The U.S. economy, while recovering, will strengthen in the best way only if the middle class fully participates, President Obama is expected to say Wednesday.
"The president believes, and history proves, that this country grows best and competes best when the middle class is rising and thriving," White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters ahead of Obama's speech at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill.
The White House has billed the speech, to begin around noon CDT, as a major address focusing on growing the economy "from the middle out, not the top down."
The four-year coeducational, private liberal arts college is where Obama spoke in his first major address on economic issues as a new U.S. senator in 2005.
Obama was to follow his address with another one, on a slightly different topic, around 4:20 p.m. CDT at the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg, the White House said.
The university's new Missouri Innovation Campus has a program that lets high school students go through a high-tech, accelerated curriculum on campus, cutting time and costs without increasing student debt.
Obama's campaign-style address in Galesburg is to be followed by as many as six economic-themed speeches over the next two months, the White House said.
One is to take place within 24 hours.
Obama is expected to advance the "middle-out, not top-down" message in Florida Thursday in a speech at the Jacksonville Port Authority, the White House said.
The "middle-out" message is "built around the basic notion that a thriving middle class that feels secure and is expanding has always been the driving force behind the American economy at its best," Carney told reporters at the White House.
A large, thriving U.S. middle class was the case for much of the last century but began to erode in recent decades, due to global trends "as well as policy decisions made here in Washington," Carney said.
The trends and policy decisions led to "a winner-take-all approach to the economy, where benefits accrued rapidly, and in some cases exponentially, to the top 1 percent, while the middle class -- almost everybody else -- saw their situation either stagnate or get worse," he said.
Obama "will make clear that we need to return our focus here in Washington to the issues that matter most to the middle class and that are so essential to growing and expanding the middle class and making the middle class more secure," Carney said.
Republicans said Obama's message is nothing new and has shown that it doesn't work.
"They've been saying the same thing for four years," a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said.
"The previous Democrat Congress passed his agenda -- Obamacare, the stimulus, thousands of pages of regulations -- and the economy is treading water. More taxes, more regulation, and more failures to unleash American energy jobs are not the answer," spokesman Don Stewart said.
"The truth is, whether it's his healthcare law, his job-destroying energy policies or the mountain of regulations piling up, it's the president's own policies that are responsible for this new normal of weak economic growth and high unemployment," said Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.