'Make-or-break' for middle class

US President Barack Obama 6 December 2011 President Barack Obama evoked the memory of a Republican icon in Tuesday's speech in Kansas

Barack Obama's campaign for re-election has just cranked up a notch.

The US president has gone to Kansas to make a big economic speech, saying this is a make or break moment for the American middle class and that the ongoing debate about tax is "the defining issue of our time".

It sets the stage for a 2012 battle between two very different economic visions.

Mr Obama said the battle would be about "reclaiming American values".

He has condemned his Republican opponents for what he called "you're on your own economics" and said that the trickle-down theory - that when the rich get richer so does everybody else - "has never worked".

His speech was thin on details of anything new but he said it was important "everyone gets a fair shot - plays by the same rules".

Mr Obama deliberately made the speech in Osawatomie, Kansas, to echo Teddy Roosevelt's call for a "New Nationalism" in 1910.

He said Roosevelt was the son of a wealthy family but knew the "free market was not a free licence to take whatever you can, where ever you can".

Roosevelt, Mr Obama said, broke up monopolies and set out policies that led to a progressive income tax and worker protection.

Wilderness worries

But it is a little odd that the White House wants comparisons to be made.

It is true: Roosevelt's was an important and memorable speech. He coined the phrase "a square deal", which still resonates today.

Theodore Roosevelt undated file picture Theodore Roosevelt advocated progressive social policies as president

It allowed Mr Obama to make the point he is not the first politician to be attacked in strong terms, acknowledging that Roosevelt was condemned at the time as "communistic" and "socialistic".

He did not mention it sparked a newspaper debate about whether Roosevelt was a maniac or merely ignorant.

But that is not what is odd about celebrating this speech. It set the ex-president on a noble path to eventual oblivion.

The Republican Roosevelt was one of the great presidents of the last century. But the speech was made after he had left office.

It marked his break with the Republican party and the beginning of his campaign for the presidency in 1912 as the Progressive Party candidate. He lost.

Mr Obama will not want to follow the Bull Moose into the wilderness but the historical references will pass most people by.

What he has done is attempt to frame the debate that will dominate next year: suggesting he is the defender of fairness for the middle class and casting his opponents as the champions of unfair privilege.

Mark Mardell Article written by Mark Mardell Mark Mardell Presenter, The World This Weekend

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  • rate this

    Comment number 357.

    (cont) And yet if you allow "democracy" to rule in prison, where the guards are only passive observers, what do you suppose the low IQ inmates (the majority) would vote into "law"? I mean after they would legalise "involuntary" sodomy, long showers, drugs and gambling?

    People with different abilities have different priorities and those can not be "equalised" any more than their abilities can.

  • rate this

    Comment number 356.

    #354 "...it has clearly eluded the bookshelf scanning of us both"

    Think about it. Such a theory would not even work in prison. Everyone has the same income, same opportunities, same restrictions, same diet, even the same sentence, same clothes, same possessions, same everything. IQ differences and other individual abilities and talents are "equalised" by the nature of the environment. (cont)

  • rate this

    Comment number 355.

    JClarkson @353
    "only human"

    CAN enjoy 'bluntness', care though when 'blue', ready to 'climb down'

    I'll proceed in good faith - apologies for ambiguities & impatience

    Low IQ, Average IQ, High IQ… and REAL world: mixed IQ

    If… IF EDUCATED… High IQs can share, with 'all who have ears': and we can 'carry' those less fortunate

    Equal Democracy, 'not exciting'… But the lives of the free?

  • rate this

    Comment number 354.

    JClarkson @350

    IF there IS a satisfactory statement of theory that adequately supports, or convincingly despatches, Income-Share Equality as the next (major & urgent) step in our APPROACH to Democracy, it has clearly eluded the bookshelf scanning of us both

    IF we wish to be constructive, need to think 'for ourselves' & 'for' others - for a humanity that with care might enjoy a wonderful future

  • rate this

    Comment number 353.

    (cont) Meh, BBC filters ate inter-meddling with the bluntness of my posts.

    Summary of deleted post: Low IQ democracy, is still low IQ. Equalised low IQ democracy is still a) low IQ, b) equalised and c) "democracy". Very exciting...

    "Are you under duress?"

    End of the year blues, maybe. We are all one year older and closer to death. Equally...


Comments 5 of 357



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