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Obama, calls GOP "mean" and touts overtime pay proposal

President Barack Obama speaks at the University of Wisconsin at La Crosse, in La Crosse, Wis., Thursday, July 2, 2015, about the economy and to promote a proposed Labor Department rule that would make more workers eligible for overtime.

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

LA CROSSE, Wisconsin -- Wading into presidential politics, President Barack Obama on Thursday promoted his brand of middle-class economics by drawing sharp contrasts with "mean" Republicans in the state where the GOP governor was preparing to enter the vast 2016 presidential field.

"They're good people," Mr. Obama said of Republicans. "It's just their ideas are bad."

The president listed some of those ideas for the crowd, such as "eliminating taxes that the wealthiest Americans pay on their investments while making you pay taxes on every dime of your paycheck. That's a bad idea. Keeping the minimum wage worth less than it was when Ronald Reagan took office - before most of you were born - that's a bad idea. Although, to be accurate, at least one of them actually thinks we just shouldn't have a nationwide minimum wage at all. We should just get rid of it. Every single one of these candidates serving in Congress has supported cutting taxes for folks at the top while slashing investments in education. I know that sounds familiar."

That last item was a jab at Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, whose budget includes cuts to the funding for the University of Wisconsin system.

Republicans continue to disagree with Mr. Obama on most matters, including the issue of health care, a week after the Supreme Court upheld a key component of the law and Obama declared it "here to stay."

Republicans in Congress have cast dozens of votes to repeal the law, and they have vowed to keep trying.

"Every single one of them is still obsessed with repealing the Affordable Care Act, despite the fact that by every measure it's working," the president said. "It just seems a little mean to say that you don't want to provide coverage" to millions of people who've gained it under the law "and you got nothing to replace it with."

"That's a bad idea," the president said.

President Obama traveled to Wisconsin to tout a Labor Department proposal that would make more salaried workers eligible for overtime pay. The move is strongly supported by organized labor groups that have been at odds with the president over his push for a free-trade pact with Asia-Pacific countries.

Despite labor's opposition, he scored a victory on Capitol Hill to get fast-track authority for the pending trade deal. The legislative win - he signed the bills earlier this week - kicked off a strong stretch for the president, including Supreme Court rulings on health care and affirming gay marriage nationwide.

The president told the crowd at the University of Madison at La Crosse that it's been "a remarkable few weeks in America."

He was greeted at the airport by Walker, who planned to file the necessary paperwork with federal election officials on Thursday to formally begin his long-expected candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination.

While in the state, Mr. Obama seemed unable to resist poking fun at a GOP presidential field that will top out at 15 with Walker's entry.

"We've got some healthy competition in the Democratic Party, but I've lost count of how many Republicans are running," he said, adding that the GOP has so many candidates that the party will have enough to put on a national "Hunger Games."

"That's an interesting bunch," he added.

He also said there's more work to do to increase workers' wages, despite the fact that U.S. unemployment rate hit a seven-year low of 5.3 percent in June.