.

Representative JOHN BOEHNER (Republican, Ohio; House Minority Leader): You can't have a stronger economy if you're raising taxes on the very people you expect to invest in our economy and to begin hiring people again.

SHAPIRO: In Boehner's home state, President Obama mocked that logic.

Pres. OBAMA: With all the other budgetary pressures we have, with all the Republicans' talk about wanting to shrink the deficit, they would have us borrow $700 billion over the next 10 years to give a tax cut of about a hundred thousand dollars each to folks who are already millionaires.

SHAPIRO: Mr. Obama accused Republicans of putting politics ahead of the country's well-being.

Pres. OBAMA: They're making the same calculation they made just before my inauguration: If I fail, they win. Well, they might think that this will get them to where they want to go in November, but it won't get our country going where it needs to go in the long run.

(Soundbite of applause)

SHAPIRO: The president listed the steps his administration has taken to try to improve the economy in the last two years, and he described more that he wants to do.

Pres. OBAMA: Instead of tax loopholes that incentivize investment in overseas jobs, I'm proposing a more generous, permanent extension of the tax credit that goes to companies for all the research and innovation they do right here in Ohio, right here in the United States of America.

(Soundbite of cheering)

SHAPIRO: Many Ohio voters say the results of these policies are not coming fast enough.

(Soundbite of chopping)

SHAPIRO: At Tony's family restaurant down the street from the community college where Mr. Obama spoke, the 99-cent breakfast is a huge draw, so is the bottomless coffee.

Ms. KIM BRASKIE-FORD(ph): I'm frantic because it's like I really want to find something to provide for my family.

SHAPIRO: Kim Braskie-Ford is having breakfast with her friend and her 16-month-old baby. Her husband is a manager at a shoe store. And for the last year, his paycheck has been keeping the family afloat.

Ms. BRASKIE-FORD: I've sent out, like, 20 resumes and applications a week and just being in that situation, like, I feel it. It's not like I'm just seeing it from the outside, like, I'm on the inside.

SHAPIRO: That makes it hard for her to identify with Congressman Boehner or President Obama. No matter what speeches they deliver or policies they propose, those men still have a job.

Ari Shapiro, NPR News, Cleveland, Ohio.

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