WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Obama’s re-elections campaign in 2012 was centered around the growing discontent and awareness of the wealth disparity in the United States. Feeding off the frustration of the 2008 banking crisis, and many of the Occupy Wall Street talking points, he won his campaign.
Recently, he made an attempt at refocusing on that issue — one that Americans more and more rank as a top concern. With his latest speech on December 4th, Obama stated in no uncertain terms that the fading dream of upward economic mobility and the growing income gap is the “defining challenge of our time.”
President Obama made it clear that the last three years of his presidency would be centered around addressing the growing discrepancy between the top 1% and the rest of the country. Connecting this income gap to a sense of stagnate upward mobility, increased mistrust and unfulfilled potential.
The speech comes amid growing national and international attention to economic inequality, and its effects on society. The academic world, famous public figures such as Pope Francis and Russel Brand to the protests of fast-food workers across the U.S are all signs of the growing wave of awareness around this issue.
While the rhetoric in President Obama’s speech on Wednesday was characteristically soaring and eloquent — even grandiose at times — the policy proposals he laid out were largely rehashes of existing initiatives.
Obama did not propose a single new policy initiative in the speech, which was sponsored by the Center for American Progress — a think tank with close ties to the White House.
A reiterated call for an increase in the minimum wage, immigration reform, ending the sequester cuts and more pre-school. All very popular stances amongst the liberal base, yet initiatives that have been on the agenda for quite some time.
“The idea that so many children are born into poverty in the wealthiest nation on Earth is heartbreaking enough. But the idea that a child may never be able to escape that poverty because she lacks a decent education or health care… that should offend all of us and it should compel us to action. We are a better country than this,” excerpt from the speech.
Whether these existing initiatives can pass the Republican held house is one issue. Yet there is another very important issue many economists have brought up. It centers around the disconnect of the tone and rhetoric used, and the scope at which these initiatives tackle the problem.
Only time will tell whether this speech propels a fundamental shift towards an economic restructuring needed to actually accomplish what was called for, on Wednesday. What seems to be the consensus among those who have devoted their lives to this topic: there better be more up his sleeve if he is being genuine.
– Tyler Shafsky
Sources: LA Times, Washington Post, Washington Post (Inequality), USA Today
Photo: The Nation
Photo: BO the One