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Obama's 'grand bargain' twist: Let's focus on jobs, not the deficit

President Obama's 'grand bargain' offers Republicans corporate tax reform in exchange for GOP support for more public spending.

By Staff writer / July 30, 2013

President Obama speaks at the Amazon fulfillment center in Chattanooga, Tenn., on Tuesday. The president came to Chattanooga to give the first in a series of policy speeches on his proposals for private sector job growth and to strengthen the manufacturing sector.

Susan Walsh/AP

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President Obama laid down a challenge to Republicans Tuesday, saying the nation needs a “grand bargain” on jobs more than it needs a grand bargain to reduce federal deficits.

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“For much of the past two years, Washington has taken its eye off the ball when it comes to the middle class,” Mr. Obama said in a speech to workers in Chattanooga, Tenn. “What we need is a serious, steady, long-term American strategy that reverses the long erosion of middle-class security.”

Obama called for business-friendly reform of corporate taxes, matched by other job-creation measures from infrastructure spending to investing in community colleges.

His proposal comes with a political catch, however.

The president framed his bargain as trading something Republicans like (corporate tax reform) for something Democrats like (public investments that can help the middle class). But for Republicans who don’t like the details of Obama’s corporate tax proposal, it may not feel as if he’s throwing them much of a bone.

Rep. Paul Ryan (R) of Wisconsin, who chairs the House Budget Committee, was quick to weigh in with criticism after Obama finished his Tennessee speech.

“President Obama said he's interested in tax reform for corporations – but not for families or small businesses. Once again, the president is playing favorites,” he said in a commentary on the USA Today website.

Chairman Ryan also alleged that Obama “wants to funnel money to his green-energy cronies,” while hindering the creation of jobs elsewhere in the energy industry.

At the same time, the White House can legitimately claim that many of Obama’s ideas aren’t purely partisan, but garner some significant support from business leaders and policy experts from both political parties. 

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