Here are some excerpts from the video of President Obama's speech:
I believe this is the defining challenge of our time – making sure our economy works for every working American. It’s why I ran for President. ...It drives everything I do in this office.... And I am convinced that the decisions we make on these issues over the next few years will determine whether or not our children will grow up in an America where opportunity is real.
After all, the premise that we’re all created equal is the opening line in our American story. And while we don’t promise equal outcomes, we have strived to deliver equal opportunity – the idea that success doesn’t depend on being born into wealth or privilege, but on effort and merit...
When millions lived in poverty, FDR fought for Social Security, insurance for the unemployed, and a minimum wage.
When millions died without health insurance, LBJ fought for Medicare and Medicaid.
Together, we forged a New Deal, declared a War on Poverty, built a ladder of opportunity to climb and stretched out a safety net beneath so that if we fell, it wouldn’t be too far, and we could bounce back. As a result, America built the largest middle class the world has ever known. And for the three decades after World War II, it was the engine of our prosperity...
But when the music stopped, and the crisis hit, millions of families were stripped of whatever cushion they had left.
The result is an economy that has become profoundly unequal, and families that are more insecure. Since 1979, when I graduated from high school, our productivity is up more than 90%, but the income of the typical family has increased by less than eight percent. Since 1979, our economy has more than doubled in size, but most of that growth has flowed to a fortunate few. The top ten percent no longer takes in one-third of our income – it now takes half. Whereas in the past, the average CEO made about twenty to thirty times the income of the average worker, today’s CEO now makes 273 times more. Meanwhile, a family in the top 1% has a net worth 288 times higher than the typical family – a record for this country...
Just last week, the Pope himself spoke to it at eloquent length. “How can it be,” he wrote, “that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?”...
The idea that so many children are born into poverty in the wealthiest nation on Earth is heartbreaking enough. The idea that she may never be able escape it because she lacks access to a decent education, or health care, or a community that views her future as their own should offend us all, and compel us to action. We are a better country than this.
So let me repeat – the combined trends of increasing inequality and decreasing mobility pose a fundamental threat to the American Dream, our way of life, and what we stand for around the globe...
Finally, rising inequality and declining mobility are bad for our democracy. Ordinary folks can’t write massive campaign checks or hire high-priced lobbyists and lawyers to secure policies that tilt the playing field in their favor at everyone else’s expense. They get the foul taste that the system is rigged, and that increases cynicism, and polarization, and decreases the political participation that is a requisite part of our system of self-government...
[T]here’s the myth that this is a problem restricted to a small share of predominantly minority poor. It’s true that the painful legacy of discrimination means that African-Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans are far more likely to suffer from a lack of opportunity. It’s true that women still make 77 cents on the dollar compared to men. So we’ll still need anti-discrimination laws, immigration reform that grows the economy, and targeted initiatives to close those gaps.
But the decades-long shifts in the economy have hurt all groups: poor and middle class; inner city and rural folks; men and women; and Americans of all races. As a consequence, some of the social patterns that contribute to declining mobility, once attributed to urban poor, now show up everywhere... The fact is this: the opportunity gap in America is now as much about class as it is about race, and that gap is growing...
It’s time to ensure our collective bargaining laws function as they’re supposed to, so that unions have a level playing field to organize for a better deal for workers, and better wages for the middle class. It’s time to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, so that women will have more tools to fight pay discrimination. It’s time to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, so workers can’t be fired for who they love. And even though we’re bringing manufacturing jobs back to America, and creating more good-paying jobs in education, health care, and business services, we know that there are airport workers, fast-food workers, nurse assistants, and retail salespeople who work their tails off and are still living at or barely above poverty. That’s why it’s well past the time to raise a minimum wage that in real terms is below where it was when Harry Truman was in office...
“Of all the forms of inequality,” Martin Luther King, Jr, once said, “injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhuman.”
