Obama: Income inequality a defining challenge

President calls on Congress to increase minimum wage to $10.10 an hour
Associated Press
Dec 5, 2013

President Barack Obama prodded Congress to raise wages and secure the social safety net as he issued an overarching appeal Wednesday to correct inequalities that he said make it harder for a child in the United States to escape poverty. "That should offend all of us," he declared. "We are a better country than this."

Focusing on the pocketbook issues that Americans consistently rank as a top concern, Obama argued that the dream of upward economic mobility is breaking down and that the growing income gap is a "defining challenge of our time."

"The basic bargain at the heart of our economy has frayed," the president said in remarks at a nonprofit community center a short drive from the White House in one of Washington's most impoverished neighborhoods.

Though he offered no new initiatives, Obama blended a call for Congress to act on pending short-term economic measures with a long vision aimed at correcting a growing level of income inequality in the United States. The speech came amid public doubts over Obama's stewardship of the economy, as his overall approval ratings sink and as he seeks to move past the health care troubles that have consumed his presidency in recent months.

He acknowledged his administration's "poor execution" in rolling out the flawed website that was supposed to be an easy portal for purchasing insurance, while blaming Republicans for a "reckless" shutdown of the government.

"Nobody has acquitted themselves very well these past few months," Obama said. "So it's not surprising that the American people's frustrations with Washington are at an all-time high." Worse for Americans, he added, are their growing difficulties in trying to make ends meet no matter how hard they work.

The speech coincided with growing national and international attention to economic disparities — from the writings of Pope Francis to the protests of fast-food workers in the U.S. The president cited the pope's question of how it isn't news when an elderly homeless person dies from exposure, but news when the stock market loses two points.

And he noted that in the United States, a child born into the bottom 20 percent of income levels has less than a 5 percent chance of making it to the top income levels and is 10 times likelier to stay where he is — worse than other industrial countries such as Canada, Germany and France.

House Speaker John Boehner blamed Senate Democrats and Obama for the lack of action on jobs-related legislation. He said bills passed by the Republican-controlled House that would help the economy and create jobs have been blocked in the Democratic-controlled Senate. "The Senate and the president continue to stand in the way of the people's priorities," he said on the House floor.

Obama conceded that "the elephant in the room" is the political gridlock that has prevented congressional action. He said issues of inequality of upward mobility would not likely be resolved even over the next five years. But he pointed to the health care law as one example that he said is already helping families by providing insurance coverage to more Americans and by pushing down the costs of health care.

Obama specifically called on Congress to increase the federal minimum wage from the current $7.25 an hour. A Democratic bill by Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa would raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour in three steps and tie automatic annual increases to changes in the cost of living. No vote has been scheduled on the proposal.

Obama also pressed Congress to extend jobless benefits to 1.3 million long-term unemployed people. The benefits are set to expire just three days after Christmas. The additional weeks of benefits have been extended each year since 2009, but a senior Republican lawmaker, Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma, said Tuesday that Republicans oppose yet another extension.


looking around

Can't believe how some people are willing to hold others back because they fear that the minimum wage would be passed on to them as consumers. You would pay a 15 year old kid 15 or 20 bucks to mow your lawn with your mower and gas, it takes him an hour, he will not pay a dime of income tax and your ok with that. But the thought of a tax paying worker making $10.10 an hour just makes you break out in hives!


So tell me, just how much should we pay unskilled labor in what is supposed to be an entry level job meant for a kid? Are you a business owner? Maybe we should pay everyone who flips burgers union scale. Let me know how good that cheeseburger tastes when you have to pay $10 for it. The people crying for this are a bunch of hypocrites, the unions love this idea but you will see all of their rank and file shopping at the Walmart on the weekend contributing to the low wages they supposedly abhorr. Just look at all the UAW jackets when you hit your local wallyworld this weekend.


entry level jobs are not 'meant for kids'-they are jobs for people with few skills, which can only be obtained on the job. many kids take them because that's all they can get; same for adults.


So now we should pay a kid who is receiving most of their support from their parents $15/hr? You are nuts! These jobs were meant for kids to gain work skills not make a living wage. If you are in your 30s and 40s and working at McD's for min. wage, you need to look in the mirror and ask yourself, what can I do to make my situation better. The answer isn't trying to increase pay for what amounts to an entry level job.


