Obama Takes on GOP Agenda in Labor Day Speech

Posted September 6, 2010 at 2:54pm

President Barack Obama pummeled the Republican agenda and called out House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) in his Labor Day speech Monday.

In embarking on his pre-election blitz on the economy, Obama said Republicans’ “slogan is ‘No, we can’t.’ No, no, no, no.”

“I personally think ‘Yes, we can’ is more inspiring than ‘No, we can’t,'” he said, reviving the marquee slogan of his 2008 presidential campaign.

Obama criticized Boehner, whom he never mentioned by name but referred to as “the man who thinks he’s going to be Speaker,” for GOP opposition to providing funds to prevent layoffs among teachers, nurses, police officers and firefighters. Obama said the Ohio Republican dismissed them as government jobs not worth saving.

“I don’t know about you, but I think those jobs are worth saving,” the president said. Congress cleared the legislation last month.

“These are the folks whose policies helped devastate our middle class and drive our economy into a ditch. … And then they got the nerve to ask for the keys back. I don’t want to give them the keys back. They don’t know how to drive,” Obama said of Republicans, using a familiar Democratic theme from the Congressional midterm campaigns this year.

“It would be one thing, Milwaukee, if Republicans in Washington had new ideas. … That’s not what they’re doing,” he said, adding that the GOP plans a return to its agenda from before the 2008 presidential election.

Obama also used his speech to introduce the first element of his new recovery plan: a $50 billion up-front investment to build roads, railways and runways, as well as a long-term infrastructure spending plan.

In making the announcement, he applauded Democratic initiatives to stabilize the economy but said the effort isn’t over. “Nearly one in five construction workers are unemployed. One in five,” he said. “Nobody’s been hit harder than construction workers. … It doesn’t do anybody any good when so many hard-working Americans have been idled for months, even years, at a time when there is so much of America that needs rebuilding.”

Obama was making his second appearance at the Milwaukee Laborfest, sponsored by the Milwaukee Area Labor Council, which is a member of the AFL-CIO, and affiliate unions. He also spoke at the event in 2008.

Appearing with Obama were AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) and Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.).