BOCA RATON, Fla. - Against a backdrop of electrified young voters in a state critical to his re-election, President Obama today delivered a politically-charged argument for higher taxes on the wealthy in a push to galvanize his support among the middle class.
Obama's speech, billed as a policy address at Florida Atlantic University, doubled down on his economic case for a second term, which he explained favors boosting social programs that benefit the middle-income Americans in sharp contrast with Republicans' proposals to spur growth through upper-income tax cuts alone.
"Investments in things like education and research and health care, they haven't been made as some grand scheme to redistribute wealth from one group to another," Obama told a crowd inside a packed gymnasium. "This is not some socialist dream."
"They have been made by Democrats and Republicans for generations because they benefit all of us," he said, "and they lead to strong and durable economic growth."
Obama compared Republicans' budget plans to a "science experiment" that was tried and failed during the eight years before he took office.
"Some people who pedal these trickle-down theories including some members of Congress and some running for this office who shall go unnamed -" Obama said, alluding to Republican rival Mitt Romney.
"They have doubled down" he said.
The president also took Republicans to task, though careful to not name names, for backing steep spending cuts to reduce the deficit while not specifying the specifics of their plan.
"They should show us specifically where they'd make those cuts," Obama said. "So show me."
"They'll say, well, we've got to make these - all these drastic cuts because our deficit is too high," he added. "Our deficit is too high. And their argument might actually have a shred of credibility to it if you didn't find out that they wanted to spend $4.6 trillion on lower tax rates."
Obama said his proposed Buffett Rule - to ensure that millionaires and billionaires pay a minimum effective tax rate of 30 percent on their income - could underwrite continued "investments" he wants to make, netting an average $150,000 in new revenue per millionaire or billionaire. He called the Rule is a matter of fairness.
"So let me ask you: What's the better way to make our economy stronger? Do we give another $50,000 in tax breaks to every millionaire and billionaire in the country? Or should we make investments in education and research and health care and our veterans?" Obama said, framing the debate.
Legislative versions of the Buffett Rule are expected to come up for a vote in the next few weeks when Democrats hope to put all members of Congress on record ahead of the general election campaign.
"I want you to call your member of Congress, I want you to write them an email, I want you to tweet them," Obama said. "Remind them who they work for. Tell them to do the right thing."
The measure is not expected to pass the House or the Senate.
Republicans say Obama's campaign around the Rule - which has included at least 20 events to promote it - is purely political class warfare.
"The fact is that President Obama has no plan to fix the economy, except to raise taxes on Americans with gimmicks like the Buffett Tax," said Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus.
Republicans note that Obama's own justification for the rule has shifted somewhat after outside experts have determined that it will have a relatively limited impact on the deficit and no impact on boosting job growth.
"Four years ago, President Obama came to Florida running on 'Hope and Change' and it's clear now that that was just all an act," Priebus said. "The president didn't change Washington, and he put in place policies that hurt our economic recovery. So with no record to run on he's back in Florida campaigning on fear, division and class warfare. Well, I don't think we're going to be fooled again."