BOCA RATON – President Barack Obama spoke to 4,500 students, staff and invited guests at Florida Atlantic University amid a jam-packed itinerary of three big-ticket campaign stops during a visit to South Florida Tuesday.
A relaxed Obama, who appeared from behind a black curtain without a suit coat and with his sleeves rolled up to the elbows, talked on a number of topics – many student-related – during the half-hour address.
The president pushed his tax-the-rich “Buffett Plan” and urged the crowd to call or “tweet” their senators and urge them to vote in favor of the proposal when it comes up for a vote in the upper chamber on Sunday. The proposal seeks to tax those who earn more than $1 million annually at a 30 percent rate – “the same as the middle class,” the president said.
“In this country, prosperity has never trickled down from the wealthy. Prosperity has always come from the bottom up,” said Obama, whose address was often interrupted by loud applause. “And yet we keep on having the same argument with folks who don’t seem to understand how America was built.”
Lamenting that he is wrangling with Republicans about prospective budget cuts to reduce the deficit, Obama warned, “You can’t pay down a deficit by taking in $4 trillion less money. [The GOP] should show us specifically where they would make these cuts. Show me.”
He hearkened back to efforts by the George W. Bush Administration to boost the economy by “weakening regulations on clean air and clean water. We did this for eight years before I took office. We were told it would lead to prosperity. It didn’t.” He said it also resulted in the “slowest job growth in a half-century.”
“The future is uncertain” he said. “We have been through three difficult years where we have been economically on the line. The economy is recovering, but it is not where it should be. Too many of your friends and neighbors are looking for work, and too many are looking for security.”
Obama began the main part of his address by quoting a popular Republican president – Abraham Lincoln.
“He said that through our government, we stand together to do what we can’t do better ourselves.” For that reason, he said, the government has created a powerful military, built roads and railroads and provided public schools, and also contributes to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security – because it can do it better than individual people.
In a speech that often seemed tailored to a student audience, Obama said that by taxing those with hefty paychecks, student aid, computer labs and other educational tools and programs could be guaranteed.
He noted that many students attend FAU because they get financial aid.
“That is how I got my education,” said Obama, who also attended fundraisers in Palm Beach Gardens, Hollywood and Miami during his visit. “That is how Michelle got her education. My grandfather got his education through the GI Bill.”
Students reacted with a crescendo of applause when Obama raised his voice and swore that every child born in the United States can achieve the American dream by putting “blood, sweat and tears behind it. In America, we don’t give up. In America, we have a sense of common purpose.”
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