Re: "the thought of a tax paying worker making $10.10 an hour just makes you break out in hives!"

Add about another 30% in compensation to the wage.

"Wages and salaries account for 70.3 percent of employers’ total compensation costs"


So when are you gonna start a business payin' your employees a "living wage" and top notch health and welfare bennies?


Apples and oranges....compare the kids price to one of your local lawn services and you will discover the 15 - 20 bucks is in a competitive range.


And seasonal. They are on unemployment half the year! Bad example.


EXACTLY! Awesome comment, Looking Around!!!


Looking Around makes a very valid point!

Dr. Information

Hey guys look, coasterfan signed out and signed back in as deertracker and agreed with himself. Bahahaha.


Lol.....I assumed coaster fan was a woman


Doc: is that what passes for Republican humor? Oh wait - I just remembered - Republicans are only funny when they don't intend to be funny...

Why would it surprise you that 2 Democrats would agree with each other? Certainly, there are a lot of people on the Right who say the same things as each other. Certainly, that's the case when I read comments here at the SR. And, isn't that why Limbaugh's fans are called "Dittoheads"? The bigger question, of course, is why someone as vile as Rush would even HAVE fans...

Babymom: Hehe, no I'm a guy. I just happen to be a lot more sensitive and show empathy for people less fortunate than I. As a conservative, I'm guessing you don't usually hang around with men who care about others besides themselves, right? It's not too late to join the Democrats. We're generally a more welcoming, open-minded party, and unlike the GOP, we don't hate/fear everyone who isn't like us.


Re: "Oh wait - I just remembered,"

Kinda bizarre behavior how in a written context, progressives like you, "Dog" and others feign ignorance and then answer your OWN questions.

Is it a politically connected mental impairment?


So tell me, what do they call Rachel Maddow fans? I'll give you 3 tries coasterdope.


How is that a valid example? The guys mowing lawns are laid off and on unemployment half the year. Get a clue. You libs will do anything to spin the facts.


Maybe you would pay him 15 or 20 bucks - that doesn't mean everyone does. If they do, it's because THEY as the employer (i.e. customer/consumer of lawnmowing services) perceive there to be 15-20 dollars worth of value in the services rendered, otherwise they'd find someone else to do it for less, or cut their own lawn

You bleeding hearts always seem to leave out the question of value delivered for that wage. Here's a thought - raise the minimum wage, but also legislate a minimum qualification. We could give an exam to be licensed to work and get minimum wage - maybe the state high school 12th grade proficiency exam. You'd have to be retested to renew the license every 5 years, and without the license, you're not eligible for minimum wage. I bet the mean wage in this country would decline.


I DO agree with Nemesis, in part. There are many people who are earning minimum wage jobs because they and their parents never put much value in education. Still, there are just as many who ARE educated, but can't find work in the post-recession economy that George wrought upon America. Also, at least half of the people who are on food stamps are minors who are in that situation through no fault of their own.

Nemesis' plan is an example of Big Government, new Big Brother federal regulations that punish those without an education. In true Republican fashion, his plan contains nothing that would help those people GET a better education, nor any increased funding to education. Finally, it doesn't mention what America should do with those who don't qualify under the new Draconian rules. I suppose we should just let them starve.

Essentially, his plan does NOTHING to prevent the problem that needs addressing. The only thing it does is punish anyone who doesn't make the grade, and cut their funding. Sounds like a recipe for increased number of people on food stamps.

In summary, his plan doesn't fix anything, but it does cut taxes. Code: it keeps money is his pocket, and 'to heck with everyone else'. Congrats, you've learned the greedy, self-centered conservative mantra quite well. And people wonder why the Republican Party is shrinking in numbers....


Re: "I suppose we should just let them starve."

A ridiculous, absurdist, progressive rhetorical red herring.


Re: "it keeps money is his pocket, and 'to heck with everyone else'."

And Pres. Obama & the GOP agreed to decrease the amt. of SS tax for two yrs. why?



"I DO agree with Nemesis, in part. There are many people who are earning minimum wage jobs because they and their parents never put much value in education."

Follow that line of reasoning a little further now. Why should their embrace of education have any relationship to what they earn? Because being educated allows them to bring more VALUE to the transaction. That is the point you missed of my entirely hypothetical.

