President Barack Obama’s foray into Kansas isn’t likely to pick up electoral votes in that reddest of states. But his speech Tuesday at Osawatomie High School was good policy and good politics.

In keeping with his penchant for channeling predecessors, Obama chose the town where Theodore Roosevelt delivered his “New Nationalism” speech to outline his own intention to strengthen the middle class.

The elements of Obama’s speech were not new. He decried rising income inequality, blasted Republicans for wanting to roll back regulation of the financial sector, defended his latest nominee to head the Consumer Financial Protection Agency and demanded an extension of the payroll tax cut set to expire later this month.

The president has said those things before. He should keep saying them — and acting on them.

Tuesday’s speech was significant because it provided a coherent framework for Obama’s economic policies and a credible rebuttal to Republican opposition.

“This is the defining issue of our time,” Obama said, referring to income inequality. “At stake is whether this will be a country where working people can earn enough to raise a family, build a modest savings, own a home and secure their retirement.”

The president took aim at opponents who advocate fewer regulations and lower taxes for the wealthy and contend that an unfettered free market will set everything right.

“It doesn’t work,” he said. “It’s never worked.”

Obama’s address to the people of Osawatomie had the ring of a campaign speech. But campaign season is upon us. And a campaign that calls for the very wealthy to pay their fair share and for everyone to play by the same set of rules would serve the nation well.

Editorial by The Kansas City Star distributed by MCT Information Services

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