Obama on Iowa Stump Says Strong Recovery Will Begin With Small Businesses
President Barack Obama, who told an audience in rural Iowa yesterday that the U.S. economy will come back “stronger than before,” plans to ask Congress next month for additional spending to create jobs and more long-term deficit reductions, an administration official said today.
Obama is expected to deliver a speech in early September in which he will propose a mix of tax cuts and infrastructure investment to boost the economy, said the official, who asked not to be named because plans for the speech haven’t been completed. He also plans to call for cutting long-term budgets by more than the $1.5 trillion a congressional “super- committee” has been charged with finding by late November, the official said.
Obama is on the final leg of a three-day Midwest bus tour as he seeks to regain the initiative on the economic debate that likely will dominate the 2012 campaign. Yesterday, in Iowa, he said he was confident that small businesses and farming communities can help economic recovery.
“I’m also convinced that comeback isn’t going to be driven by Washington,” Obama said at a forum on the rural economy at Northeast Community College in Peosta. “It is going to be driven by folks here in Iowa.”
Updated 2008 Themes
In Iowa, the state that helped propel his drive toward the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008, Obama used an updated version of some of the same themes that animated his earlier campaign.
Then, he cast himself as an outside agent of change running against Washington and relying on grassroots support. Now, Obama is calling on voters to join him in pressuring Congress, saying “politics of the short term” and “the refusal of a faction of Congress to put country ahead of party” are stalling measures to bolster growth.
“There’s nothing wrong with our country, although there is some problems with our politics,” Obama said yesterday. “I hope that I can count on you in the days ahead to lend your voice to this fight to strengthen our economy.”
In the days before the 2008 Iowa caucuses, Obama also sought to enlist Iowans, telling a crowd on Dec. 27, 2007, that “we can’t afford four more years of the same divisive food fight in Washington that’s about scoring political points instead of solving problems.”
The question now is whether Obama can recapture his earlier support at a time when his ability to deliver on economic promises is limited by budget concerns and his policies are under attack by Republicans.
Proposals for Congress
In Minnesota and Iowa, Obama outlined a menu of measures that he wants Congress to adopt, including a renewal of a payroll tax cut for workers, revamping the patent process, approving free-trade deals and setting up a so-called infrastructure bank to help fund construction projects such as road building.
Obama concludes his trip to the nation’s heartland today with two town hall meetings in his home state of Illinois where the unemployment rate is 9.2 percent. It’s the only state he’s visited this week where the jobless rate is higher than the 9.1 percent national average.
Yesterday, Obama traveled 216 miles across Iowa, his motorcade passing through back roads and stopping at various points along the way to talk with local residents, eat some ice cream, popcorn and pick up gifts for his daughters.
The Republican National Committee responded to Obama’s trip by releasing an ad, “Obama’s Debt-End Bus Tour,” that lists the jobs lost in Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois since he took office.
Criticism from Perry
The president also was the target of criticism from Texas Governor Rick Perry, who announced on Aug. 13 that he is running for the Republican presidential nomination.
“The president of the United States has conducted an experiment on the American economy for almost the last three years, and it has gone tragically wrong,” Perry said yesterday at a Republican fundraiser in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Perry said any move by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke to act on stimulus measures before the 2012 election would be “almost treasonous.”
Carney told reporters that the administration takes the Fed’s independence “quite seriously” and criticized Perry’s “threatening” language.
Obama plans to announce new economic proposals next month, though he continues to call for initiatives he previously proposed. “We could do even more if Congress is willing to get into the game,” he said.
The Senate is poised to take up patent reform once lawmakers return from their August recess, and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said they are waiting for Obama to submit the free-trade agreements.
“It is my hope that the president, who continues to refuse to send these agreements to Congress while simultaneously calling for Congress to act, will finally resolve this contradiction by sending the agreements immediately,” McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said in a statement.
After a summer spent mired in a bruising political battle with Republicans on raising the debt ceiling that created more uncertainty about the U.S. economy, Obama over the last two days has sought to reassure the American public. Standard & Poor’s first-ever downgrade of the U.S. credit rating, risks of a spillover effect from Europe’s debt crisis and volatility in global markets are drawing comparisons to the beginning of the 2008 financial crisis.
U.S. Credit Rating
Fitch Ratings yesterday affirmed its top AAA rating on U.S. Treasuries. Standard & Poor’s, another of the three major ratings companies, on Aug. 5 cut its rating on federal debt to AA+ from AAA. The yield on the benchmark 10-year note dropped 0.06 percentage point to 2.25 percent yesterday in New York, according to Bloomberg Bond Trader prices.
U.S. stocks fell for the first time in four days on concern that the European debt crisis may worsen and after the Commerce Department said housing starts fell last month. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index declined 1 percent to 1,192.76 in New York yesterday. The benchmark index had rallied 7.5 percent in the three previous sessions, its biggest jump since March 2009.
Concern about Europe’s crisis overshadowed a Federal Reserve report that industrial production in the U.S. climbed in July by 0.9 percent, the most this year and almost twice as fast as economists forecast.
Aid to Farmers
At the rural forum, Obama outlined proposals that the administration says will aid the economy in the farming regions outside the nation’s big cities.
Among them are expanded loan programs run by the Small Business Administration through a $1 billion investment fund aimed at luring private capital, job search and training services, and increased access to health care and technology. Money will come from existing programs and funding, according to a White House fact sheet.
The administration also announced that the Navy and the departments of Agriculture and Energy will invest as much as $510 million in a program aimed at producing biofuels for aircraft and ships. The plan, part of the administration’s energy strategy, will benefit rural areas, according to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
In Guttenberg, Iowa, yesterday, Obama met with five owners of small businesses and greeted local residents at Rausch’s Cafe.
Among the residents was Betty McVicker, 90, who said she is a registered Republican and didn’t vote for Obama in 2008. Still, she went to Rausch’s for a chance to meet him.
“He’s our president,” she said. “I’m thrilled to pieces.”
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