News / USA

Obama: US Economic Inequality a 'Defining Challenge'

President Barack Obama gestures as speaks at a White House Youth Summit event on December 4, 2013
President Barack Obama gestures as speaks at a White House Youth Summit event on December 4, 2013
President Barack Obama said Wednesday the income gap between the rich and poor in America, and the lack of upward mobility, remain the "defining challenge" for the nation's economic future.

The president's address was framed as a follow up to one he delivered two years ago about the challenges of income inequality and shrinking upward mobility.

At the time, less than a year before the 2012 presidential election, he also criticized opposition Republicans for what he called their desire to return to "the same policies that stacked the deck against middle class Americans."

As he prepares for new political battles over spending and other issues, Obama returned to the same themes about the threat to U.S. prosperity from the gap between rich and poor, and lack of opportunity.

"A dangerous and growing inequality and lack of upward mobility that has jeopardized middle class America's basic bargain, that if you work hard you have a chance to get ahead," said the president. "I believe this is the defining challenge of our time, making sure our economy works for every working American."

Obama spoke as polls show strong majorities of Americans disapprove of his handling of the economy, with numbers the lowest of his presidency.

Unemployment remains high at 7.3 percent.  The economy remains the biggest concern for Americans, despite record numbers on U.S. stock market exchanges.

The president renewed his call for increasing the minimum wage, and urged Congress to reach a "responsible" budget deal that eliminates harmful spending cuts known as the "sequester, and extends unemployment insurance.

He said important social programs for the jobless, seniors and the poor must be sustained, and the American "safety net" reinforced, while Social Security must be strengthened to ensure its promise for future generations. 

The president said public frustration with Washington is at an all time high because of the "admittedly poor execution" of his health care law, popularly known as "Obamacare," and blamed what he called the "reckless" government shutdown on congressional Republicans.

Obama challenged Republicans to propose "concrete plans" that would help reduce inequality, build the middle class and provide opportunity to the poor.

"If you still do not like Obamacare, and I know you do not, even though it is built on market-based ideas of choice and competition and the private sector, then you should explain how exactly you would cut costs, and cover more people and make insurance more secure," he said. "You owe it to the American people to tell us what you are for, not just what you are against."

In a written statement, Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner said Obama's speech acknowledged "the failure of his economic policies."

Boehner also spoke on the House floor, asserting congressional Democrats are to blame for blocking Republican-sponsored legislation and "serious good faith efforts."

"Every single one of these bills has been blocked by Washington Democrats," he said. "The Senate [and] the president continue to stand in the way of the people's priorities."

On the budget, currently being negotiated by key lawmakers, Obama said, "We should not be stuck in a stale debate.  A relentlessly growing deficit of opportunity," he said, "is a greater threat to our future than a rapidly-shrinking fiscal deficit."

Obama's speech was also a preview of the sorts of themes he is likely to address in his State of the Union address next year.

You May Like

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said To Be Improving

Experimental drugs have been tried on six people: three Westerners and now, three African pyhysicians More

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities residents rebuild their lives, but many say everyone is being treated with suspicion More

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

Girls learn to object; FGM practitioners face penalties from jail sentences to stiff fines More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
December 05, 2013 3:21 AM
Obama looks have been attempting a social revolution, that is, solution of economic inequality by offering equal chances to everybody and builing up large number of middle classes. Although I praise his democratic policy, a bit afraid he takes issues too easy for everybody to be able to work hard and succeed if they are guaranteed only oppotunity. If evertbody were gifted equally, Obama's ideal would come true.


by: wavettore from: USA
December 04, 2013 1:42 PM
In order to restore the financial equilibrium worldwide it will be enough to eliminate the concept of inheritance. The private property of the people will be returned to the State after the death of each individual to be auctioned among all citizens. People could spend as much as they want to educate their children but inheritance and donations would not be allowed. Also this is part of a new form of government without politician and ruled by referendum through the internet: Commutalism.

In Response

by: JB from: USA
December 04, 2013 11:35 PM
Sorry but the "state" or otherwise any government entity should not have any control over the private property of an individual and what they choose to do with their property/money when they pass on.

The issue with financial equality has more to do with the fact that executives and corporate honchos make millions a month now where they used to make tens of thousands 20 years ago. While the rest of the people that actually make a company profitable don't make much more than their parents did. All while these executives and corporate honchos bounce from company to company with the main goal of improving profits which directly affects their income by performing layoffs and outsourcing jobs to third world countries which causes more inequality. If corporations and big business were responsible and took care of their employees with their pay and benefits then we would have more equality... now I'm not saying those executives shouldn't make 100K or even 200K especially if they started the company from nothing. Those guys can make whatever they want so long as they started that company from nothing and it's privately owned. It's almost as bad a the charities these days... when 0.39 of every dollar actually goes to the needy (The Red Cross in 2009)... It's just a pyramid scheme now... everything is a get rich and keep it game from business to politics.

Realize that every time your boss tells you they actually care... question that... do they really care? Do they take a pay cut from 300K to 150K and give everyone else a raise, or health benefits? no they don't... they just tell you they care to get you to work harder for them, so they can make more money off you. But once you get fed up, it's oh so easy to replace you with the next idiot that thinks the boss actually cares.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improvingi
X
Carol Pearson
August 19, 2014 11:43 PM
The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.
Video

Video For Obama, Racial Violence is Personal Issue

The racial violence in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson is presenting U.S. President Barack Obama with an issue to which he has a deep personal connection. To many Americans, Obama's election as America's first black president marked a turning point in race relations in the United States, and Obama has made ending the violence a policy priority. On Monday he issued a new call for calm and understanding. Luis Ramirez reports from the White House.
Video

Video Clinton-Obama Relationship Could Impact 2016 Election

President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have a long and complicated relationship. That relationship took another turn recently when Clinton criticized the president’s foreign policy. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports there is renewed attention on the Clinton-Obama relationship as Hillary Clinton considers running for
Video

Video Iran Looks to Maintain Influence in Baghdad With New Shia PM

Washington and Tehran share the goal of stopping Syrian-based militants in Iraq. But experts say it's Iran, not the United States, that will most influence how the new government in Baghdad approaches internal reforms and the war in Syria. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

AppleAndroid