President Barack Obama this week released a plan for improving the economy, and declared the economy would be the highest priority in his second term.

The president vowed “to use every minute of the 1,276 days remaining in my term (to) make this country work for working Americans again.”

Obama offered a commonsense, moderate economic plan for needed infrastructure upgrades—new roads, bridges, airports; better education, including government-funded pre-school for children at 4 years old; an overhaul of the home mortgage system; tax reform; continued implementation of his health-care overhaul, and programs to rebuild deteriorating American cities while raising the minimum wage. The president also issued a much-needed and long overdue challenge to his Republican opponents.

“I am laying out my ideas to give the middle class a better shot. Now it’s time for you to lay out yours. If you’re willing to work with me to strengthen American manufacturing and rebuild this country’s infrastructure, let’s go…If you are serious about a balanced, long-term fiscal plan that replaces the mindless cuts currently in place, or tax reform that closes corporate loopholes and gives working families a better deal, I’m ready to work — but know that I will not accept deals that do not meet the test of strengthening the prospects or hard-working families.”

Some in the media have described the president’s speech as deeply partisan. But the president has to present a clear alternative vision for the economy and has to call out Republicans for their obstructionism and their support for policies that favor the rich.

But it will not be enough for the president to simply to lay out an economic vision and complain about the “gridlock, inaction or willful indifference,” of his opponents.

The American people need his leadership on the economy.

While the economy is slowly improving, it is still too high at 7.6 percent.

In a recent Gallup poll, 23 percent of the respondents said the economy is still the most important problem facing the country. In the poll, 19 percent said unemployment was the most important problem, followed by health care at 11 percent and various other issues at 10 percent. Blacks were the most likely to name unemployment and education as the most important problems facing the country.

The president must set the table for what the Associated Press reported will “likely be a bitter fight with congressional Republicans over the need this fall to again raise the U.S. government borrowing limit to pay its bills and to fend off deep spending cuts being written into an upcoming Republican budget proposal.”

The president should rally congressional Democrats, congressional Republicans willing to cooperate and average American voters to pressure Congress for a fair budget and job creation policies that will help the middle class and the poor.

(Reprinted from the Philadelphia Tribune.)


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