Topeka — President Barack Obama is bringing his economic message to Republican-rich Kansas on Tuesday to “talk about how he sees this as a make-or-break moment for the middle class and all those working to join it,” the White House announced Saturday.
Obama has picked the small town of Osawatomie, about 55 miles southeast of Lawrence, where in 1910 President Theodore Roosevelt delivered an historic speech that called for progressive policies to protect human welfare and guarantee social justice.
In a press release, the White House noted Roosevelt’s “New Nationalism” address, in which the 26th president said, “The object of government is the welfare of the people. The material progress and prosperity of a nation are desirable chiefly so long as they lead to the moral and material welfare of all good citizens.”
On Tuesday, Obama will “lay out the choice we face between a country in which too few do well while too many struggle to get by, and one where we’re all in it together — where everyone engages in fair play, everyone does their fair share, and everyone gets a fair shot,” the White House statement said.
Obama, a Democrat, and Republicans in Congress have been at odds over ways to improve the economy.
Obama wants to extend the payroll tax holiday that is set to expire Dec. 31.
“Let your members of Congress know where you stand,” Obama said Saturday in his weekly radio and Internet address. “Tell them not to vote to raise taxes on working Americans during the holidays. Tell them to put country before party. Put money back in the pockets of working Americans. Pass these tax cuts.”
A family with an income of $50,000 a year would pay $1,000 more in payroll taxes if Congress does not act by the end of this year to extend that reduction, The Associated Press reported.
Democrats want to expand the reduction in addition to extending it. Republican leaders say they’re committed to passing an extension, fearing political fallout if payroll taxes rise on Jan. 1 on 160 million wage-earners, but the GOP rank-and-file appears divided, with many Republican senators voting against an extension supported by their leadership this week.
There’s also disagreement about how — or whether — to pay for any extension, with Democrats favoring a new tax on millionaires and Republicans preferring to cut federal spending.
On Tuesday, Obama is scheduled to speak at 1:05 p.m. in the Osawatomie High School gymnasium at 12th Street and Trojan Drive.
The event is free and open to the public, but tickets will be required. Tickets will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis starting at noon today at the Osawatomie High School main lobby. One ticket per person will be distributed, and there is a limited number of tickets.
News of Obama’s visit prompted criticism from Republicans.
“In the last week, the number of Americans who gave up looking for work exceeds the combined populations of Overland Park and Kansas City, Kansas,” said Kansas Republican Party Chairwoman Amanda Adkins.
“Hardworking Kansans expect clarity on a path to job creation, competitiveness and effectiveness. It is being delivered through Gov. Sam Brownback’s Roadmap for Kansas, not empty promises made by President Obama,” she said.
Obama has Kansas connections. His mother and maternal grandparents were born in Kansas, and in 2009 he picked then-Gov. Kathleen Sebelius to serve as his secretary of Health and Human Services.