A year ago Thursday in Osawatomie, Kansas, President Barack Obama delivered a fiery defense of the middle class. It marked a turning point in the president’s economic argument — and helped him win reelection, despite historic economic headwinds.
“This is a make-or-break moment for the middle class,” Obama told the crowd, hundreds of whom had lined up overnight in frigid conditions.
The middle class faces another make-or-break moment in the intensifying fiscal showdown. If congressional Republicans deny tax relief for 98 percent of Americans to preserve a tax windfall for the top 2 percent, then the failed dogma of trickle-down economics has won again — despite being pummeled in the election last month.
Obama in that Kansas speech identified the middle class — not the moneyed “job creators”— as the real engine of economic growth. “When middle-class families can no longer afford to buy the goods and services that businesses are selling,” Obama said, “it drags down the entire economy, from top to bottom.”
From the seeds of that speech came Obama’s “middle-out economics,” an alternative to the supply-side thinking peddled by GOP nominee Mitt Romney. But the president’s campaign pledge of “an economy that grows from the middle out” wasn’t just good politics. It’s also good economics and good policy.