In the three years since we passed this law, the share of Americans with insurance is up, and the growth of health care costs is down – to its slowest rate in 50 years. More people with insurance have new benefits and protections – the 100 million Americans who’ve gained the right to free preventive care like mammograms and contraception; the more than seven million Americans who’ve saved an average of $1,200 on their prescription medicine; every American who won’t go broke when they get sick because their insurer can’t limit their care anymore. More people without insurance have gained insurance – the more than three million young Americans who’ve been able to stay on their parents’ plan, and the more than half a million Americans and counting who are poised to get covered starting January 1st – some for the very first time.
It is these numbers, not the ones in any poll, that will ultimately determine the fate of this law...
[E]ven as I keep offering my own ideas for expanding opportunity, I’ll also keep challenging those who oppose my ideas to offer their own. If Republicans have concrete plans that will actually reduce inequality, build the middle class, or provide more ladders of opportunity to the poor, let’s hear them. If you don’t think we should raise the minimum wage, let’s hear your idea to increase people’s earnings.
If you don’t think every child should have access to preschool, tell us what you’d do differently to give them a better shot. If you still don’t like Obamacare, even though it’s built on market-based ideas of choice and competition, you should explain how, exactly, you’d cut costs, cover more people, and make insurance more secure. You owe it to the American people to tell us what you are for, not just what you’re against, so we can have a vigorous and meaningful debate. That’s what the American people deserve. That’s what the times demand. It’s not enough to say we should just get our government out of the way, and let the unfettered market take care of it. For our experience tells us that’s just not true.
About 4.2 million Californians are affected by the drop in benefits, including more than 1.1 million residents of Los Angeles County. And many local businesses will be hurt as well, because California's food stamp recipients will be spending $46million less per month in local stores.
"The impoverished are forced to eat junk if we want to eat," said 32-year-old Tabitha, a mother of a 2-year-old and a 7-year-old staying at a Culver City shelter, who asked that her last name not be used because she said she was embarrassed. "It's going to be difficult, as it already has been."
The cut was triggered by the expiration of stimulus spending Congress approved in the depths of the Great Recession. It is unlikely to be the last...
And in Wisconsin, via JSOnline:
More than one in seven Wisconsinites — including 379,000 children and 164,000 seniors — will see their monthly food stamp benefits fall in November as provisions from a 2009 economic stimulus law phase out.
I don't even know where to begin. I'm shaking mad, no exaggeration. And this is just in California and Wisconsin, for f's sake.
Not only are children's lives in danger-- as well as adults'-- but parents are feeling humiliated-- humiliated because they're working their asses off and can't afford food!-- as they barely scrape by, scared silly and worried about where their family's next meal is coming from.
Again, a good many of these families are WORKING families. That cannot be emphasized enough.
Plus, what all too many of these Americans are eating is junk that will simply kill them more slowly than not eating at all.
While all of this is going on, right in front of our eyes like a damned slo-mo train wreck, we're managing to further destroy a very, very sluggish economy that has been steadily, but slowly improving.
Thank you, Republicans. This is on you... and your unrelenting cruelty.
While Democrats keep trying to pass laws that would (hopefully) make things easier for many of us, the GOP is blocking their attempts at every turn, and has been since President Obama was elected.
That's the difference between the parties. One wants to help, one wants to destroy.
Are you seething yet? Well, buckle your seat belts gang, because you're in for a bumpy ride. This video, a must-watch, won't help:
Economist Jeffrey Sachs was on "All In with Chris Hayes" and nailed it. I mean, he really, really nailed it:
It is an agenda of cruelty beyond belief. ... But it's unbelievable what this country is coming to, which is actually taking -- literally, food from the hungriest children in this country. it is disgusting, there is no rationale for it.
It would be simple to fund this. In fact, simple to fund it from the richest people in this country who get tax breaks galore, often pay no taxes whatsoever, and the abuse of our spirit, our morality, is shocking, and this today is one of the worst things we've seen, period...
You'd probably get about $3 billion a year from the 40 people alone.
I have here...a piece of legislation submitted by Senator Levin, which is all of the worst tax phony loopholes for American companies, putting their money in the Caymans, this is $220 billion over ten years, it's not about raising tax or anything. It's about closing the most disgusting, egregious loopholes; we could feed our children decently without breaking a sweat...
