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.



Does he not understand that just makes everything else cost more? $2.50 McChickens n $hit


Yep, I would stop and get a frosty from Wendy's a few times a week as a treat, they raised it overnight by 10 cents so I just decided to put a 1/2 gallon in the frig. The moral of this story is when you push even the simplest expense above where someone feels the value is no longer there they will not buy from you. Our president only held a non public job for one year and yet he is a multi millionaire. Does that mean he made his millions off of taxpayers backs? He has no clue what it means to be conservative and run a budget because he never had too!


Right. It is also interesting to listen to millionaires talk about inequality in wages.


Do you not understand that no one can raise a family on $7.50 an hour? If you underpay them for the work they do, the result is that more people need food stamps. And then you/we/I get to pay for that.

My problem with Republicans is that their policies caused the recession, caused the huge job losses, which caused more people to need food stamps to survive. Then, they fought against every effort Obama/Dems made to create jobs, thus perpetuating the problem.




So where does it stop? I believe that there should be no raises other than merit raises that motivate people to try harder, be more innovative, go the extra mile. if business owners do not recognize that effort there are people who do. Who started the notion that people should get a raise every year? All things come from the ground or the air, mother nature has not raised the cost of those! This goes from the top down but trying to use socialism & communism to make the playing field equal is going to fail miserably, history proves that if people have nothing to strive for they become stagnant. Soviet Union for example!


Do you not understand how a business operates? They will have only so much money they are going to use for wages. Better to pay 2 people $7.50 per hour or 1 person $15?

As a business owner I always find it interesting when people spout out about wages. The extra expense to the business owner in wage increase and staffing can be burdensome and sooner or later we have to decide whether or not we can continue to employ 10 people or 9.

The problem with a lot of people on food stamps is that they are unwilling to work multiple jobs. Only one person will work while the other will not. They don't want to work more than 40 hours. Does it suck? Yes it does but if thats what you have to do then do it.

Self pride...you either have it or you don't.


Who raised you? Who told you, you could run a business? I more than understand how a business operates. I ran one and my father ran one before me. He taught me well when he said if you can't make it without help and you cannot pay a living wage for that help you "CAN'T MAKE IT".
If you can't survive without paying two employees a living wage, then just pay one a living wage and do the work the second employee was doing yourself. You seem to be really into two jobs for those on food stamps, it seems it applies to business owners as well.

Peninsula Pundit

Your father was a wise man, Bess.
The type of businessman Mike is are the majority of those in business today.
Season-appropriate, Read Dicken's 'A Christmas Carol.'
Or just watch the Mr. Magoo classic.
The story is the same.
I read comments like Mike's and hear,'Are the workhouses full?'
The interaction between Scrooge and the people collecting for charity I see paraphrased repeatedly on comment boards regarding a living wage.


I agree also.

Darwin's choice

And the democrats throw the Constitution out the window...


How about this coasterfan? Deertracker/clingon?

Democrats want to remove term limits for the office of the President!

Keep blindly following you two!


"Do you not understand that no one can raise a family on $7.50 an hour?"

Of course we do. That's why one waits until one has developed the ability to offer value exceeding that amount before starting a family. Someone who can't figure out how to use a condom has a lot of chutzpah demanding to be paid like a rocket scientist.


$2.50 McChicken? Where?


Ever been to NYC? 3.25 for a McChicken.


Why doesn't he skip a vacation or 2?


Obama takes vacation a lot less than Bush did. Bush was actually in the White House fewer days than he spent vacationing at his Texas Ranch and at Camp David during 2001.

It's an irrelevant topic, anyway, since the salary and benefits of one (1) president couldn't possibly offset the millions of underpaid hourly workers. A better idea would be to reduce the salary of thousands of American CEOs, to raise the salaries of rank and file workers. Or maybe end the federal welfare/subsidies to billion dollar companies who don't need or deserve them.


Define "underpaid" objectively please.


Typical lib answer. You do realize that Bush is no longer in Washington and that you boy was elected to right all the wrongs that he said Bush did don't you? King of excuses.


more 14 to 21 year olds without jobs coming soon if this passes. Look at the unemployment stats for this age group during all past minimum wage increases. Doing more with less people is not just a manufacturing tag line. When payroll is your biggest expense.....


That last line sums it up.


All you have to do is check the rules for hiring young people. The government has basically taken away their right to work because of all the laws and restrictions. He-- at 14 I was building fiberglass boats in a boatyard. Today you can only run a register if your under 16. It is a mess, and the liberals have created it and they want to spend us out of it, LMFAO!!!!!


So, what would be your solution to the problem, then? More than 12,000 WalMart workers in Ohio receive food stamps. Kroger recently held a food drive for it's underpaid workers - ironic, huh? When people work full time, yet still don't make enough to cover basic expenses (food, clothing, shelter), we have a problem.

Republicans' answer, unfortunately, is a two-fold cruel gut punch: cut 40 billion from the food stamp budget, while fighting any increase to minimum wage. What America probably needs is a MAXIMUM wage: only in America do CEOs earn an average of 420x the amount of their rank and file workers. Henry Ford is, no doubt, rolling over in his grave...


Why is Henry Ford rolling in his grave - this should be interesting.


Re: "Henry Ford is, no doubt, rolling over in his grave..."

Specious argument.

In return for the exceptionally high wage at the time, he also required punctuality and sobriety.

Quid pro quo.


Re: "What America probably needs is a MAXIMUM wage,"

Something ONLY a progressive-socialist-authoritarian would love.

Watch the capital & expertise flee to where it will be more rewarded.


The Dems voted for the cuts on Food stamps. You really do not know whats going on do you?

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

Are you serious in suggesting a maximum wage? So, how much is human potential worth to you? Who allows you to decide how much someone is worth or allowed to make? I thought you more humane than that as well as someone who wants to inspire creativity and success in people as a former teacher.

Your suggestion more than stifles both and disappoints me. While I may disagree with you on many things financial, you attempt more reasonable arguments for your side of the coin than others here and I personally appreciate that. But this? This suggestion of a maximum wage? That is a huge let down. Maybe my opinion of you doesn't matter to you, but to me this is a sad day.


"you attempt more reasonable arguments for your side of the coin than others here and I personally appreciate that."

Are you talking about Coasterfan? Now YOU disappoint me, Hero. Coaster's responses are little more than parroted Air America sound bites. Ptero, Informed, there are any number of leftists here who are more coherent.


Just shows how out of touch he really is. But it makes good headlines for the uninformed voters!


SOP: When the goin' gets tough (Obama☭are), the Nobel Prize Winner-in-Chief gets to campaignin'.

In his pointy headed academic world of class warfare, rhetoric and speeches are substitutes for REAL leadership.