President Obama says Washington has 'taken its eye off the ball'

McClatchy Washington BureauJuly 24, 2013 

President Obama used a trip to his homestate of Illinois to kick off what he says will be a series of speeches and appearances, arguing that Washington needs to refocus on the economy.

"With an endless parade of distractions, political posturing and phony scandals, Washington has taken its eye off the ball," Obama charged in an appearance at Knox College in Galesburg, Il. "And I am here to say this needs to stop. Short-term thinking and stale debates are not what this moment requires. Our focus must be on the basic economic issues that matter most to you -- the people we represent."

Obama used the speech at Knox -- the site of a major economic speech the then- U.S. senator delivered in 2005 -- to argue that while the U.S. under his watch has partially recovered from the "great recession" -- there's more work to be done.

"I'm here today to tell you what you already know – we’re not there yet," Obama said. He offered no specifics, but said it's time to think beyond the next crisis.

"The key is to break through the tendency in Washington to careen from crisis to crisis," he said. "What we need isn't a three-month plan or even a three-year plan, but a long-term American strategy based on a steady, persistent effort to reverse the forces that have conspired against the middle class for decades."

The speech comes months before he and congressional leaders are likely to tangle over raising the debt ceiling and Obama assailed Republicans in the speech, arguing that "over the last six months, this gridlock has gotten worse. And I didn't even think that was possible. "A growing number of Republican senators are trying to get things done, like an immigration bill that economists say will boost our economy by more than a trillion dollars," Obama said. " But a faction of Republicans in the House won’t even give that bill a vote, and gutted a farm bill that America's farmers and most vulnerable children depend on."

He warned against a repeat of the 2011 debt ceiling debacle, calling it a "fiasco that harmed a fragile recovery in 2011, and one we can’t afford to repeat."

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