The whole thing is a game for tax breaks at the top... And that, I think, a lot of people unfortunately don't see because that's all disguised. This isn't about taxing the middle class to pay for this. This about the taxes at the top that aren't paid. And we have our biggest companies putting money in Bermuda, putting money in the Cayman Islands. Earning profits and paying no taxes on them at all and lo and behold, we're told there's no money for the poorest people in the country.
What oh what would we Progressives do without Bernie Sanders? In today's Los Angeles Times, he wrote an op-ed laying out in very clear detail how to make wise choices about how to fix the economy.
Sanders, thankfully, is a member of a budget panel composed of Democratic, Republican and independent Senate and House members doing what they can, supposedly, to avoid another GOP government shutdown.
Senator Sanders explains how to move forward (as opposed to the same old backward, destructive GOP ideas), and how we managed to go from healthy surpluses to (unnecessary) deficits.
He reminds us that by the end of President Clinton's presidency, we had a a $236-billion surplus, and that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office predicted a 10-year budget surplus of $5.6 trillion, meaning we could have erased the national debt by 2011.
Too bad Republicans screwed that up.
And of course, they're blaming President Obama for the horrible outcomes of their horrible policies and horrible obstruction. Here's how it really went down:
Interestingly, today's "deficit hawks" in Congress — Rep. Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) and other conservative Republicans — voted for those measures that drove up deficits. Now that they're worried about deficits again, they want to dismantle virtually every social program designed to protect working families, the elderly, children, the sick and the poor.
In other words, it's OK to spend trillions on a war we should never have waged in Iraq and to provide huge tax breaks for billionaires and multinational corporations.
Sanders goes on to say that austerity doesn't work, because it clearly hurts those who are already suffering.
At a time when we now spend almost as much as the rest of the world combined on defense, we can make judicious cuts in our armed forces without compromising our military capability.
He also thinks it would be a swell idea if Congress members started, you know, listening to the American people, especially because so many polls show that we don't want cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
In fact, according to a recent National Journal poll, 81% do not want to cut Medicare at all, 76% do not want to cut Social Security at all, and 60% do not want to cut Medicaid at all. Other polls make it clear that Americans believe that the wealthiest among us and large corporations must pay their fair share in taxes.
So, Republicans (and even some Dems), how about paying more attention to us, the voters, instead of trying to grab it all for yourselves? It's not about you. It's about all of us. It's about We the People.
Today's Los Angeles Times letters to the editor, because our voices matter:
Re "Poof goes the middle class," Opinion, Oct. 23
Thanks to Doyle McManus for his timely review of Tyler Cowen's book, "Average Is Over." The trends crippling the middle class that Cowen writes about have been in the making since the 1970s. It took the Great Recession to finally bring this research the recognition it deserves.
Americans today instinctively know that something is wrong, thus the high percentage who tell pollsters the country is going in the wrong direction. But I think few understand that their economic world has changed forever.
What is really needed now is a rebuilding of the middle-class labor force to educate and train (or retrain) workers for well-paying, non-exportable jobs such as nursing, plumbing and high-tech manufacturing. The German labor model may be worth exploring. In Germany, government, private business and labor unions collaborate in a nationwide apprentice training system.
Unfortunately, most U.S. politicians are stuck with the bromides of the past. Someone needs to tell Americans that the world economy has changed and they need to change with it. However, they are going to need lots of help; otherwise, "poof goes the middle class."
We shouldn't forget that this country's once sizable middle class emerged under uniquely favorable circumstances.
Not long after World War II, our newfound affluence — which gave rise to the middle class — overshadowed that of other developed countries, where war had wreaked industrial devastation. In addition, our wealthier citizens were taxed heavily, which funded massive government investment in public infrastructure, thereby spurring prosperity for all.
These huge advantages eventually eroded as our economic competitors regained their industrial footing. Outsourcing, automation and tax cuts decimated our middle-class jobs.
