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Obama: Economy Must Focus on Middle Class

Obama: Economy Must Focus on Middle Class

With the debate in Washington set to return to the budget and the economy after the August congressional recess, President Obama today said, “The stakes for our middle class could not be higher.” In the first of several speeches set for coming weeks on the economy, Obama told the audience at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill., that because of a Republican-led "endless parade of distractions, political posturing and phony scandals, Washington has taken its eye off the ball."

…Short-term thinking and stale debates are not what this moment requires. Our focus must be on the basic economic issues that matter most to you—the people we represent.

Economic policy and focus must remain on job creation, rebuilding the nation’s manufacturing base, upgrading the transportation, information and energy infrastructure, providing affordable educational opportunities for students and workers, raising the minimum wage and more.

He said while the economy is recovering from the financial crisis, housing collapse and Great Recession, “we are not there yet,” especially when it comes to economic inequality.

Even though our businesses are creating new jobs and have broken record profits, nearly all the income gains of the past 10 years have continued to flow to the top 1%. The average CEO has gotten a raise of nearly 40% since 2009, but the average American earns less than he or she did in 1999. And companies continue to hold back on hiring those who have been out of work for some time.

Such inequality isn’t just “morally wrong,” Obama said, “it’s bad economics.”

When middle-class families have less to spend, businesses have fewer customers. When wealth concentrates at the very top, it can inflate unstable bubbles that threaten the economy. When the rungs on the ladder of opportunity grow farther apart, it undermines the very essence of this country.

He also challenged Republicans to “set aside short term politics and work with me to find common ground.”  

I am laying out my ideas to give the middle class a better shot. Now it’s time for you to lay out yours….I’m ready to work—but know that I will not accept deals that do not meet the test of strengthening the prospects of hard-working families.

You can read the full speech here.

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