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By PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA

Four years ago we came together because we believe that in America, your success shouldn’t be determined by the circumstances of your birth.

We came together in the belief that our voices, raised together, could restore the hope and change that lie at the heart of America’s journey.

Now, we must raise those voices once more — because I still believe in hope, and America still urgently needs to change for which we stand.

Over the next few months, this election will take many twists and many turns. Polls will go up and down. And in the coming weeks, Governor Romney and I will spend time debating our records and experience — as we should.

OUR ECONOMIC FUTURE

Though we will have many differences over the course of this campaign, there’s one place where I stand in complete agreement with my opponent. This election is about our economic future.

This isn’t some abstract debate. This is not another trivial Washington argument. I have said that this is the defining issue of our time — and I mean it. I said that this is a make-or-break moment for America’s middle class — and I believe it.

Now, these challenges are not new. We’ve been wrestling with these issues for a long time. The problems we’re facing right now have been more than a decade in the making.

And what is holding us back is not a lack of big ideas. It isn’t a matter of finding the right technical solution. Both parties have laid out their policies on the table for all to see.

DIFFERENT PATHS

 What’s holding us back is a stalemate in Washington between two fundamentally different views of which direction America should take. And this election is our chance to break that stalemate.

Because what is at stake this November is not simply a choice between two candidates or two political parties, but between two paths for our country. And while there are many things to discuss in this campaign, nothing is more important than an honest debate about where these two paths would lead us.

THE ROMNEY PLAN

Governor Romney and his allies in Congress believe deeply in the theory we tried during the last decade — the theory that the best way to grow the economy is from the top down.

So they maintain that if we eliminate most regulations, if we cut taxes by trillions of dollars, if we strip down government to national security and a few other basic functions, then the power of the market to create jobs and prosperity will be unleashed, and that will automatically benefit us all.

So if they win the election, their agenda will be simple and straightforward. They have spelled it out: They promise to roll back regulations on banks and polluters, on insurance companies and oil companies.

They’ll roll back regulations designed to protect the health and safety of consumers and workers. They promise to not only keep all of the Bush tax cuts in place, but also add another $5 trillion in tax cuts on top of that.

An independent study says that about 70 percent of this new, $5 trillion tax cut would go to folks making over $200,000 a year. And folks making over a million dollars a year would get an average tax cut of about 25 percent.

Your next question may be, how do you spend $5 trillion on a tax cut and still bring down the deficit? Well, they tell us they’ll start by cutting nearly a trillion dollars from the part of our budget that includes everything from education and job training to medical research and clean energy.

They haven’t specified exactly where the knife would fall. But here’s some of what would happen if that cut that they’ve proposed was spread evenly across the budget:

• Ten million college students would lose an average of $1,000 each in financial aid.

• 200,000 children would lose the chance to get an early education in the Head Start program.

• There would be 1,600 few medical research grants for things like Alzheimer’s and cancer and AIDS; 4,000 fewer scientific research grants, eliminating support for 48,000 researchers, students and teachers.

• Not only does their plan eliminate health insurance for 33 million Americans by repealing the Affordable Care Act — according to the independent Kaiser Family Foundation, it would also take away coverage from another 19 million Americans who rely on Medicaid, including millions of nursing home patients, and families who have children with autism and other disabilities.

• And they propose turning Medicare into a voucher program, which will shift more costs to seniors and eventually end the program as we know it.

This is not a spin. This is not my opinion. These are facts. This is what they’re presenting as their plan. This is their vision. There is nothing new — just what Bill Clinton has called the same ideas they’ve tried before, except on steroids.

Here’s the problem: The economic vision of Mr. Romney and his allies in Congress was tested just a few years ago. We tried this. Their policies did not grow the economy.

They did not grow the middle class. They did not reduce our debt. Why would we think that they would work better this time?

PRESIDENT OBAMA’S PLAN

I’ve got a different vision for America. I believe that you can’t bring down the debt without a strong and growing economy. And I believe you can’t have a strong and growing economy without a strong and growing middle class.

This has to be our North Star — an economy that’s built NOT from the top down, but from a growing middle class, that provides ladders of opportunity for folks who aren’t yet in the middle class.

I see an America:

• With the best-educated, best-trained workers in the world;

• An America with a commitment to research and development that is second to none.

• I see a future where we pay down our deficit in a way that is balanced — not by placing the entire burden on the middle class and the poor, but by cutting out programs we can’t afford, and

• Asking the wealthiest Americans to contribute their fair share.

That’s my vision for America: Education, Energy, Innovation, Infrastructure. And a tax code that focuses on American job creation and balanced deficit reduction. This is the vision I intend to pursue in my second term as President.

NOVEMBER VERDICT

This November is your chance to render a verdict on the debate over how to grown the economy, how to create good jobs, how to pay down our deficit. Your decision will finally determine the path that we take as a nation — not just tomorrow, but for years to come.

When you strip everything else away, that’s really what this election is about. That’s what is at stake right now. Everything else is just noise. Everything else is just a distraction.

Fundamentally, this is a debate about going forward or going back. It’s that simple.

We’re not going to eliminate the EPA. We’re not going to roll back the bargaining rights of generations of workers.

We’re fighting for a bold America, a competitive America, a forward-looking America, where everybody has the chance to make of their life what they will.

This election will be even closer than the last. The other side won’t be offering any real answers, but what they will do is spend more money than we’ve ever seen before, on negative ads on TV and radio, in the mail and on the Internet, ads that exploit people’s frustration.

And the outcome is entirely up to you. If there’s one thing we learned in 2008, it’s that nothing is more powerful than millions of voices calling for change.

WE’RE AMERICANS FIRST

I still believe that we’re not as divided as our politics suggest. I still believe we have more in common that the pundits tell us, that we’re not Democrats or Republicans first, but Americans first and foremost.

So if you’re willing to stick with me, and fight with me, and press on with me, I guarantee you we will move this country forward. We will finish what we started.

We’re still fired up. We’re still ready to go.

And we’re going to remind the world once more why it is that they United States of America is the greatest nation on earth.

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