LIBERTY, Mo. — Investments in the middle class at the depths of the recession are showing returns in steady private sector jobs and a hopeful economy, President Barack Obama said Friday at the Ford stamping plant in Liberty, Mo.
But the gains, he said, have not been shared in a "winner-take-all" economy that rewards the wealthiest disproportionately and leaves the middle class in stagnation.
"We're not yet where we need to be. The economy is growing, but it needs to grow faster" and develop better-paying jobs, Obama said. "We've got to make sure that workers are sharing in growth and productivity."
With that, he lashed familiarly at Republicans in Congress who were — as Obama hit the ground in Missouri — advancing legislation sure to invite a showdown with Obama and a possible government shutdown.
"The debate that's going on in Congress is not meeting the test of helping the middle class," the President said. "They're focused on politics. They've focused on messing with me. They're not focused on you."
And he attacked efforts on Capitol Hill to resist raising the federal debt limit, warning to not do so would make Americans "deadbeats" and "we could have another financial crisis."
Then, speaking to workers who put together pickup trucks, likened a refusal to raising the debt ceiling to blowing off monthly payments on an auto loan.
"You don't say 'I'm not going to pay my bill, my note, for my truck because I'm saving money,'" Obama said. "Once you bought the truck, you can't say you're saving money simply by not paying the bill. ... This is not a deadbeat nation. We don't run out on our tab."
Next he pushed the benefits he sees in his landmark political achievement, the Affordable Care Act. Known commonly as Obamacare, it's under fire from Republicans who earlier Friday passed a measure in the U.S. House that would strip dollars to implement the program from the federal budget.
Obama said the program is already pushing down insurance rates and the growth of health care costs.
In a campaign-style speech, he accused Republicans in Congress of tying their opposition to Obamacare, a budget resolution and the extension of the federal debt limit in a way that could damage the country's credit rating. And that, he contended, threatens to toss the American economy back into recession.
"They want to threaten default just to make sure tens of thousands of Americans don't have access to health care," the President said. "They're holding the whole country hostage."
The Ford plant where he spoke is expanding in response to increased demand for trucks, meaning more work shifts and thousands of new jobs. Obama was using that to symbolize a larger rebound of the U.S. auto industry. He helped orchestrate billions in federal loans to automakers — although Ford was not among the takers — when he took office at the depths of the recession.
Obama arrived in the Kansas City area as budget battles roiled in Washington. Republicans running the House moved Friday to strip the federal spending plan of the money needed to put the signature political achievement of the Obama presidency, health insurance overhaul, into action.
That tempted a showdown between the GOP-guided House, Democratic-controlled Senate and the White House as the calendar speeds toward Oct. 1 and the new budget year.
Without a compromise on a stopgap spending measure, a political standoff would shut down much of the government next month. Typically, such bills advance with sweeping bipartisan support. But ``tea party'' members, adamantly opposed to spending care and increasingly frustrated with the rate of federal government spending, pressured GOP leaders to add a provision to cripple the health care law.
Democrats have said they have no interest in advancing the bill in the Senate and the White House has issued a veto threat.
Along with the spending bill needed to keep federal operations going, Obama will face a battle at least as big over whether to increase the government's borrowing cap and continue to pay its bills.