Speaking to a crowd of about 3,500 adoring college students at Boca Raton’s Florida Atlantic University on Tuesday, President Barack Obama blasted Republican economic proposals and pushed a populist message of fairer taxation rates by which the wealthiest Americans pay the same rates as middle- and lower-income earners: no less than 30 percent. His proposal, outlined in the “Buffett Rule,” which goes before the Senate next week, challenged opponent Mitt Romney on his supposed turf — Romney regularly touts his experience in the private sector as something that makes him more qualified to lead the country in a time of economic uncertainty.
“This is the defining issue of our time,” Obama said. “This is a make-or-break moment for the middle class and everybody who’s aspiring to get into the middle class. And we’ve got two very different visions of our future.”
Drawing a sharp contrast between himself and Republicans and thus himself and Mitt Romney, he linked his opponent with the Bush tax cuts and the financial meltdown of 2008: “If we would just convert these investments that we’re making through our government in education and research and health care — if we just turned those into tax cuts, especially for the wealthy, then somehow the economy is going to grow stronger,” he said of Republican economic philosophy.
“And here’s the news,” he continued. “We tried this for eight years before I took office … At the beginning of the last decade, the wealthiest Americans got two huge tax cuts … We were told the same thing we’re being told now: this is going to lead to faster job growth. This is going to lead to greater prosperity for everybody. Guess what? It didn’t.”
The President connected with students by further differentiating himself from his rival — who paid 14 percent on his $21 million in 2010 — and by likening his college experience with their own.
“If you’re here at FAU because you got financial aid or a student loan, a scholarship — which by the way, was how I was able to help finance my college education — that’s how Michelle got her college education. That doesn’t just benefit you. It benefits whatever company might end up hiring you and profiting from your skills. If one of you goes on to become the next Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg, or one of you discovers the next medical breakthrough, think about all the people whose lives will be changed for the better. We made an investment in you; we’ll get a return on the investment.”
Judging by the crowd’s enthusiasm, his personal touches and oratory skills paid off. “I love his energy and how he relates to the people when he talks. We feel like he’s like us,” said Cierra Robinson, a senior majoring in Arts and Humanities. “He’s reminding people he’s their president.”
Sophomore Daniel Leno was similarly moved, especially when Obama spoke about paying for college. Identifying as an “independent,” although he comes from a family of Boston Democrats, Leno said he “definitely uses financial aid” and if he had to vote that day, “I’d vote for Obama.”
Photos by Ian Witlen:
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