Sabrina Eaton, The Plain Dealer

PARMA, Ohio – President Barack Obama used a podium at Cuyahoga County Community College Wednesday to contrast his economic vision for the country with that of Republicans, particularly House GOP Leader John Boehner of Ohio, whom he accused of blocking progress for political purposes and striving to continue discredited policies that “led to this mess in the first place.”

While Obama’s speech alluded to policies he’d like to implement that might help restore jobs — like permanently extending a research and development tax credit, and allowing companies to immediately write off their capital investments instead of staggering them over different tax years — its main focus was political.

He accused Boehner and Republicans in Congress of blocking his plans to extend tax cuts for every American making $250,000 or less, of striving to preserve tax loopholes that encourage companies to ship jobs overseas, and of stalling programs that would aid small businesses and create jobs by building roads, railways and runways.

Republicans in Ohio and across the nation hope to gain enough congressional seats in upcoming elections to win control of the U.S. House of Representatives and make Boehner the next Speaker of the House.

“That’s the choice Ohio,” said Obama. “Do we return to the same failed policies that ran our economy into a ditch, or do we keep moving forward with policies that are slowly pulling us out? Do we settle for a slow decline, or do we reach for an America with a growing economy and a thriving middle class?”

The president used the phrase “middle class” 17 times in the 43-minute speech and stressed three major issues facing many families – unemployment, health care coverage and foreclosure.

The invitation-only audience of about 1,300 in the recreation center at Tri-C’s Western Campus included local and state politicians, those active in Obama’s presidential campaign and about 190 students hand-picked from Tri-C’s three campuses.

But an hour before the speech, at least 75 students were recruited from classrooms and hallways to fill vacant seats.

“Someone came into my English class and asked if we wanted to go to the speech,” said Jillian Fizer of Olmsted Falls after the event. “Only seven out of about 27 raised their hand. I was surprised.”

The supportive crowd clapped often and jumped to its feet with loud applause when Obama said, “You didn’t elect me to just read the polls and figure how to keep myself in office. You didn’t elect me to avoid big problems. You elected me to do what was right. And as long as I’m President, that’s exactly what I intend to do.”

Jill Foster, who had served in the Navy for five years and is a nursing student at Tri-C, whistled loudly as Obama left the stage.

“It was very enlightening and very inspiring,” said the Lakewood resident.

Her friend, Jean Griffin of Cleveland, president of the Tri-C Veterans Today Club, who recently retired after 37 years in the U.S. Air Force, agreed.

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Story Compliments Of the Plain Dealer

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