Politics
President Barack Obama participates in a town hall meeting at Minnehaha Park in Minneapolis, June 26, 2014. (REUTERS/Larry Downing) President Barack Obama participates in a town hall meeting at Minnehaha Park in Minneapolis, June 26, 2014. (REUTERS/Larry Downing)  

Obama Pitches Big Government Populism On 2014 Campaign Trail

Photo of Neil Munro
Neil Munro
White House Correspondent

It’s campaign time again, so the President is selling his version of big government economic populism — a call for “Economic Patriotism.”

“We could do so much more if we just rallied around an economic patriotism, a sense that our job is to get things done as one nation and as one people,” he during a Tuesday speech in Washington.

The phrase “economic patriotism” evokes the 1930s emphasis on central economic planning by big-government supporters in Europe and the United States, such as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Free-market advocates and conservative populists, however, say the close cooperation of business and government is “crony capitalism” that enriches the wealthy and impoverishes the middle class.

After a gap of 20 months, Obama used the “economic patriotism” phrase in a June 27 speech in Minnesota, where he railed against companies that move work overseas to be performed by foreign workers. “We should try to rally around some economic patriotism that says we rise or fall as one nation and one people,” he told his audience in Minneapolis.

Before June 27, Obama used the term repeatedly during the 2012 election.

“If we rally around a new economic patriotism together, if we reclaim our values, we will rebuild this economy, we’ll strengthen the middle class,” he declared at an Oct. 5, 2012, speech in Northern Virginia.

“What we are rallying around is a new economic patriotism that is rooted in the core belief that built this country — the belief that the economy grows when we have a strong and thriving middle class and everybody who works hard has a shot,” he said in an Oct. 4 speech in Wisconsin.

Obama also coupled his 2012 “economic patriotism” pitch with flattery of American workers.

“I’m betting on American workers. I’m betting on American industry,” he said in Ohio on Sept. 26.

“I’m proud that I bet on America’s workers and American ingenuity and the American auto industry,” he said Nov. 1 in Boulder, Colo.

“I said, ‘Let’s bet on America’s workers.’ … Now GM is number one again,” he said Aug. 9 in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Obama’s economic patriotism term was also used as the title of a 2012 election pamphlet, “The New Economic Patriotism: A Plan For Jobs & Middle Class Security.” The document was aimed at white working-class voters, and includes priorities such as “Reviving American Manufacturing…. Energy Made in America…. Protecting Retirement Security.”

The 2012 document didn’t mention Obama’s top 2014 priority, which was passage of an immigration bill.

Obama announced June 30 that the immigration-boosting bill is dead for 2014, freeing him to revive his populist “economic patriotism” schtick.

“Economic patriotism would say that instead of protecting corporations that are shipping jobs overseas, let’s make sure they’re paying their fair share of taxes, let’s reward American workers and businesses that hire them… That would be something to celebrate on the 4th of July,” Obama said during his Tuesday speech in Georgetown.

“Economic patriotism says that instead of stacking the deck in the favor of folks just at the top, let’s harness the talents and ingenuity of every American and give every child access to quality education,” Obama said in his speech, which did not mention immigration.

“Economic patriotism says that instead of making it tougher for middle-class families to get ahead, let’s reward hard work for every American,” Obama said, only one day after lamenting the GOP’s refusal to pass the immigration bill that would have provided work permits for 4 million immigrants and guest-workers each year.

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