U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about the economy during a visit to Concord Community High School in Elkhart, Indiana, U.S. June 1, 2016. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque(reuters_tickers)
By Jeff Mason
ELKHART, Ind. (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama slammed Donald Trump's proposal to weaken Wall Street reforms and touted his own economic record on Wednesday during a trip to a city he visited three weeks into his presidency that has recovered from its recession lows.
Obama's remarks in Elkhart, Indiana, foreshadowed the arguments he is likely to make on the campaign trail this fall against the likely Republican presidential nominee.
Obama did not mention Trump by name, but he lambasted the billionaire's policy proposals, particularly his promise to dismantle most of the U.S. Dodd-Frank financial regulations.
"How it is that somebody would propose that we weaken regulations on Wall Street? Have we really forgotten what just happened eight years ago?" Obama said, sounding exasperated.
"The notion that you would vote for anybody who would now allow them to go back to doing the same stuff that almost broke our economy’s back makes no sense. I don’t care whether you are a Republican, or a Democrat or an independent, why would you do that?"
Obama, who leaves office in January, is eager to have a Democrat succeed him to ensure his legacy on the economy, healthcare reform and climate change continues.
By going to Elkhart, the president sought to illustrate the success of his policies in the face of Republican opposition. His trip to the city in early 2009 came in the middle of a fight for the U.S. Congress to pass a roughly $800 billion (£555 billion) economic stimulus package.
Elkhart had an unemployment rate as high as 19.6 percent in 2009, the White House said; it is now around 4 percent.
Indiana's Republican Governor Mike Pence said the city had recovered despite Obama's policies, not because of them.
"I believe the people of Elkhart ... have brought our economy back in spite of the burdens that higher taxes, mandates and increasing regulations from Washington, D.C. have placed on them," he wrote in an opinion piece published in "The Elkhart Truth."
Obama has not endorsed former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in her race for the Democratic presidential nomination against Bernie Sanders, the U.S. senator from Vermont, but he has made his eagerness to campaign for the winner clear.
He name checked Clinton's husband, former President Bill Clinton, by noting deficits had fallen under both of their administrations, and he said Republicans had helped the rich by blaming poor people, minorities, feminists, and immigrants for squeezing the economic wellbeing of the middle class.
"The primary story that Republicans have been telling about the economy is not supported by the facts. It’s just not," Obama said to a largely supportive crowd at a local high school.
(Additional reporting by Timothy Gardner in Washington; Editing by James Dalgleish)