WASHINGTON — If President Barack Obama’s new focus on the economy sounds familiar, that’s because he’s done it before.
Since the first year of his presidency, Obama has been launching — and relaunching — initiatives on the economy. Some came with new policy proposals, others with catchy slogans.
Remember 2011’s “Winning the Future” campaign? Or the “We Can’t Wait” initiatives that followed later that year? Just a few months ago, Obama was headlining the “Middle Class Jobs and Opportunity Tour.”
So far there’s no slogan attached to the White House’s latest initiative, which kicks off Wednesday in Galesburg, Ill. The president’s advisers are billing his remarks as a major address on the economy, though no new initiatives are expected to be announced.
“I’m going to talk about where we need to go from here, how we need to put behind us the distractions and the phony debates and nonsense that somehow passes for politics these days, and get back to basics,” Obama said Monday as he addressed Organizing for Action, the nonprofit group backing his agenda.
Obama said Wednesday’s speech would kick off a months-long effort to refocus on the economy and start exploring “some big and bold ideas” — some he’s offered previously, and some new ones, too. Aides said those fresh policy proposals would come in a series of follow-up speeches planned through September, most of which will be narrowly targeted on issues like housing, retirement security and expanding access to education.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama’s repeated attempts to orient his public agenda on the economy should serve as a reminder that “the president has always been focused on these issues.”
“That doesn’t mean we don’t need to continue to remind people that improving the economic situation in America is the principle reason why our fellow citizens elect and send people to Washington,” Carney said.
But congressional Republicans, who continue to be a roadblock for many of the president’s economic proposals, dismissed the White House’s new public relations push as a retread of old ideas.
“We’ve seen this song and dance before,” said Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. “Whether it’s his health care law, his job-destroying energy policies, or the mountain of regulations piling up, it’s the president’s own policies that are responsible for this new normal of weak economic growth and high unemployment.”
Still, the timing of Obama’s latest economic initiative underscores the degree to which jobs and growth have been overshadowed in Washington since the president began his second term. That’s been driven in part by the White House, which has invested significant time on other areas of the president’s agenda, including the failed effort to enact stricter gun laws and the push for immigration reform, which succeeded in the Senate but faces an uncertain future in the House.