Obama Takes Aim at Boehner

President Obama's speech in Cleveland today was significant for a number of reasons. As Marc pointed out this morning, the president is rolling out a thesis statement of what economic policies he is for. The president defined his agenda in today's speech, calling for business tax cuts and beating back the idea of extending the Bush tax cuts for Americans who make over $250,000.

Obama's positive assertions about policy were more striking today because they were coupled with some of the most forceful criticisms of Republicans the president has offered recently in a widely televised appearance. Today, we saw a fired up Obama, in full campaign mode, drawing stark contrasts.

The arch villain in Obama's speech was John Boehner, the House minority leader who delivered his own speech on the economy in Cleveland two weeks ago. Obama took aim at the man who wants to be Speaker of the House repeatedly. Here are some excerpts in which he did.

On Boehner's speech in Cleveland:

A few weeks ago, the Republican leader of the House came here to Cleveland and offered his party's answer to our economic challenges.  Now, it would be one thing if he admitted his party's mistakes during the eight years they were in power, and was offering a credible new approach to solving our country's problems.

But that's not what happened.  There were no new policies from Mr. Boehner.  There were no new ideas.  There was just the same philosophy we already tried for the last decade - the same philosophy that led to this mess in the first place:  cut more taxes for millionaires and cut more rules for corporations.  

On opposition to the stimulus:

Mr. Boehner and the Republicans in Congress said no to these projects.  Fought them tooth and nail.  Though I should say that didn't stop a lot of them from showing up at the ribbon-cutting ceremonies and trying to take credit.  That's always a sight to see.

On the Bush tax cuts

But the Republican leader of the House doesn't want to stop there.  Make no mistake:  he and his party believe we should also give a permanent tax cut to the wealthiest two percent of Americans.  With all the other budgetary pressures we have - with all the Republicans' talk about wanting to shrink the deficit - they would have us borrow $700 billion over the next ten years to give a tax cut of about $100,000 to folks who are already millionaires.  These are among the only folks who saw their incomes rise when Republicans were in charge.  And these are folks who are less likely to spend the money, which is why economists don't think tax breaks for the wealthy would do much to boost the economy. 

So let me be clear to Mr. Boehner and everyone else:  we should not hold middle class tax cuts hostage any longer.  We are ready, this week, to give tax cuts to every American making $250,000 or less.  For any income over this amount, the tax rates would go back to what they were under President Clinton...

On small business tax cuts:

In fact, if the Republican leadership in Congress really wants to help small businesses, they'll stop using legislative maneuvers to block an up-or-down vote on a small business jobs bill that's before the Senate right now.  This is a bill that would do two things: cut taxes for small businesses and make loans more available for small businesses.  It is fully paid for, and it was written by Democrats and Republicans.  And yet, the other party continues to block this jobs bill - a delay that small business owners have said is actually leading them to put off hiring...

Look, I recognize that most of the Republicans in Congress have said no to just about every policy I've proposed since taking office.  And on some issues, I realize it's because there are genuine philosophical differences.  But on issues like this one, the only reason they're holding this up is politics, pure and simple...

On the federal deficit:

When these same Republicans - including Mr. Boehner - were in charge, the number of earmarks and pet projects went up, not down.  These same Republicans turned a record surplus that Bill Clinton left into a record deficit.  Just this year, these same Republicans voted against a bipartisan fiscal commission that they themselves proposed.  And when you ask them what programs they'd actually cut, they usually don't have an answer. 

Here's Boehner's response to President Obama's speech, in a statement issued by his office:

If the president is serious about finally focusing on jobs, a good start would be taking the advice of his recently departed budget director and freezing all tax rates, coupled with cutting federal spending to where it was before all the bailouts, government takeovers, and 'stimulus' spending sprees.