Obama rolls out new 2012 theme

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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The White House is highlighting a new theme for the 2012 election this week by holding a meeting with university leaders on Monday, giving a speech in Kansas on Tuesday and by lobbying to win a high-stakes Senate vote on Thursday.

President Barack Obama’s Kansas speech will show “his vision of an America where everyone engages in fair play, does their fair share and gets a fair shot,” Josh Earnest, Obama’s principal deputy press secretary, said in a Sunday press briefing.

The new slogan sidelines older themes, including “we can’t wait” and “pass this bill,” but it allows Obama to portray himself on the campaign trail as the progressive solution to the current economic paralysis.

The speech is to be delivered in Osawatomie, Kansas, because “just over one hundred years ago, President Teddy Roosevelt came to Osawatomie, Kansas and called for a New Nationalism, where everyone gets a fair chance, a square deal, and an equal opportunity to succeed,” said a Sunday White House press statement.

On Monday, the president will meet with university presidents to push for curbs on education costs.

University costs have risen dramatically over the last 20 years, and graduates owe more than $1 trillion in student loans. Many graduates lack either a job or a skill needed to pay back the loans, which can’t be discharged via bankruptcy.

However, leaks from industry insiders say the president will not try to cut fees by increasing competition. He is also not expected to threaten cuts to federal education subsidies, which have have driven up costs.

Instead, White House officials are expected to promise more federal subsidies for the education industry.

“Our administration has committed to a policy agenda to advance college access, affordability, and attainment, by increasing student financial aid and enhancing transparency around college affordability information,” according to an administration invitation sent to the university presidents. The invitation’s text was revealed in the industry newspaper, the Chronicle of Higher Education.

The Senate vote on Thursday will decide whether Richard Corday, a Democratic lawyer from Ohio, will be confirmed as the first head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

The agency was established in July 2010. Democrats say it is the regulatory cure to the regulations that had helped create the housing bubble that burst in 2007 and which helped cause the 2008 meltdown on Wall Street.

Cordray needs to be confirmed to ensure there’s level regulatory field between banks and various non-banks, such as pay-day lenders, debt-collectors and mortgage firms, said Brian Deese, the deputy director of the National Economic Council.

Roughly one-in-seven adults “are interacting with debt collectors at any given point of time… [and] without a directer, the CFPB does not have the capacity to provide full supervision,” Deese said Sunday.

Corday is opposed by many GOP senators. They fear the White House will use the agency to extend federal control over the financial sector, just as it is trying to extend federal control over other sectors, such as auto-manufacturing, energy, health care, mining and agriculture.

Cordray is also opposed because he volunteered his Ohio office to aid three Democratic-affiliated civil servants who snooped through confidential state databases in 2008. They were looking for damaging information about Joe Wurzelbacher, nicknamed “Joe the Plumber,” who challenged Obama during a campaign-trail event in Ohio in 2008.

To win Senate approval for Cordray, the administration is planning a media blitz against senators from seven states. The blitz will feature more than 30 state attorney generals, a presentation by Democratic mayors, a series of presidential interviews with local TV stations and the Tuesday speech, said Deese.

“It is clear the effort we’re putting forward reflects the priority that President Obama places” on Cordray’s appointment, said Earnest.

The Kansas speech is also intended to shape the public’s view of the president’s bid for re-election.

“He’ll lay out the choice we face between a country in which too few do well while too many struggle to get by, and one where we’re all in it together — where everyone engages in fair play, everyone does their fair share, and everyone gets a fair shot,” said the Sunday statement.

The new theme will also help Obama push for increased taxes. By giving the speech in Kansas, it portrays the president in the middle of the country, far from his strongest funders and his progressive supporters in California and New York.

The location will also distance him from growing public disgust at “crony capitalism,” which is exemplified by Washington’s support for the green-tech industry and Wall Street.

Numerous green-tech companies, such as the now-bankrupt Solyndra, have received large grants and loans from government, even though they’re creating few new jobs, and are often converting some of the donations into donors to Obama and his political allies.

Similarly, Wall Street has profited from its deals with Obama’s government. For example, big banks have made billions of dollars in interest revenue by by lending federal money to their customers, and by handling welfare checks for millions of new unemployed people. Other Wall Street firms have made profits by arranging loans taken out by city and state governments.

“The largest banks, including Bank of America, Citigroup and Wells Fargo, earned $34 billion in profit in the first half of the year, nearly matching what they earned in the same period in 2007 and more than in the same period of any other year,” according to a Nov. 6 survey by the Washington Post. “Securities firms — the trading arms of big banks and hundreds of other independent firms — have … generated at least $83 billion in profit during the past 2 1/2 years, compared with $77 billion during the entire Bush administration,” said the Post’s article.

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