President Obama used a Labor Day speech in Milwaukee to tout his administration's economic policies and progress, warning that Republicans would roll back gains if given a chance by the midterm election.
“I want everybody to understand — because you wouldn’t always know it from watching the news — by almost every measure, the American economy and American workers are better off than when I took office,” Obama said at the 55th annual Laborfest, where he first appeared as a candidate in 2008.
The president ticked off a list of accomplishments that he said reversed the country's fortunes, including businesses adding nearly 10 million jobs over 53 straight months, investing more in the U.S. energy and technology sectors, the controversial financial bailout of the auto industry, and the passage of the Affordable Care Act.
Obama ripped into Republicans, saying there are “some folks who wanted to place an even bigger bet on top-down economics, the kind of economics that helped cause the crisis in the first place” because they possess “blind faith that maybe prosperity would finally trickle down on the rest of us.”
But, he added, “I didn't run for president to double down on top-down economics. I ran for president because I believed in bottom-up economics. I believed in middle-out economics. I placed a bet on you," Obama said, and that bet “is starting to pay off.”
The president conceded that progress had been slow in the face of united GOP resistance, but “it was worth it.”
“Every gray hair is worth it,” the president said, referring to his own. “At least I still got some hair."
The president never mentioned Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, one Republican with a national profile, by name, though he did meet privately with Walker's Democratic opponent, Mary Burke, while at Laborfest. The two did not appear on stage together.
Obama emphasized his support for policies including a raise in the federal minimum wage and equal pay for women.
“I’m not asking for the moon. I just want a good deal for American workers,” he said to cheers from the crowd.
At one point the rowdy audience began to boo congressional Republicans for their opposition to the president’s agenda.
“Don’t boo, vote!” he shouted. “It’s too easy to boo — vote.”
Obama said he understood the audience’s frustration with Washington but urged them to be persistent because, “eventually Congress is going to hear you.”
“That’s how I got Michelle to marry me,” he added, prompting laughs from the audience. “I wore her down.”
The president closed by calling for “economic patriotism,” reminding the crowd that “we rise and fall together.” He noted, “cynicism is fashionable these days … hope’s a better choice.”
“America’s best days are still ahead. I believe it,” he said. “You need to believe it, too. Let’s get to work.”