CHICAGO - Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, seeking the Republican presidential nomination, called for lower and streamlined U.S. tax rates, budget cuts, and less federal regulation in a speech across the street from the law school where President Obama once taught.
"President Obama is a champion practitioner of class warfare," Pawlenty said Tuesday at the University of Chicago. "He's spent three years dividing our nation, and fanning the flames of class envy and resentment all across the country to deflect attention from his own failures and the economic hardship they have visited on America."
In his first major policy speech since declaring his candidacy May 23, Pawlenty proposed a cut in the top corporate tax rate to 15 percent from 35 percent, as well as just two tax rates for individuals.
The speech, at one of the world's most prominent schools of free-market thought, followed last week's Labor Department report showing that payrolls grew by a less-than-projected 54,000 in May - the smallest gain in eight months. The unemployment rate rose to 9.1 percent, the highest level this year.
Spotlighting rising gas prices and falling home prices, Pawlenty, 50, said Obama had failed to nurse the economy into a healthier condition.
Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said in a statement that Pawlenty's plan was "a prescription for economic disaster that would fall squarely on the backs of seniors and working families."
Wasserman Schultz, a U.S. House member from Florida, said Pawlenty "would take the Republican policies of the last decade, which exploded our deficit and debt and nearly sank our economy into a second Great Depression, and inject them with steroids."
Pawlenty's remarks on federal government spending focused little on the largest cost drivers, which include Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, and defense spending.
When asked about them by an audience member, Pawlenty said he would offer his own Medicare plan in the "next couple of months or less."
He has previously said that as president he would sign the House Republican proposal by Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin that would privatize the traditional Medicare program for seniors.
Much of the tax revenue that would cover the loss from the tax cuts he is proposing would come from the 5 percent annual economic growth he expects his tax cuts to spur, Pawlenty said.