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December 13, 2011 > Obama sets campaign theme: Middle class at stake

Obama sets campaign theme: Middle class at stake

Submitted By AP Wire Service

OSAWATOMIE, Kansas (AP), Dec 07 - President Barack Obama delivered a sweeping indictment of economic inequality in the United States, laying out a theme that will shape his re-election campaign next year.

While Republicans are looking to keep Obama on the defensive over the weak U.S. economy, Obama has been attacking them for repeatedly refusing to allow tax increases on the wealthiest Americans as part of a plan to reduce the deficit.

Republicans, including presidential front-runners Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, argue that any tax increases would stifle job-creation and have accused Obama of pursuing class-warfare.

Obama's appearance Tuesday in the small midwestern town of Osawatomie, Kansas, came exactly four weeks before the Republicans hold their first nominating contest, the Iowa caucuses.

Recent polls show Gingrich, the former speaker of the House of Representatives, taking the lead. He is the latest in a series of candidates to challenge Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, who had been the presumed front-runner for most of the race.

The location of the speech had historic significance because it was where one of the most notable Republican presidents, Theodore Roosevelt, called for a ``square deal'' for regular Americans in 1910 after he left the White House.

Obama contrasted Roosevelt's efforts to break up monopolies and stop child labor to the views of today's Republicans who believe the government is too powerful.

``Their philosophy is simple: we are better off when everyone is left to fend for themselves and play by their own rules. Well, I'm here to say they are wrong.''

Republican National Committee spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski said the president was desperately trying new slogans and messages to see what sticks ``because he can't figure out how to sell his last three years of high unemployment and more debt.''

The president conceded that the country is in the midst of a consuming re-examination on his watch, prompting national movements against both government spending and an economy that many feel disproportionately favors the elite. Obama went on the offensive about income inequality, saying it distorts democracy and derails the American dream.

Responding to those who want to cut taxes and regulation in the belief success will trickle down, Obama said: ``Here's the problem: It doesn't work. It's never worked.''

Obama noted that Theodore Roosevelt was called a ``radical, a socialist, even a communist'' for putting forth ideas in his last campaign such as an eight-hour work day, a minimum wage for women, unemployment insurance and a progressive income tax.

Left unsaid: Roosevelt's Bull Moose campaign in 1912 failed to return him to the White House.

Obama attempted to sum up the pain and peril for a society where the middle class is struggling. But he also called for individual responsibility.

``In the end,'' he said, ``rebuilding this economy based on fair play, a fair shot and a fair share will require all of us to see the stake we have in each other's success.''

Obama also challenged the big banks that took bailouts from American taxpayers, pointing to ``a deficit of trust between Main Street and Wall Street.'' He said banks that were bailed out had an obligation to work to close that trust deficit and should be doing more to help remedy past mortgage abuses and assist middle-class taxpayers.

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