On the first day of a two day trip to three Midwestern states, President Obama delivered a message of hope for continuing economic recovery, while acknowledging hard times Americans still face. The president visited areas in Iowa on Tuesday hard hit by the U.S. economic recession as part of what is called the White House to Main Street tour.
Mr. Obama's first stop was a factory in Fort Madison, Iowa, a politically-important state he has visited before to urge support for things like health care reform, the biggest piece of his domestic agenda Congress approved earlier this year.
With that battle behind him, the president is attempting to strengthen support in areas hit hard by recession, for his recovery agenda and the financial reform bill now pending in Congress.
At the Siemens wind power factory, which manufactures large blades for electricity-producing wind turbines, the president said he knows times are still tough for middle class Americans, but made the case that his policies are creating the conditions for people to get ahead.
"That means making our schools more competitive and college more affordable. That means health insurance reform that gives families and businesses more choice, more competition, and more protection from the worst abuses of the insurance industry. That means common sense reforms that prevent the irresponsibility of a few on Wall Street from threatening the dreams of millions on Main Street. And that means igniting a new, clean energy economy that generates good jobs right here in America," he said.
Before the president arrived in Iowa, ahead of other stops on Wednesday in Illinois and Missouri, the White House issued a report by the president's Council of Economic Advisers, on the state of rural America.
It states, among other things, that people in rural parts of the United States face challenges such as education levels and health status failing to keep pace with Americans living in cities.
/// OPT /// Traveling with the president, Secretary of Agriculture and former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack said rural America faces a silent crisis, with substantially higher unemployment and poverty rates, population loss, and an aging workforce with fewer people with college educations. /// END OPT ///
Later at the Indian Hills Community College in Ottumwa, Iowa, President Obama returned to the town hall meeting format he has used across the country to underscore steps his administration has taken to expand economic opportunities for Americans.
He also sharply criticized Senate Republicans who for a second day voted against allowing a full debate on financial system reform legislation. "They won't even let it get on the floor, to be debated. It's one thing to oppose reform, but to oppose just even talking about reform in front of the American people and having a legitimate debate, that's not right," he said.
On Capitol Hill, the Republican and Democratic Senate leaders, Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid, traded more criticisms over the legislation.
"MCONNELL: This bill isn't ready. It falls short of our constituents demands to prevent future bailouts, and it is expected to hurt America's job creators at a time when we need jobs most.
REID: More than two years after the financial collapse that sparked a worldwide recession, Senate Republicans are claiming we are moving too fast. Too fast?"
In his town hall meeting in Iowa, the president warned of tough choices ahead in efforts to reduce the U.S. budget deficit, this on the day a new presidentially-appointed fiscal commission held its first meeting.
He also repeated his criticism of Arizona's controversial new immigration law which allows police to ask individuals for documents proving their legal status, calling it poorly-conceived.
And responding to questions from two students at the Ottumwa community college, he said his administration will continue to work to improve the U.S. education system, calling for more support for teachers but also efforts to hold them and schools accountable.