Today President Obama will travel to the same site where Theodore Roosevelt summoned the nation to a new progressive era where he will deliver remarks urging Congress to act on the payroll tax cut and outline his vision for the middle class going forward.
"The president is going to lay out clearly his sense of what's required to have an economy that will ensure more middle class security, where everyone gets a fair share and a fair shake," a senior administration official said. "The policy choices we're going to have to make to get there … I do think that's going to animate, not just the political debate next year, but the debate in the country."
The president will travel to the small town of Osawatomie, Kan., the same place where Roosevelt outlined his vision for a "New Nationalism" over a century ago.
The choice of location was no accident, and the White House has spent a month focusing on the event. Obama's advisors read Roosevelt's speech word for word and said it was eerie how much of it still applies today.
"There's a tremendous amount of parallel between that moment in time and the economy and how middle working class families felt and where we are right now," a senior administration official said.
In his speech Roosevelt, faced with a growing disparity between the rich and poor, highlighted the responsibility of the wealthy to help those at the bottom of society.
President Obama will likely apply this message directly to the fight over the payroll tax cut. Throughout the debate over the tax holiday extension, Obama has crafted an image of Republicans putting the interests of the wealthy ahead of those of the middle class.
While some Republicans in Congress have signaled support for the extension, they continue to oppose a tax on the wealthiest Americans to pay for it. Failure to extend the tax cut, according to the White House, will increase taxes on 160 million Americans.
"I know many Republicans have sworn an oath never to raise taxes as long as they live. How could it be that the only time there's a catch is when it comes to raising taxes on middle-class families?" Obama asked Monday.
According to an administration official "we have two very different competing views about … what the future of the country will look like. This speech will take this on."
"We're in this economic moment coming out of a severe financial crisis, almost slipped into a great depression, inequality's been rising … the middle class is getting squeezed. There's a sense that the same rules don't apply for the people working hard out there in America and the people at the top," the official said.
- Theodore Roosevelt
- President Obama