By Roberta Rampton
WASHINGTON, July 21 President Barack Obama
returns on Wednesday to an Illinois town that has been a
touchstone for his plan to rebuild America's manufacturing
sector, giving the first in a series of speeches that will set
the tone for his fiscal battles with Congress in the fall.
The White House said the address in Galesburg, Ill. will lay
out Obama's priorities in the face of a pair of expected fights
with Republicans over raising the government's debt limit and
the budget for the next fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.
"The President wants to talk about the issues that should be
at the core of that debate," senior Obama advisor Dan Pfeiffer
said in an email announcing the speech.
The speech signals Obama's plans to go on the offensive with
his jobs message this summer after months of defending his
administration, which has suffered recent setbacks in Congress
and been accused of abuses by civil libertarians as well as
Obama will introduce some new economic ideas this summer,
Pfeiffer said, although it was not clear what those would be.
Galesburg, a town of about 30,000 people, lost more than 900
jobs after Maytag, now owned by Whirlpool Corp,
announced in 2004 that it would shut down a refrigerator
Then-Senator Obama met with workers, and spoke about them at
the Democratic National Convention that year, when he first
turned heads as a potential future presidential candidate.
He also gave a commencement address at Knox College in
Galesburg in 2005 and mentioned the town's struggles in his
State of the Union speech in 2010.
A Knox College study of what happened to the Maytag workers
found that six years after the plant closed, the workers' median
household income had dropped by $10,000, and 40 percent of those
surveyed said they would never recover financially.
Most of them felt the "American Dream" was out of reach,
according to study results published in 2011 by the Galesburg
NEW IDEAS, FAMILIAR ARGUMENTS
Obama has often said jobs are his top priority, with
unemployment remaining stubbornly high above 7 percent.
But he has spent much of his second term battling
Republicans over other priorities such as gun control,
immigration reform, and the roll-out of his landmark 2010
healthcare restructuring law.
The Democratic president also has been put on the defensive
to explain government surveillance programs after a former U.S.
government contractor leaked information about phone and email
collection programs aimed at Americans as well as allies abroad.
His Galesburg address comes the week after the biggest
municipal bankruptcy filing in American history, in Detroit - a
former manufacturing powerhouse and the historic center of the
U.S. automotive industry.
Obama played a key role in helping to bail out the auto
sector in 2009, but the White House is now struggling to
determine how it can help Detroit get back on its feet
Obama, who will give a number of similar speeches this
summer, will present new ideas as well as some familiar
arguments to seek the upper hand in the economic debate in his
Galesburg address, Pfeiffer said.
He will give a second speech later on Wednesday at the
University of Central Missouri, which runs an "Innovation
Campus" to give accelerated training and internships to high
school students focused on science, math and engineering.
Obama's message will be bolstered by addresses in Washington
this week by senior adviser Valerie Jarrett and Gene Sperling,
head of the National Economic Council, Pfeiffer said.
"The President thinks Washington has largely taken its eye
off the ball on the most important issue facing the country,"
"Too many in Congress are trying to score political points,
re-fight old battles, and trump up phony scandals," he said.
Obama has pitched economic ideas in his second term,
including the development of a new network of manufacturing
hubs, an infrastructure jobs program, investments in education
and a hike in the minimum wage.
He has urged Congress to lower the corporate tax rate,
particularly for manufacturers, and raise taxes on the rich.
But his ideas have fallen flat in Congress, especially the
Republican-controlled House of Representatives.
Obama last visited Galesburg in 2011 during a bus tour of
the Midwest where he also focused on jobs. The campaign-style
tour came after that year's battle with Congress on spending and
the debt ceiling, which resulted in a cut to the long-term U.S.
credit rating and a hike in U.S. borrowing costs.