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Obama: Economic Fairness is 'The Defining Issue of Our Time'

President Barack Obama visits patrons at We B Smokin' bar-b-que on the outskirts of Osawatomie, Kansas, Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2011.
President Barack Obama visits patrons at We B Smokin' bar-b-que on the outskirts of Osawatomie, Kansas, Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2011.
Kent Klein

President Barack Obama says restoring America’s prosperity and economic fairness is the defining issue of our time. The president went to the Midwestern state of Kansas Tuesday to restate his economic goals.

In a nearly hour-long speech, President Obama stressed the importance of reforming the nation's economy to give middle class Americans what he called a “fair shot.” “This is a make-or-break moment for the middle class, and all those who are fighting to get into the middle class because at stake is whether this will be a country where working people can earn enough to raise a family, build a modest savings, own a home and secure their retirement," he said.

The president spoke in the small town of Osawatomie, Kansas, where President Theodore Roosevelt called for similar economic reforms in 1910.

Mr. Obama talked about finding ways to help middle class workers and restore fairness to America's economic system, points, analysts say, he will likely make again in his reelection campaign.

The president criticized Republicans in Congress for opposing greater regulation of financial markets and higher taxes on wealthy Americans.  He repeated calls for reforms in the nation’s economic system, although he offered few details about how he would implement them.

Mr. Obama also called for reform of the U.S. tax code, in which he said tax rates for the wealthiest citizens have dropped dramatically in recent decades. “A quarter of all millionaires now pay lower tax rates than millions of you, millions of middle class families.  Some billionaires have a tax rate as low as one percent.  One percent.  That is the height of unfairness," he said.

Mr. Obama noted that the average corporate chief executive officer earns about 110 times more than his or her workers.

The president again called on Congress to pass an extension of the payroll tax cut that is set to expire at the end of the month.  He also said regulation of Wall Street banks and financial institutions needs to be strengthened. “Does anybody here think that the problem that led to our financial crisis was too much oversight of mortgage lenders or debt collectors?  Of course not," he said.

Congressional Republicans say excessive government regulation is costly to businesses and keeps them from hiring more people.

In addition, Mr. Obama repeated his call for a greater emphasis on education, science, research and high-technology manufacturing.

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