Politics push Obama to focus on economy

Politics push Obama to focus on economy

WASHINGTON - The Associated Press
Politics push Obama to focus on economy

As part of his ‘Middle Class Jobs and Opportunity Tour,’ US President Barack Obama speaks at a manufacturing facility in Baltimore in this May 17 photo.

Five months into President Barack Obama’s second term, allies and former top aides worry that his overarching goal of economic opportunity has been diminished, partly drowned out by controversies seized upon by Republicans in an effort to weaken him.

Absent major legislative victories, Obama’s second term has become a series of small actions overshadowed by a trio of recent troubles over the administration’s response to the attack in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans, the federal tax collection agency’s targeting of conservative groups and the Justice Department’s seizure of Associated Press phone records as part of a leak investigation.

Over the last two weeks, Obama has been trying to draw attention to his job-creation ideas with small events in Austin and, on May 17, in Baltimore.

Obama has called for more government spending on education, public works projects, and research and development and has proposed paying for it largely with higher taxes. But after letting one tax increase on the rich pass at the beginning of the year, Republicans have steadfastly refused any further tax hikes and have resisted Obama’s spending plans. The result has been a fruitless search, at least so far, for a “grand bargain” to trim the nation’s long-term debt.

In the face of Republican-led investigations in Congress and with some conservatives even suggesting impeachment proceedings against the president, some Obama advisers say that boldly elevating the economy would create a sharp contrast and emphasize their belief that Republicans are overplaying their hand. They note that as dissatisfaction with Washington has grown, Obama has continued to hold a substantial edge over the Republicans in Congress.

House Speaker John Boehner said that creating jobs is the top priority of Republicans, too, but “we’re also focused on holding this administration accountable” about what happened in Libya and with the IRS.

If Obama has a single long-term governing priority, it is a deep-seated belief that advances in technology and globalization have translated into a significant consumer benefits but have also eroded middle-class gains.