The implied point, which apparently went screaming over your head, was, if we mandate a minimum value from the employer, but not from the employee, then the employer is getting ripped off. If you mandate that everyone must pay a minimum price for apples, but don't specify a minimum size for those apples, some apple buyers are going to get ripped off. I was simply making the logical extension of your minimum wage policy - if the government places a floor on one side of the transaction, why not to the other? What's good for the goose is good for the gander. I mean, come on, you did say you want to be FAIR.

There are a lot of people out there who do not bring even $7.25/hour worth of value to the table. I would be ashamed to ask for HALF the current minimum wage with only skills and work ethic I've seen from some people in minimum wage jobs.

"Still, there are just as many who ARE educated, but can't find work in the post-recession economy"

Yeah, educated, but neither knowledgeable nor skilled. A degree in [insert victim group here] studies or some other made up political axe-grinding major doesn't really increase one's value in the workplace, especially when there's a glut of such credentials in the marketplace. News flash for all the wide eyed college freshmen trying to decide on a course of study - just because you spend four years at some institution discovering yourself and chasing your dreams, all while scrupulously avoiding math, real science, or anything else where the existence of only one right answer makes you feel repressed and put upon, doesn't mean the world will fall all over itself to pay big bucks for you to continue the journey. You need to know how to do something that people need done. There was a time when any liberal arts degree program would at least teach you critical thinking, but that's no longer true.

By the way, my hypothetical actually involves a reduction in big government, since it reduces the scope of the government imposed minimum wage to those who meet qualifications.


Feel free to tip your counter person $10 every time you go to McDonalds. Nothing is holding you back.

Darwin's choice

And the Obama blathering continues!

He keeps hoping to shine the glaring spotlight away from his so many failures, anything is likely to come out of his mouth.

Failure-in-Chief !!

Darwin's choice

He' getting desperate....

During today's White House Youth Summit, President Obama called on young people to do whatever they can to promote his signature health care law — including plying their customers with cheap booze.
"If you are a bartender, have a happy hour," Obama said as the crowd laughed. "And also probably get health insurance because a lot of people don't have it."
Obama also encouraged young people who are student body presidents or workers at nonprofit organizations to help people get enrolled.
"If you've got a radio show, spread the word on air," Obama added.
Obama called on young people's sense of patriotism to join the cause.
"[The] bottom line is that I'm going to need you, the country needs you," Obama said, reminding them that their friends and peers might not know the benefits of Obamacare.



How can he be desperate? He cannot be re-elected.


Re: "How can he be desperate?"

One word: Legacy.

The man is a narcissistic egotist who blames others and is NEVER wrong.


I can understand that big business's (like McDonalds, Wal-mart, etc) can and should be paying more than minimum wage. However, I also know small business owners (who own a small shop) that might not make $10 in sales in an hour. Some days are good and some are bad. If people supported these small shops like they do Wal-mart, then they might be able to afford to pay their help more. If the minimum wage is raised, then the big companies will figure out a way to save money somewhere else. The little man will just keep plugging along.


They'll deal with it the way they always have, by cutting the number of people they employ and/or raising prices. You'll wait longer in line at WalMart and/or pay more. WalMart wasn't always big - they started out small - why should big companies be punished for succeeding?


Minimum wage is not meant to be a family supportive living wage. As he usually does, community organizer in cheif is proposing to attack the problem from the wrong direction. If the economy were doing better, the minimum wage wouldn't be an issue because adults could find jobs other than working at McDonalds and Wal-Mart to support their families. High school kids who aren't paying for a mortgage, insurance and utilities, have plenty of money to spend making $7/hr.
When you have no experience working in a real job that has a budget and spending constraints, you don't understand how the economy works.


I do agree that minimum wage is not supposed to be a family supportive living wage. Unfortunately (and any visit to the local fast-food joint will show this), jobs that used to be meant for HS kids are now being held by middle-aged breadwinners. This, is the result of millions of jobs lost during the Bush years.

And for some idiotic reason, Republicans have fought everything Obama has done to create jobs. How sad that their pathological hatred of Obama and goal to undermine everything he tries is more important to them than actually helping American people. How else to explain their sudden opposition (in 2009) to things that they previously championed?


....including the ACA!

Darwin's choice

Funny how its now the ACA, since its failing daily, but was "Obama Care" up to now....! Even by the President....hahahahaha!!!