WASHINGTON — Taking credit for a revved-up economy, an emboldened President Barack Obama on Wednesday criticized the House Republicans' spending plan as one that offers a "path to prosperity for those who've already prospered" and no path to help hard-working, middle-class people get ahead.
A day after the House GOP unveiled its $3.8 trillion spending blueprint, Obama traveled to the presidential battleground state of Ohio to draw a sharp contrast between his approach to the economy and federal spending and that of Republicans.
Obama accused Republicans of being stuck in the past, wedded to the concept of "trickle-down economics" and proposing tax breaks for the wealthy "like a broken record" while cutting Medicare and other social programs that help less well-off people get by.
He recalled past dire predictions by Republicans that his policies would ruin the economy and stunt job growth, and noted — with a hint of glee — the steady decline in unemployment from double digits when he took office to 5.5 percent, with 12 million jobs created in the past five years and growth in other areas.
"When we, the public, evaluate who's got a better argument here, we've got to look at the facts," Obama told members of the City Club of Cleveland, a civic group that's become a regular audience for presidents. "Reality has rendered its judgment. Trickle-down economics doesn't work. Middle-class economics does."
"That's what we should keep in mind when we go forward," he said.
The House Republican plan favors defense spending, partially privatizes Medicare and cuts other social programs to help eliminate deficits in 10 years.
Obama's budget proposal, a $4 trillion plan he sent to Congress last month, would target corporate profits overseas, raise taxes on the rich, spend billions on roads and bridges and reverse automatic budget cuts on defense and domestic spending. He also would spend billions of dollars to cover the cost of community college for eligible students and boost tax credits for families and the working poor.
Cory Fritz, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, countered that Republicans offered a responsible, balanced-budget plan, in contrast to what Obama sent to Capitol Hill.
"Today's stop in Cleveland was nothing more than a political stunt designed to double down on the same tax-and-spend policies that have failed middle-class families," Fritz said.
In his remarks, Obama said "I'm going to take a little credit" for the economic progress to date but acknowledged that the situation is still far from perfect, with not enough people feeling the improvement in their daily lives.
But he said the House Republican proposal isn't what's needed to keep the trend lines moving in a positive direction.
"It's a budget that doesn't just fail to embrace middle-class economics," he said. "It's the opposite of middle-class economics."
Obama said the plan carves out a "path to prosperity for those who've already prospered ... and I'm offering a different path."
Senate Republicans outlined their budget plan Wednesday, shortly before Obama went before the microphone in Cleveland.
The House GOP budget also drew criticism from likely Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Hours after the plan was released, Obama's former secretary of state blasted it on social media as one that "fails Americans" on investments in jobs and economic growth, on aid for college students and on access to health care.
"Budgets reflect our priorities. They should help families get ahead, educate our kids, and spark small business growth," Clinton said on Twitter. She said the "nation's future — jobs & economic growth — depends on investments made today. The GOP budget fails Americans on these principles."
Before the speech, Obama toured a nonprofit that helps small- and medium-sized manufacturers with production, sales and growth, including Cleveland Whiskey. The company uses a special proprietary process to shorten the aging of bourbon from years to just days.
"I did not sample the whiskey before I came here," Obama told audience members, "although I'm taking a sample home."
Associated Press writer Jim Kuhnhenn in Washington contributed to this report. Follow Darlene Superville on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/dsupervilleap