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Obama Economic Plan Focuses on Working Class

Sen. Barack Obama greets employees during a tour of the General Motors assembly plant in Janesville. Wis., on Wednesday. Obama outlined his plan for economic policy following the tour.
Scott Olson
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Sen. Barack Obama greets employees during a tour of the General Motors assembly plant in Janesville. Wis., on Wednesday. Obama outlined his plan for economic policy following the tour.

Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama used the backdrop of a General Motors plant in Janesville, Wis., to summarize his economic proposals on Wednesday. Wisconsin voters go to the polls on Tuesday.

For almost 100 years, Obama said, the GM plant in Janesville has produced not just profits for GM, but also prosperity for the wider community.

"The promise of Janesville has been the promise of America," Obama said. "Our prosperity can and must be the tide that lifts every boat."

Obama argued that shared prosperity has been jeopardized by corporate tax cuts, misguided trade deals and a failure of leadership in Washington.

"We have greater income disparity in this country than we've seen since the first year of the Great Depression," he said.

Speaking to a group of blue-collar workers, Obama consciously veered from his inspirational stump speech and tried to anchor lofty ideals to very specific policy proposals. Those include tax cuts of $500 per person, a plan to promote more affordable health care and a proposal to automatically enroll workers in retirement savings plans.

Obama also called for investing $60 billion over the next 10 years to fix bridges, highways and other infrastructure. He said the plan would generate up to 2 million new jobs, directly and indirectly. He planned to pay for the additional investment with money that's now being used to fund the war in Iraq.

"It's time to stop spending billions of dollars a week trying to put Iraq back together and start spending the money on putting America back together instead," Obama said.

Obama criticized his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton and likely Republican nominee John McCain in the same breath for voting in favor of the war.

Clinton's campaign fired back, saying both Obama's infrastructure proposal and a separate plan to encourage alternative energy jobs were ideas Clinton had raised months ago.

"I have solutions," Clinton said during a news conference. "The question today is does Sen. Obama."

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.