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Obama urges limits on foreign mergers

LOS ANGELES — President Obama called Thursday for Congress to end a tax loophole that allows big corporations to designate a foreign country as their official address, avoiding American taxes while maintaining their presence in the United States.

In an appearance at a technical college meant to focus on job training, the president used unusually harsh language to describe companies that take advantage of the relocation practice, known as inversion. He said they were renouncing their American citizenship by “cherry-picking” the nation’s tax laws at the expense of ordinary taxpayers.

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“I don’t care if it’s legal — it’s wrong,” he said, prompting the audience to boo the companies taking advantage of the practice.

Obama called on members of Congress to close the loophole even if they disagree with his broader calls for changes to the tax system that would lower corporate rates and close several loopholes, including that one.

The decision to focus on the tax loophole is part of a strategy to position Obama on the side of what White House officials call a new economic patriotism. The president is pressing that argument as the midterm elections approach in the fall.

But the legislative effort is unlikely to succeed in Congress, where Republicans have refused to consider the president’s tax proposals.

At a news conference Thursday, Speaker John A. Boehner criticized Obama’s economic record, saying that incomes have dropped during the president’s tenure, and that too many people are struggling to find work.

“You know, Americans are still asking ‘where are the jobs?’” the Ohio Republican told reporters. “And as the so-called Obama recovery turns five this week, I think it’s worth assessing where we are.”

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