Rallying supporters at a campaign-style event in Florida, President Barack Obama stumped on Tuesday for the so-called "Buffett Rule," which seeks to hike taxes on the very rich and accused Republicans of "doubling down" on economic policies he blamed for the 2008 meltdown.
Obama acknowledged overseeing "the three toughest years in our lifetimes economically — worst financial crisis, worst economic crisis" but blamed the painful downturn on policies embraced by his predecessor, George W. Bush, and congressional Republicans then and now.
"In this country, prosperity has never trickled down from the wealthy few," he said, referring to the Republican-championed view that cutting taxes for the rich spurs investment, ultimately helping middle- and working-class Americans.
"Prosperity has always come from the bottom up, from a strong and growing middle class," he told a cheering crowd at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton.
On a Republican National Committee-organized conference call, Republican Representative Mario Diaz-Balart accused Obama of running from his record and from the sunny promise of the "hope and change" slogan that powered his history-making 2008 presidential campaign.
"It is very, very sad that the candidate of 'hope and change' has become the president of 'divide and deceit,'" said Diaz-Balart. Obama, speaking shortly after Rick Santorum dropped out of the race for the Republican presidential nomination, never named Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, or Ron Paul but said "some people who are running for a certain office right now who shall not be named, they're doubling down on these old, broken-down theories."
"They keep telling us that if we just weaken regulations that keep our air or our water clean, or protect our consumers, if we would just convert these investments that we're making through our government in education and research and health care, if we just turn those into tax cuts -- especially for the wealthy -- then somehow the economy is going to grow stronger," Obama said. "That's the theory. And here's the news: We tried this for eight years before I took office. We tried it. It's not like we didn't try it."
Romney's communications director, Gail Gitcho, accused the president of adopting an "Obama rule" that "says that we must tax American families and small business so that government can grow."
"American families and small businesses have already suffered enough," she said in a statement.
The White House had billed the rally, sandwiched among several political fundraisers, as an official policy event — a step Republicans pointed out put taxpayers on the hook for part of the bill for the tab. But Obama did not mention the "Buffett Rule" or its namesake, billionaire investor Warren Buffett, until 26 minutes into his speech. And even then, the proposal merely served to underscore Obama's overall election-year theme that his all-but-certain rival, Romney, favors the rich while the Democratic incumbent is fighting for the middle class.
"Warren Buffett is paying a lower tax rate than his secretary. Now that's wrong. That's not fair. And so we've got to choose which direction we want to go in," said Obama, who urged Floridians to pressure their lawmakers in Washington to support the measure. "Remind them who they work for. Tell them to do the right thing."