President Obama said he related to middle class Americans “looking for a chance,” as he highlighted his administration’s efforts to retrain unemployed workers for new jobs.
Accusing his Republican rivals of trying to revive trickle-down economics instead of spending money on priorities to help the middle class, President Obama says those Republicans "don't seem to remember how America was built."
"I wasn't born with a silver spoon in my mouth. Michelle wasn't, either," the president said to a crowd of 400 students at Lorain County Community College in Elyria, Ohio. “But somebody gave us a chance. Just like these folks up here are looking for a chance.”
The Obama campaign has pushed wealth and economic fairness arguments against Mitt Romney, who would be one of the wealthiest presidents in history -- and that quote was quickly seen as a veiled reference to his GOP opponent this fall.
Amy Sancetta / AP
President Barack Obama reaches out to shake hands with Lorain County Community College student Bronson Harwood after speaking at the college Wednesday in Elyria, Ohio.
And as he criticized Republicans for opposing Democrats’ efforts to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans, he told the crowd that, like them, he doesn’t enjoy paying taxes, but unlike most Americans, he can afford to pay more.
“They want to give me more of a tax break,” he said of Republicans. “Now, I just paid taxes. It’s not like I love paying taxes. But I can afford it. I don't need another tax break."
Obama argued that tax cuts alone don't make the economy stronger and that GOP policies have been tried before and almost brought the “entire financial system” to a collapse.
“Take a look at what happened in Ohio between 2000 and 2008," Obama said. "It's not like we didn't try it. And instead of faster job growth, we had the slowest job growth in half a century.”
But the president also seemed on the defensive, acknowledging arguments against him -- from debt, deficits, and big-government spending. He asserted twice that investing in job training programs and cutting tax cuts for the wealthy did not amount to wealth redistribution, a common conservative criticism.
“Understand, this is not a redistribution argument," Obama said. "This is not about taking form rich people to give to poor people. This is about us together making investments in our country so everybody’s got a fair shot."
And, when arguing that government-subsidized community-college training programs were vehicles for economic growth, he said, “These investments are not part of some grand scheme to redistribute wealth, they’ve been made by Democrats and Republicans for generations, because they benefit all of us.”
Before he spoke, the president held a round table with four unemployed workers who are participating in the Lorain County Community College’s job training programs. He said those individuals represent the American notion that “we don't quit.”
“And so the question now is, how do we make sure that all of America is expressing that spirit through making sure that everybody is getting a fair shot?” he continued. “Because that’s going to be a major debate that we have not just for the next few months but the next few years.”
Following his speech, the president headed to the Cleveland airport en route to Michigan, where he was expected to give two evening campaign speeches and raise money.