Republicans blasted President Barack Obama's economic speech at Northwestern University on Thursday, charging that his remarks merely sought to deflect criticism from his administration's many debacles and only promoted policies that have set Americans back on several fronts.
"The president can talk about an improving economy, but try telling that to those Americans who are suffering so much in the Obama economy," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. "What about the poor and middle-class who can’t find jobs or whose wages have barely budged during the Obama administration?"
Tennessee Rep. Diane Black reference the now-infamous question Ronald Reagan posed that carried him into the White House in 1980.
"When President Reagan asked Americans if they were better off now than before he took office, he did not have to answer the question for them," Black told Newsmax. "The reason President Obama has to try and convince Americans that they are better off under his policies is because Americans know otherwise.
"Our country continues to suffer from joblessness, stagnant wages, and while the president touts his economic recovery, Americans continue to show great anxiety about our country’s future," Black added. "Another speech will not change this. The president needs to show real leadership."
In his speech, President Obama argued that the American economy had improved during his six years in office. He said that the nation had made steady progress and blamed Republicans for rejecting steps said would help American families.
"These truths aren't incompatible," he said in a speech coming just four weeks before the congressional elections. "Our broader economy in the aggregate has come a long way, but the gains of recovery aren't yet broadly shared."
Obama defended policies ranging from bailing out the automobile industry to Obamacare — adding that his economic policies are on the ballot in November.
"I am not on the ballot this fall," the president said. "Michelle's pretty happy about that. But make no mistake: these policies are on the ballot. Every single one of them."
He charged the GOP with blocking such initiatives as increasing the minimum wage, refinancing student loans, and extending unemployment benefits — while pushing for bigger tax cuts for the wealthy.
"When push came to shove this year, and Republicans in Congress actually had to take a stand on policies that would help the middle class and working Americans — raising the minimum wage, enacting fair pay, refinancing student loans, extending insurance for the unemployed — the answer was 'no,' " Obama said.
"When nearly all the gains of the recovery have gone to the top 1 percent, when income inequality is at as high a rate as we've seen in decades. I find that hard to swallow."
Ignoring that the Republican-controlled House of Representatives has passed more than 40 economic proposals that have stalled in the Democratic-majority Senate, Obama charged that "a true opposition party should have the courage to lay out" its platform for improving the economy.
"If there were any credibility to the argument that says when those at the top do well, eventually everyone else will do well, it would have borne itself out by now," the president said.
Republicans responded quickly and decisively to President Obama's speech.
House Speaker John Boehner's office released his remarks two weeks ago to the American Enterprise Institute in Washington that included a program for "resetting" the American economy.
The agenda included repairing the tax code, cutting government spending, reforming the legal system, reining in regulation, and strengthening education.
"The president’s economic record is beyond dismal, and families and small businesses are literally paying the price," Kevin Smith, a Boehner spokesman, told Newsmax.
"Republicans are offering a different approach — and that’s why Speaker Boehner outlined his five-point plan for resetting America’s economic foundation.
"It’s also why House Republicans have passed more than 40 jobs bills, but they’ve been rejected by Harry Reid’s do-nothing Senate," Smith said.
South Dakota Sen. John Thune called Obama's speech "a familiar pivot back to jobs and the economy" and released data from a new report
by Republicans on the Senate Budget Committee that detailed "the true state of the Obama economy."
The document reported a $3,000 average yearly decline in household income — and included statistics showing that 9.6 million Americans remained jobless and that gas prices had risen 82 percent during Obama's years in the White House.
"Congressional Republicans have remained focused like a laser on passing legislation that would help the middle class by creating jobs, growing the economy, and increasing take-home pay," said Thune, chairman of the Senate Republican Conference. "Unfortunately, those solutions are stuck in the Democrat-controlled Senate."
McConnell accused Obama of "throwing a wet blanket over the economy with its focus on spending, borrowing, taxing and regulating — and those things clearly haven’t worked.
"What about Americans who work in industries that liberals in Washington don’t approve of, like coal?" the Kentucky senator asked. "Congress needs to pass legislation that helps create jobs instead of smothering economic opportunity."
Meanwhile, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus released the GOP's own agenda — "The Principles of American Renewal" — that he said would seek to unite the party on such issues as national defense, immigration, and conservative family issues.
"If the American people hire us, we'll be ready on day one," Priebus said at the George Washington University in Washington. "People know what we're against. I want to talk about the things we're for."
On immigration, Priebus called for stronger border security.
"We must fix our broken immigration system," he said. "We can't reward those who break the laws and punish those who lawfully wait in line."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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