CINCINNATI — President Obama used an impoverished Queen City neighborhood to contract his economic policies with those of soon-to-be Republican nominee Mitt Romney, accusing his opponent of latching onto failed policies of the past to benefit the rich at the expense of the middle class.
Taking microphone in hand in a town-hall setting, Mr. Obama in rolled-up shirt sleeves fielded questions dealing with everything from job creation and uniting a bitterly partisan Washington to what his favorite Girl Scouts cookie is. Surprisingly, his answer to the latter, thin mints, was among the most controversial among the already friendly crowd.
“That’s just me,” he told roughly 1,200 inside the Cincinnati Music Hall and about 400 more outside. “I didn’t mean to create controversy here. Somebody was booing.”
For one hour and four minutes, the Democratic president argued that his policies would better serve the 98 percent of individual Americans and 97 percent of small businesses while his opponent has focused on tax reductions, budget cuts, and repeals of regulation, including Mr. Obama’s signature health care reform law.
“The truth is we tried it for almost a decade, and it didn’t work,” he said. “The track record of their vision turned surpluses into deficits, ran two wars on credit cards, job growth that’s been as sluggish as it’s been in decades, average wages and incomes of working families that actually went down and culminated in this nasty crisis.”
Mr. Obama has called on Congress to extend the Bush era tax cuts affecting the middle class while allowing the cuts affecting family incomes over $250,000 to expire as scheduled at the end of the year. The administration estimates that this would keep taxes from climbing by $2,200 for a typical middle-class family of four.
Mr. Romney, however, countered that the plan would raise taxes on small businesses, discouraging job creation at a time when the economic recovery continues to struggle.
The president also kept up the rhetoric criticizing Mr. Romney’s proposals as encouraging outsourced American jobs overseas. He cited a report that Mr. Romney’s tax breaks would lead to the creation of 800,000 jobs outside the United States.
He never mentioned the private equity firm Mr. Romney once headed, Bain Capital, that has been accused of sending jobs abroad as part of its mission to turn around failing companies. Mr. Obama’s campaign has pointed to a Securities Exchange Commission filing that still listed Mr. Romney as head of private equity firm Bain Capital well after what he said was his departure in 1999.
Mr. Romney has argued that he was CEO in name only after that time, playing no role in decisions that might have resulted in jobs being outsourced off shore. He has demanded an apology from the president.
“Today, we have (a study by) non-partisan economics that says Gov. Romney’s economic plan would in fact create 800,000 jobs,” Mr. Obama said. “There’s only one problem. The jobs wouldn’t be in America. They’d be in other countries by eliminating taxes on corporations’ foreign income, Gov. Romney’s plans would actually encourage companies to shift more of their operations to foreign tax havens, creating 800,000 jobs in those other countries.
“Now, this shouldn’t be a surprise, because Gov. Romney’s experience has been in investing in corporate pioneers of the business of outsourcing,” he said. “Now he wants to give more tax breaks to companies that are shipping jobs overseas…
“I want everybody to understand, Ohio: I’ve got a different theory…,” Mr. Obama said. “I want to give tax breaks to companies that are investing right here in Ohio….”
Romney spokesman Ryan Williams, who was present at the Obama event, challenged the statement that the study was non-partisan, saying it was produced by a campaign donor.
“It’s an example of the president’s dishonest attacks,” he said. “Every day there’s a new dishonest attack that tries to distract from his failed policies on jobs and the economy. He cited a study today that was conducted by a campaign donor while dishonestly claiming it was a non-partisan study.”