Obama: Bush policies hurt middle class, new policies help Main St.

President Obama used his Labor Day weekend radio address to defend his economic record and vow to “keep fighting” for the country’s middle class.

At the end of a long week which saw the national unemployment rate uptick from 9.5 percent to 9.6 percent and Obama come under criticism for calling this summer “Recovery Summer,” the president said he remained focused on the economy.

But Obama first reminded listeners of the recession he inherited from Republican President George W. Bush in January 2009.

“For a decade, middle class families felt the sting of stagnant incomes and declining economic security. Companies were rewarded with tax breaks for creating jobs overseas. Wall Street firms turned huge profits by taking, in some cases, reckless risks and cutting corners. All of this came at the expense of working Americans, who were fighting harder and harder just to stay afloat – often borrowing against inflated home values to pay their bills. Ultimately, the house of cards collapsed,” Obama said.

“So this Labor Day, we should recommit ourselves to our time-honored values and to this fundamental truth: to heal our economy, we need more than a healthy stock market; we need bustling main streets and a growing, thriving middle class. That’s why I will keep working day-by-day to restore opportunity, economic security, and that basic American Dream for our families and future generations.”

Statistics released by the Labor Department on Friday showed 67,000 new jobs were added in August — more than expected — but the nation saw a net loss of 54,000 jobs. Republicans jumped on the news to issue blistering press releases critical of Obama’s economic record. The GOP holds an edge in numerous congressional races this fall and hopes to recapture the House and perhaps the Senate.

Still, Obama announced Friday he would be pursuing a broad package of more stimulus measures in Congress, with details to be announced next week. The president is reportedly considering a permanent extension of a research and development tax break, as well as a payroll tax holiday. Obama also wants to dislodge a bill to boost small businesses that has been stuck in the Senate. The president’s address on Saturday didn’t offer any more specifics on the new proposals.

The administration has dubbed this summer as “Recovery Summer,” since a large portion of projects funded by the 2009 stimulus plan were being started. But the economy has continued to lag, and unemployment numbers continue to creep closer to 10 percent.

Asked on Friday if he regretted using the nickname, Obama said he did not — a theme he repeated in Saturday’s address.

“The steps we have taken to date have stopped the bleeding: investments in roads and bridges and high-speed railroads that will lead to hundreds of thousands of jobs in the private sector; emergency steps to prevent the layoffs of hundreds of thousands of teachers and firefighters and police officers; and tax cuts and loans for small business owners who create most of the jobs in America,” Obama said.

The president also stressed on Saturday what he has stopped, pointing to banks that used to receive subsidies in student loan programs and insurance companies that used to have the power to deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions until this year’s passage of healthcare reform. Obama also pointed to taxes that have dropped for most Americans under his watch.

“This Labor Day, we are reminded that we didn’t become the most prosperous country in the world by rewarding greed and recklessness. We did it by rewarding hard work and responsibility,” Obama said. “We did it by recognizing that we rise or we fall together as one nation – one people – all of us vested in one another. That is how we have succeeded in the past. And that is how we will not only rebuild this economy, but rebuild it stronger than ever before.”

Polls show many Americans are still reluctant to give Obama any quarter — a CNN/Opinion Research poll released Friday found approval for his economic policies at a new low. Fifty-nine percent of respondents disapproved of his handling of the economy, compared to 40 percent who approved.