WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama often references previous Republican presidents, including Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, to explain why Republicans should support his proposals.
Tuesday while addressing payroll tax cuts, he traced the steps of President Theodore Roosevelt and pledged to fight for fairness at a "make or break moment for the middle class."
"This isn't just another political debate. This is the defining issue of our time," Obama told a crowd in Osawatomie, Kan., the same town where President Roosevelt delivered his 1910 "New Nationalism" speech.
Click play to watch Jennifer Wishon's report, followed by analysis from Seton Motley, president of LessGovernment.org.
Obama received a warm welcome in Osawatomie, which has a population of about 4,600. City Hall shut down so employees could attend the speech.
More than a century ago, Roosevelt visited the small midwestern town to deliver his vision for a "square deal" for Americans.
Roosevelt was labeled a socialist, but President Obama said the U.S. is better off because of the regulations the former president pushed.
"I believe that this country succeeds when everyone gets a fair shot, when everyone does their fair share, and when everyone plays by the same rules," Obama said.
The payroll tax cut extension includes a proposal to extend unemployment benefits and Medicare reimbursements to doctors.
Democrats have suggested raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans to pay for the package. Republicans say that won't fly.
The president said that economic policies that have made the rich richer and the poor poorer -- coupled with tax cuts for the wealthy -- have fueled the recession that still plagues the nation.
"Just as there was in Teddy Roosevelt's time, there's been a certain crowd in Washington for the last few decades who respond to this economic challenge with the same old tune: 'the market will take care of everything,'" Obama said.
"Here's the problem," he continued. "It doesn't work."
President Obama is pushing Congress to extend a payroll tax cut that expires in less than four weeks.
If Congress fails to act, the president warned that 160 million Americans will see their taxes increase by an average of $1,000.
Lawmakers are vowing to stay in Washington as long as it takes to reach an agreement.