Obama slams Republicans for 'stale' Budget debate, year after year of tax cut proposals

CLEVELAND (Reuters) - United States President Barack Obama slammed Republicans' latest budget proposals on Wednesday, saying funding for research, education and infrastructure would be better for economic growth than tax cuts.

In a speech at the City Club of Cleveland, Mr Obama mocked Republicans for turning to tax cuts in a Budget that "doubles down on trickle-down" economics. "Republicans in Congress have put forward the same proposals year after year after year regardless of the realities of the economy," Mr Obama said. "When the economy's in a slump? We needed tax cuts. When the economy's doing well? You know what - let's try some tax cuts."

In another issue that has divided Washington, Mr Obama said he wished he had closed the US prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, on his first day in office. His efforts to close the controversial facility have since been thwarted largely because of Republican opposition.

Mr Obama said the Budget plan put forward this week by Republicans in the House of Representatives would cut funding to centres that help manufacturing, a sector critical to the economy of north-east Ohio, home to plants owned by Ford, GM, Goodyear and Sherwin-Williams Co.

Republicans dismissed his comments as an attempt to help his former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is expected to run for president in 2016. "No matter how hard President Obama tries to set Hillary Clinton up to run for his third term, his tax-and-spend agenda continues to fail America's shrinking middle class," said Ms Allison Moore, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee.

Before his speech, Mr Obama toured an "incubator" at Cleveland State University where advisers work with small manufacturers, speaking with a local whiskey maker about a new technique for shortening the aging process for bourbon.

It is one of about 60 such centres across the country that the White House said have helped 30,000 small manufacturers in recent years. Mr Obama would like to spend more than US$30 million (S$41.7 million) a year to help set up similar centres in 12 other states.

US manufacturing has been a strong point for the country's recovery from the 2007-2009 recession, although the recent appreciation of the dollar is fueling worries American factories will lose an edge in export markets.