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

    Syrian Rebel Realignment Likely as al-Qaida Leader Blesses Split

    Jihadist group Jabhat al-Nusra splits from al-Qaida in what observers dub a ‘deception and denial’ exercise

    New India Child Labor Law Could Make Children More Vulnerable

    Concerns that allowing children to work in family enterprises will push more to work

    What Take-out Food Reveals About American History

    Carry-out food explains a lot about the changes taking place in society, so here's the deal with pizza, Chinese food and what racism has to do with taking food to go

    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.
    Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Busi
    X
    July 28, 2016 4:16 AM
    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Philadelphia Uses DNC Spotlight to Profile Historic Role in Founding of United States

    The slogan of the Democratic National Convention now underway in Philadelphia is “Let’s Make History Again” which recognizes the role the city played in the foundation of the United States in the 18th century. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, local institutions are opening their doors in an effort to capitalize on the convention spotlight to draw visitors, and to offer more than just a history lesson.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora