Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 30 September 2014

Obama ready to go over the top in Congress trench war

Dogfight: President Barack Obama

Delivering a speech at Knox College in Illinois last week, Obama vowed to spend the remainder of his term fighting against America's rapidly accelerating wealth-gap, which he branded "morally wrong".

"Even though our businesses are creating new jobs and have broken record profits, nearly all the income gains of the past 10 years have continued to flow to the top 1%," he said.

"The average CEO has gotten a raise of nearly 40% since 2009. The average American earns less than he, or she, did in 1999."

"When middle-class families have less to spend, businesses have fewer consumers," he added. "When wealth concentrates at the top, it can inflate unstable bubbles that threaten the economy."

Obama promised initiatives in a wide array of areas -- including education, mortgage assistance, job training and alternative energy technologies -- to bolster middle-class fortunes.

None of this is new. It was the type of rhetoric he used to vanquish Mitt Romney in 2012. And, during his initial efforts to right the sinking economy back in 2009, he used similar language to win passage of his $787bn (£511bn) economic stimulus package.

Buoyed by the years of forcing Obama and the Democrats to retreat and water-down reform efforts on things like healthcare and financial-sector reform, Republican leaders aren't exactly shaking in their boots.

They've made Obama buckle before -- and they're confident they can make him do so again.

But Obama has assured his supporters that he's not for blinking this time. His spin-doctors cast the Knox College speech as the start of an eight-week intensive effort to ramp up the president's new drive.

Obama spent just about all of his first term and the first six months of his second term trying to get Republicans to play nice.

Republicans, in classic Machiavellian form, began trying to bog down and derail Obama's initiatives from the day he entered the Oval Office.

Republican strategy has been to make sure that the economy isn't humming along too nicely by 2016, because that would all but guarantee that Obama's successor will be a Democrat.

Obama knows the sluggish economy is his Achilles' heel.

Having seen his roadshow first-hand in 2011 and again last month, people in Northern Ireland and the Republic have gotten a taste of Obama the famed orator.

As a political figurehead, he's hard not to like. Articulate, charming and charismatic, he delivers soundbites with the best of them.

And, although his campaign slogans of 'Hope' and 'Change' were overly hyped by supporters desperate for a dramatic course change from the George W Bush years, so far, he hasn't found a way to counter the legislative trench warfare that Republicans have waged against him.

Obama has now signaled that he's ready for a dogfight. He says he means business this time around. Only time will tell.

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