President Barack Obama is accusing Washington of taking "its eye off the ball" and getting distracted from the economy.

The president is trying to refocus debate on pocketbook concerns after months that have been dominated by what he calls "phony scandals" and "stale debates."

Obama's remarks came in a speech at Knox College in Galesburg. The school was the site of his first major economic address as a U.S. senator eight years ago.

The speech included no new policy initiatives, but Obama declared that reversing bad economic trends should be Washington's highest priority. He's promising to fight for the middle class with policies to promote jobs, educational opportunities, homeownership, secure retirement and health care.