CHICAGO - Just around the corner from President Obama's Hyde Park home, Mitt Romney delivered an economic speech this afternoon that slammed the president's handling of the economy, accusing him of allowing regulators to "multiple like rabbits" that have, in turn, stifled Americans' economic freedom.
"Our status and our standing in the world are in peril because the source of our economic strength is threatened," Romney said, delivering a speech at the University of Chicago. "Over the last several decades, and particularly over the last three years, Washington has consistently encroached upon our freedom.
"The Obama administration's assault on our economic freedom is the principal reason why the recovery has been so tepid, and why it couldn't meet their projections, let alone our expectations," he said. "If we don't change course now, this assault on freedom could damage our economy and the well-being of American families for decades to come."
"Today, our freedom is never safe, because unelected, unaccountable regulators are always on the prowl," Romney continued. "And under President Obama, they are multiplying like proverbial rabbits. I mean the number of federal employees has grown by 140,000 under this president."
While Romney has laid out specifics of his own economic plan in the past, promising to shrink the government by eliminating costly programs or turning them over to the states, he fell short of such details today, speaking more generally about what he will do if he's elected to "restore economic freedom."
"I am running for president because I have the experience and the vision to get us out of this mess," he said. "I am offering a real choice and a very different beginning. I have a conservative economic plan that will deliver more jobs, less debt, and smaller government.
"My agenda takes America in the right direction," he said. "It preserves freedom. It encourages risk and innovation. It fosters competition. It allows Americans to pursue happiness as they choose, and will lead to greater opportunity."
Romney provided examples of areas in which he believes the United States has lagged in innovation under President Obama's leadership, drawing on the energy speech Obama delivered last week in Maryland.
"But now, of course, after spending three years attacking business, President Obama hopes to erase his record with a speech," Romney said. "In a recent address, he said that, 'We're all inventors. We are builders. We are makers of things. We are Thomas Edison. We are the Wright Brothers. We are Bill Gates. We are Steve Jobs.'
"The reality is that under President Obama's administration, these pioneers would have found it much, much more difficult, if not impossible, to innovate, invent and create."
Romney fielded a few questions after his speech, one in which a member of the audience asked how he'd address the issue of pricey student loans. Romney used the question as yet another opportunity to lambast the Democratic Party.
"I joke, and I don't mean to be flip with this but I, because I actually see truth in it, I don't see how a young American could vote for a, well could vote for a Democrat," Romney said. "I apologize for being so offensive in saying that but I catch your attention but I mean that, in the humor there is some truth there. I say that for this reason. That party is focused on providing more and more benefits to my generation and amounting trillion-dollar annual deficits my generation will never pay for.
"The interest on that debt is going to young people in America," he said. "Some have called it the greatest inner-generational transfer of wealth in the history of humankind. It's going on piece by piece. My party is consumed with getting federal spending down and creating economic growth … so we can balance our budget and stop putting these debts on you.
"These debts are not frightening to people my age because we'll be gone," Romney, 65, added. "They ought to be frightening to death to people your age who are concerned about your future."