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Obama tries to turn focus onto US economy

US President Barack Obama speaks at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, on July 22, 2013 in Washington, DC
US President Barack Obama speaks at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, on July 22, 2013 in Washington, DC. Obama hits the road this week to drum up support for his economic program, trying once again to focus debate onto efforts to restore middle class prosperi

US President Barack Obama hits the road this week to drum up support for his economic program, trying once again to focus debate onto efforts to restore middle class prosperity.

Stymied by hostile Republicans in Congress and faced with the danger of his Democratic Party losing control of the Senate in next year's mid-term elections, Obama has returned to the core of his domestic agenda.

"I've got a little over 1,200 days left in office," he said Monday, in a preview address to political allies in Washington.

"I'm going to spend every waking minute of every one of those days thinking about and then acting upon any good ideas out there that can help ordinary Americans succeed," he promised.

"The ground beneath our feet is a little firmer than it was, but we've got a long way to go before middle class families feel secure."

Last month, the International Monetary Fund warned that cuts imposed on US government funding had been "excessively rapid and ill-designed" and cut its annual US growth forecast for this year to a meager 1.75 percent.

The cuts were imposed when Obama failed to agree a budget deal with the bitterly divided Congress. Republicans control the lower house, while Democrats hold a slender majority in the Senate.

But voters' economic woes will work against Obama's supporters ahead of the 2014 mid-terms.

The White House says this week's speeches in Illinois, Missouri and Florida will include new ideas to restart the economy and create jobs, as well as a defense of Obama initiatives that are already stalled in Congress.

"The ground beneath our feet is a little firmer than it was, but we've got a long way to go before middle class families feel secure," Obama said.

But Republicans are dismissive.

"Yes, on Wednesday, the president will deliver his umpteenth iteration of a speech the White House concedes he's been giving for eight years now," said Brendan Buck, spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner.

Now Obama wants to negotiate a new compromise to fund US spending before October, in order to head off the threat of a government shutdown that could further damage the already sluggish economic recovery.

The White House would like to replace the harsh austerity measures it says are harming the economy with a mixture of smaller spending cuts and tax rises on the wealthy, anathema to Republicans.

But the failure of the administration's recent attempt to toughen gun control legislation in the wake of a series of shooting massacres has shown up its weakness in the face of congressional opposition.

On Wednesday, Obama will give an address at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, and then at the University of Central Missouri. On Thursday he heads to Florida where he will give a speech at the Jacksonville Port Authority.