Sustaining a middle class seems a lost cause. We're left with the challenge of downsizing cherished but unrealistic expectations. As McManus suggests, that wouldn't be easy even if Washington weren't so dysfunctional.
The middle-class dream was nice while it lasted.
McManus paints a sobering picture of the future of the United States if current trends continue, pointing out that increasing inequality "leads to lower economic growth, more poverty, more fragile families and, as a result, less happiness."
More important, great inequality poses a threat to the ideals and foundations of our democratic system.
A year before he died, President Franklin D. Roosevelt said, "The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little." We have been here before.
Theodore Roosevelt warned us 113 years ago that "ruin in its worst form is inevitable if our national life brings us nothing better than swollen fortunes for the few and the triumph in both politics and business of a sordid and selfish materialism."
We made the reforms necessary then for the country to prosper; we should do so again.
Your Daily Dose of BuzzFlash at Truthout, via my pal Mark Karlin:
Whenever the elected political tools of the oligarchs trash Social Security, they tout 401(k)-type accounts and voluntary retirement savings programs. [...]
...WP article is entitled, "Most Americans accumulating debt faster than they’re saving for retirement":
A majority of Americans with 401(k)-type savings accounts are accumulating debt faster than they are setting aside money for retirement, further undermining the nation’s troubled system for old-age saving, a new report has found....
So the problem facing even non-Social Security dependent retirees (who have earned their checks by paying into the fund) is due to personal debt not national debt. What people owe money on are non-government expenses such as college, housing, cars, credit cards, etc. This is private indebtedness that is contributing to a looming personal retirement shortfall of funds.
Ironically, Social Security is one of the few programs that is keeping most seniors from economic impoverishment, as meager as the average monthly check is. [...]
Since the Reagan era, wages have been relatively stagnant in the United States as debt has risen. It is indeed this growing personal (again not national) debt that has been a primary source of profit for the banks too big to fail. Persons who owe large amounts of money are paying off interest at often exorbitant sums (think credit cards) while in many cases barely scratching away at principal. This is all easy money for banks that are paying out literally .01 % on savings accounts. [...]
So, let this WP article be a mini-lesson on what the oligarchy and their minions on the Hill, such as Paul Ryan, have been up to. Since the Reagan era, they have been promoting policies that increase personal debt while stagnating wages (except for themselves, of course). In turn, a likely majority of the 99% has to go into debt and borrow money at high interest rates, while those who save receive virtually no interest on their savings. This, in turn (except for Social Security) limits what they can save for retirement.
Then the financial titans sponsor think tanks and give campaign contributions to blame "entitlements" for all the personal indebtedness which has fueled their profits. So, if a "grand bargain" of Social Security and Medicare cuts are enacted, the elderly become indebted and poorer, while the Wall Street barons make even a greater profit from increased borrowing as the national debt is lowered in the name of "austerity" (without revenue increases in the form of higher progressive taxes on the rich).
Please read the entire post here.
From the Department of No Sh** Sherlock:
Think Progress: The middle class brings home a substantially larger share of aggregate earnings in states that have high rates of union membership than in those where fewer workers are organized, a Center for American Progress Action Fund (CAPAF) analysis of Census data shows. Amid very high and still increasing income inequality, union density appears to offer some buffer for middle-class Americans. [...]
...CAPAF’s David Madland and Keith Miller found that the states with the lowest rates of union membership return below-average shares of income to their middle-class residents. [...]
The rise of inequality over the past three decades tracks closely with the decline of union membership.
The income of the richest one percent has risen as middle class incomes drop.
As TP points out, and as we have in many posts, as unions get stronger, they increase their ability to stand up for workers. When that happens, not only does it improve work place conditions, but in the long run, income inequality is reduced.
And since the very rich make way more than the rest of us, leveling the playing field benefits the entire country, the health and welfare of more Americans, and the economy.
Not to mention, the decline of organized labor has helped worsen racial wage gap.
While you're at it, check out "What a difference a union can make!" and "Why unions matter, in a measly 1 minute 19 seconds."
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