Obama urges US politicians to help strengthen middle class

WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama on Saturday urged politicians in Washington to remain focused on strengthening the embattled US middle class.

The president's weekly radio and online address is part of a broader effort to reframe the debate over the economy as Congress - especially the Republican-controlled House of Representatives - prepares for a new fight over spending cuts and raising the debt ceiling.

"Over the past four and a half years, America has fought its way back from the worst recession of our lifetimes," Obama said.

"Thanks to the grit and resilience of the American people, we've ... begun to lay a new foundation for stronger, more durable economic growth."

However trends that "have been eroding middle-class security for decades ... still exist, and in some ways, the recession made them worse."

Washington has lost focus on strengthening the middle class, said the president.

"An endless parade of distractions, political posturing and phony scandals shift focus from what needs to be done. And as Washington prepares to enter another budget debate, the stakes could not be higher," he said.

According to Obama, "if we take a few bold steps - and if Washington is willing to shake off its complacency and set aside some of the slash-and-burn partisanship we've seen in recent years - our economy will keep getting stronger."

Obama called on politicians of both parties to support him, but his main problem comes from opposition Republicans, who say he offers nothing but higher spending and bigger government.

On Wednesday and Thursday, Obama made campaign-style swings through the Midwest and Florida focusing on strengthening the middle class, and vowed Saturday to continue this effort "over the next several weeks, in cities and towns across the country."